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Sep 10, 2007 10:23 AM

A couple of egg questions

What is the difference between Grade A and Grade AA? Is it just size?

What is the difference between "cage-free" and "free range" eggs?

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  1. Can't help you with cage-free vs. range-free, but A vs AA is supposed to be based on freshness (with AA being fresher than A). I always check the dates on the side of the carton though, as it is more reliable than the grade. X-Large, Large, Meduim, are sizes and have nothing to do with the grade. Large is the default size in recipes.

    1. I understood cage free to be inside chickens, in a barn, I think deep litter, as opposed to free range where the chickens get to roam outside and can come in and out of the hen houses to nap or lay.

      I am aware that cage free chickens can nontheless be overcrowded in the barns and it is not all that stress free for them, however an improvement on being kept in a cage. They may still get their beaks clipped when cage free.

      Me I go for organic free range chickens and eggs. I really don't care that they may be up to 5x the price of caged chicken eggs. I would rather have one or 2 less Sbux coffees or give up something else to make the sacrifice. I also refuse to eat crated veal. Just my contribution to animal welfare and I am aware that there are some horrible farm practices such as transportation of sheep and cows.

      4 Replies
      1. re: smartie

        Free range means they have "access" to range. Not that they actually can. For instance, a door too small for the chickens to get through, that is opened once in their lives, is enough for eggs to be labeled "free range".

        You have to be really careful.

        1. re: tzurriz

          Well, you're right, but biased in the sense you apparently think chickens are longing for blue skies and green pastures. The thing is, chickens basically have no particular interest in "roaming" - they pretty much tend to hang out wherever their food is unless they get spooked. (And they're not bright enough, in my experience, to find their way home afterward, which is why you have to run out and round 'em up if something happens.)

          I buy free-range but only because I abhor the whole cage business - personally, I really don't care what they do with their free time as long as they're not being seriously abused and to be reasonable, the beak thing is neither painful if done carefully nor really gets in their way - they're also not out in the wild "fiighting" for survival and they don't need full beaks to eat prepared feed...

          1. re: MikeG

            Sorry if I expressed a bias there. I didn't mean too. I'm familiar with chicken behavior, as I have family that raises chickens.

            I never said they were friendly, or liked to roam, just that "free roaming" doesn't necessarily mean what "we all" like to think it means.

            I don't judge how anybody buys their eggs. Personally, I go for the cheap ones. ;)

            I just didn't want people to misunderstand.

        2. re: smartie

          You can also look for humanely certified eggs. I have a friend who took her farm through the process and she said it was very rigorous and time consuming. They're very particular about it.

          Ideally, you'd know the local farm, etc and buy from them but Whole Foods also carries certified humane eggs.

        3. Cage free may mean they can go outside into a fenced yard. Free range means there's no fence. When I read caged I think battery chicken farms where the cages are so small the chickens can't move more than a few inches in any direction.

          1. Grade of the egg has nothing to do with freshness. Eggs are graded on appearance of the shell and condition of the yolk and white. Size is based on how much an egg weighs.

            Want eggs for baking/scrambling, but grade B. Want to cook your eggs sunnyside up, but grade AA

            3 Replies
            1. re: Alan408

              Actually, freshness has everything to do with the grade. Yes, the visible evidence (and the criteria for grading) is the shell, yolk and white, but this is a reflection of how old/fresh the egg is. A grade AA egg will become a grade A, then B... So, you are better off with an egg graded A that is fresher (by the date on the carton) than an older AA egg.

              1. re: bnemes3343

                Not according to the USDA. Classification (AA, A and B) is voluntary and is "determined by the interior quality of the egg and the appearance and condition of the egg shell." Alan408 is correct that different grades can be used for different purposes because freshness has nothing to do with it.
                For more details

                1. re: bnemes3343

                  No, your grade AA egg will never become grade A. It will eventually go bad, but it will then be a rotten Grade AA egg.

                  Freshness does not have "everything" to do with grading. If it did, all eggs would be Grade AA. Freshness has nothing to do with grading.

                  Producer harvests 100 dozen eggs every morning. 10 dozen are Grade AA. The other 90 dozen are exactly as fresh as those. Why are they all not AA?

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