General Egg Production Questions
Q: How are egg farms impacting the environment?
A: A study by the Egg Industry Center shows that egg farms have reduced their environmental footprint over the last 50 years through improved hen feed, better disease control, advancements in how hens are housed and a reduction of natural resource use. Compared to 1960, eggs farms have reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 71 percent, are using 32 percent less water while producing 27 percent more eggs. Click here to learn more.
Q: Are hens given antibiotics? Are there antibiotics in my eggs?
A: Egg farmers are committed to producing safe, high-quality eggs and keeping their hens healthy and free from disease. Egg farms may use a limited number of FDA-approved antibiotics, provided they comply with FDA guidelines for usage. These FDA regulations also are designed to assure antibiotic residues are not passed to eggs.
Due to the effective use of vaccines and on-farm disease prevention, only a small percentage of egg-laying flocks ever receive antibiotics. If they do, it is usually under supervision of a veterinarian and only for a short time to treat a specific disease or to prevent a recurring disease.
It’s important to know eggs can only be labeled as antibiotic-free if egg farmers choose not to use any antibiotics in feed or water as the pullets (young hens) are growing or when hens are laying eggs. Certified organic eggs must be antibiotic-free by regulation.
Q: Are organic, free range, pasture-raised or other types of specialty eggs safer than conventionally raised eggs?
A: Many safeguards are in place on commercial egg farms, through processing and transport, and in the store. Shell eggs produced in the U.S. are subject to oversight from both Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and several states have additional programs. Provided these safeguards are followed, safe and wholesome eggs can be produced in a variety of housing environments. In comprehensive university research by the Coalition for Sustainable Egg Supply, there were no differences in egg safety and quality between the three different hen housing environments that were studied.
Q: How does the shell help protect an egg from bacteria?
A: The shell and shell membrane of an egg can prevent bacteria from entering the egg. The layers of white also discourage bacteria growth and movement toward the yolk, which contains the nutrients bacteria need. The last layer of white is composed of thick ropey strands, called chalazae, which holds the yolk centered in the egg where all the layers give it maximum protection from bacteria.
Q: What determines whether an egg is white or brown?
A: The breed of the chicken determines egg shell color. The color of a hen’s ear area is the color indicator, with a white or light spot meaning white eggs. Usually, white hens lay white eggs, and brown hens lay brown eggs. Brown chickens are usually larger and require more food to make an egg, which is why brown eggs may cost more than white eggs.
Q: Are cage-free eggs safer than eggs from hens housed in cages?
A: Research by leading animal welfare scientists, academic institutions, non-government organizations, egg suppliers, and restaurant/foodservice and food retail companies shows that housing system type does not influence egg quality. All eggs, regardless of how a hen is housed, are safe and regulated by a number of agencies.
Q: How often does a hen lay an egg?
A: It takes about 25 hours from ovulation until a hen lays an egg. The hen then begins forming another egg 30 minutes after it lays an egg. The average hen lays 286 eggs per year, according to USDA.