Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Are brown eggs more nutritious than white eggs?
A: The color of the egg’s shell is determined by the breed of the hen. Since many consumers prefer white eggs producers most often raise White Leghorn hens, which produce eggs with white shells. Consumers who live in the New England area often prefer brown shelled eggs, so egg producers there raise breeds such as the Rhode Island Red which produces brown shell eggs. The color of the shell has nothing to do with egg quality, flavor, or nutritional value, only the breed of hen laying the eggs. However, brown shell eggs are usually slightly higher in price than white eggs because the brown shell producing hens are larger birds and require more feed for the eggs produced.
Q: Is it safe to eat raw eggs?
A: Public health authorities and the egg industry continue to warn against consuming raw eggs or lightly cooked eggs. The egg might be contaminated with Salmonella Enteritidis (SE) a bacterium that can cause food borne illness. Eggs and some other animal products have a small possibility of containing SE. The risk of food borne illness is greatest for those who are pregnant, elderly, very young, or who have medical problems resulting in an impaired immune system. These individuals should avoid any raw and undercooked animal foods. Everyone needs to remember that while there is a small risk of contacting SE, consumers need to treat eggs and other raw animal foods safely. It is not recommended that anyone eat raw eggs. SE is killed by proper cooking temperatures and it is recommended that eggs be cooked until both the yolk and the whites are firm, not runny.
Q: Where are the vitamins and minerals located in the egg?
A: The yolk or yellow portion of the egg contains a higher proportion of the egg’s vitamins and minerals than the white. Please refer to the chart (right) for the list of nutrients contained in one egg.
Q: What are organic and free-range eggs and do they differ nutritionally?
A: Organic eggs are eggs produced by hens fed “organic” feeds grown without pesticides, chemical or commercial fertilizers. In addition, there are no pesticides, herbicides, or fungicides added to the feed. There are no known nutritional differences between organic eggs and regular eggs. Free-range eggs are produced by hens raised outdoors or with daily access to the outdoors. The hens are free to run around, but in the event of bad weather the hens are kept inside. True free-range eggs are only available on a seasonal basis in the United States. The term free-range can also refer to eggs produced by hens raised inside on an open floor rather than in cages. Free range eggs do not differ from regular eggs in terms of nutritional value or cholesterol level; however, they are more expensive due to production costs.
Q: Are raw eggs safe to eat?
A: Raw eggs or any products containing raw eggs should not be eaten. Even though the likelihood that an egg might contain bacteria is very small, the only way to ensure that any bacteria may be present is killed is to properly cook the egg. According to the FDA Food Code, eggs for immediate consumption can be cooked to 145°F for 15 seconds. If the eggs are to be used in a recipe with other food items, dilute the eggs with liquid or other ingredients, such as milk or sugar (at least ¼ cup liquid or sugar per egg as in custard) and cook the egg mixture to 160°F, which will destroy harmful bacteria in a few seconds. Adequate cooking brings eggs and other foods to a temperature high enough to destroy bacteria that might be present. If a recipe calls for raw eggs, use pasteurized shell eggs or pasteurized egg products.
Q: Where can I learn more about egg nutrition?
A: Eggs are a natural source of high-quality protein and a number of other nutrients – at only about 70 calories per egg. Nutrition research suggests eggs can play a role in weight management, muscle strength, healthy pregnancy, brain function, eye health and more. For more information on all egg nutrition questions, visit the Egg Nutrition Center (www.eggnutritioncenter.org).
Q: Are cage-free or organic eggs more nutritious than other types of eggs?
A: The nutrient content of eggs is similar regardless of the hen housing environment. In fact, one large egg has varying amounts of 13 essential vitamins and minerals and high-quality protein. There’s also no nutritional difference between white or brown eggs; the different shell color is determined by the breed of hen that produced the egg. One exception is nutritionally-enriched eggs. Omega 3 enriched eggs are one example – flaxseed, fish oil or algal oils are added to the hen’s diet so they produce eggs with these nutrients. For other egg nutrition questions, visit the Egg Nutrition Center (www.eggnutritioncenter.org).
Q: Can I eat eggs if I’m pregnant or breastfeeding?
A: Eggs are as safe to eat during pregnancy or nursing as any other time of life – provided they are handled properly and cooked adequately. In fact, according to the Egg Nutrition Center, essential nutrients within the egg can support a healthy pregnancy, growth and development of children, and muscle mass and function during aging. Eggs are an excellent source of choline, which plays an essential role in fetal and infant brain development, and adequate choline during pregnancy may help prevent neural tube birth defects. For other egg nutrition questions, visit the Egg Nutrition Center (www.eggnutritioncenter.org).
Q: What should I do with leftovers containing eggs?
A: Promptly after serving, refrigerate any leftovers containing eggs. Thoroughly reheat leftovers and eat within two to three days. Without tasting them, discard any egg-containing leftovers that have been refrigerated more than three days.
A good resource to help manage leftovers is the USDA FoodKeeper app. This application provides food storage information and enables alerts to be set up to contact you before food spoils.
Q: How long are hard-cooked eggs safe to eat? Why do hard-cooked eggs spoil faster than fresh eggs?
A: Hard-cooked eggs should be refrigerated within two hours of cooking and used within one week. Shell eggs have a protective coating that is washed away when they are hard-cooked. This leaves the pores in the shell open for bacteria to enter.
Q: What exactly is cross-contamination and what should I do about it?
A: Bacteria can spread from people to food, or from one food or piece of equipment to another. This is called cross-contamination. To help prevent cross-contamination, it’s important to separate foods—especially raw meat, seafood, eggs, and poultry—from other foods. Also wash hands, utensils and surfaces with warm, soapy water before and after handling raw eggs.
Q: What is the best temperature to cook an egg?
A: Adequate cooking brings eggs to a temperature high enough to destroy bacteria that might be present in the egg yolk or egg white. Egg white coagulates at 144-149° F, yolk coagulates at 149-158° F, and whole eggs coagulate at 144-158° F. A food thermometer is an invaluable tool to quickly check for the right temperature.
Q: Is it safe to use eggs that have cracks?
A: Never purchase cracked eggs, because bacteria can enter eggs through cracks in the shell. If eggs crack on the way home, break them into a clean container, cover it tightly, keep refrigerated, and use within two days. When preparing, be sure to cook eggs thoroughly, with both the white and yolk firm.
Nutrient Content of One Large Egg
Whole, Raw, Fresh
Total Fat (g)
Saturated Fat (g)
Trans Fat (g)
Vitamin A (IU)
Vitamin D (mg)
Vitamin B6 (mg)
Vitamin C (mg)
Vitamin B12 (mcg)
Lutein & Zeaxanthin (mcg)
U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. 2007. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release #20. Nutrient Data Laboratory (www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/foodcomp) USDA Database for the Choline Content of Common Foods Differences in nutrient levels between egg white, egg yolk and whole egg are due to sampling procedure
*Sadler, Strain and Caballero (1999) Encyclopedia of Human Nutrition. San Diego, Academic Press