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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: Microbiological and Product Quality Consequences of Housing Laying Hens in Production Systems

Location: Egg Safety and Quality

Title: Answering Consumer Questions: Opportunity for Impact

Author
item Jones, Deana

Submitted to: National Egg Quality School Proceedings
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: April 5, 2013
Publication Date: May 20, 2013
Citation: Jones, D.R. 2013. Answering Consumer Questions: Opportunity for Impact. National Egg Quality School Proceedings. p. 47-51.

Technical Abstract: Food can be a touchy subject. It seems people either have very strong thoughts and opinions on food or they could care less as long as food is available to feed them and their families. With the current economic environment, many individuals are examining food choices more closely to ensure the greatest nutrition for their families at the lowest costs. This is a golden opportunity for the egg industry. As we have learned in earlier presentations, eggs are a highly affordable food of great nutritional value. It is important for those of us involved in the world of eggs to not only understand the facts about eggs, but to be prepared to discuss them with consumers to enhance their understanding of the role eggs can play in affordable, nutritionally sound, food choices for their families. Many people are “information hounds” who turn to their computers or smart devices to quickly ascertain the answers to their questions. Unfortunately, the information they discover is not always accurate. This presentation will contain a sampling of some of the more common consumer questions pertaining to eggs and egg products. Being prepared to answer consumer questions in an informative manner helps to break down the channels of miscommunication and is also a wonderful marketing tool. What is the difference between brown and white eggs? I had always heard that brown eggs were more nutritious and that was why they cost more. The only difference between brown and white eggs is the type of hen that lays them. Different breeds of hens lay different colored eggs. The reason brown eggs cost more is not because they are more nutritious, but is due to the fact that brown egg layers have a lower feed efficiency (they eat more feed to produce the same number of eggs as a white egg layer) leading to increased feed costs. There are so many different shell eggs on the market today, how do I tell the difference among them? Reduced cholesterol eggs: These eggs have generally been found not to be a negative factor in cholesterol reduction diets. The method by which these eggs contain a lower amount of cholesterol depends on the producer. Many alter the diets of the hens so that the eggs they produce are lower in cholesterol than regular shell eggs. In some cases, genetics have been altered in the birds themselves. There are some questions as to the actual amount of cholesterol contained in these eggs and if labeling claims are accurate. Free-range eggs: The definition of these eggs depends in part on the guidelines of the state in which they are marketed. In some states, free-range eggs are considered to be those produced by hens that are not housed in cages. In other states, the requirement for free-ranged eggs might be that the hens are confined in the outdoors (outside of a commercial laying house.) Organic eggs: The new National Organic Program, Final Rule went into effect on February 20, 2001. In this rule (7 CFR 205; http://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text-idx?c=ecfr&sid=3f34f4c22f9aa8e6d9864cc2683cea02&tpl=/ecfrbrowse/Title07/7cfr205_main_02.tpl), there are definitions as to what is allowable under the “organic” label. Some examples applicable to shell egg production would include: • hens must be maintained under continuous organic management no later than the second day of life • feed must be composed of organic products • hens may not be fed any mammalian or poultry slaughter by-products • only approved synthetic medications or parasiticides may be utilized You may also encounter consumers who have read somewhere that organic eggs are better for human consumption than traditional shell eggs. Organic eggs are marketed to meet a consumer niche and offer variety and choice in the shell egg market. Fertile eggs: Basically, a rooster is somewhere around when the eggs were produced. There is no guarantee that the eggs purchased are actually fertile. In order to tell if an egg is fertile, you would have to examine the germinal disc to see if fertilization occurred. The only other alternative would be to incubate the eggs for seven days to determine if a blood ring was formed. There is no nutritional difference between fertile and non-fertile eggs. My recipe tells me to allow the whites to come to room temperature before whipping. Is this safe? Most recipes requiring egg whites to be whipped suggest having them at room temperature. I even have one recipe book that goes so far as to suggest placing the butter, chocolate, and eggs a gas oven over night allowing the pilot light to melt the butter and chocolate and warm the eggs for whipping. To say the least, this would provide perfect conditions for bacterial growth if an egg is contaminated. There is a greater risk of microbial infection occurring when eggs are allowed to warm to room temperature. The risk of Salmonella Enteritidis is small, but if one of the eggs contained SE this would encourage its growth. Recipes suggest this process because room temperature egg whites whip quicker than cold ones. I tested this method in the laboratory. In the comparison, the room temperature whites reached the stiff peak stage on an average of 40 seconds faster than the cold whites. It is important to note that when egg whites are whipped for meringues, the meringues are not cooked completely afterwards, merely allowed to brown quickly. This process would suggest that using cold egg whites might be a better practice. When preparing meringues, the product can be prepared in a safer manner if the egg whites are heated to 140F for 3½ minutes. When I attempted this at home, I combined half of the sugar required in the recipe with the albumen. I placed this mixture in a double boiler and stirred the mixture constantly over a low simmer. When the egg mixture reached 140F, I started a timer and removed the pot from the burner. I kept stirring the mixture and monitored the temperature. If the temperature approached 140F, I placed the pot back on the burner. With this technique, I was easily able to achieve the 140F requirement for 3½ minutes without the albumen coagulating. If the mixture reached 152F, coagulation occurred. After this temperature treatment, I prepared meringue cookies. The heat treated solution took a longer time to whip to the “stiff peak” stage. When the cookies were prepared, less sugar cooked out of the meringues prepared with the heat treated albumen and these cookies were better able to retain their shape. The texture of the heat treated meringues was preferred to the traditional meringues due to the consistent, light, meltable qualities. The heat treatment added about 20 minutes to the preparation time of the recipe. Dry meringue powders are also available for meringues and frostings and take a lot of the guess work out of whipping. My ice cream recipe calls for raw eggs, is this safe? There are many cookbooks which utilize raw eggs to add emulsification properties to homemade ice cream. It is never a safe idea to include raw eggs in an uncooked food product. A better alternative would be to cook a custard (eggs, milk, sugar, flour, and vanilla) first and then add this to the ice cream mixture. This actually gives vanilla ice cream quite a pleasant and distinct flavor. If you don’t want to exert that much effort, you can always substitute an equivalent amount of pasteurized egg product for the raw eggs, realizing that pasteurized eggs are not sterile and a certain amount of risk still exists. Why do the yolks of my boiled eggs turn green? This occurs when the eggs are not cooled quickly enough after cooking. This discoloration is due to the reaction of iron in the yolk with hydrogen sulfide from the albumen. Quick cooling in cold or ice water will prevent it from occurring. If you have very high iron content in your water, you should be concerned about immersing eggs at any time, particularly raw eggs, because iron compromises the antimicrobial activity

Last Modified: 12/20/2014
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