Food Handling

When properly handled, lightly cooked Canada Grade ‘A’ eggs are not a concern for healthy individuals. There is a high-risk segment of the population that should avoid eating raw eggs or eggs that are not thoroughly cooked. This includes: people who are suffering from a disease or whose immune system is compromised, very young children, the elderly and pregnant women.

While regulated farmers, graders and retailers work to implement safe handling standards at all levels, consumers also have an important role to play to ensure proper handling practices are followed:

  • Purchase only Grade ‘A’ eggs with clean, uncracked shells that have been stored under refrigeration.
  • When buying eggs, check the ‘Best Before’ date (found either on the carton or stamped on the eggs). This ‘Best Before’ date represents the length of time the eggs will maintain their Grade ‘A’ quality (which includes small air cell, firm yolk, thick white, clean, uncracked shells). If eggs are going to be used after that date, they should be thoroughly cooked.
  • For optimal freshness, store eggs in their original carton on the middle shelf in the refrigerator (ideally at 4°C).
  • Wash hands with warm, soapy water before and after food preparation.
  • Serve eggs and egg-rich foods immediately after cooking or refrigerate and serve within three to four days.
  • When preparing recipes using raw eggs that will not be heated or cooked before they are eaten, reach for pasteurized egg products. For example, you may want to use pasteurized eggs to make Caesar salad dressing and cocktails made with egg (such as ‘whiskey sour or eggnog’).

    Pasteurized eggs are sold in whole egg or egg white cartons. Pasteurization means the egg has been heated to a specific temperature for a specific time. This process kills all bacteria in a raw food product. According to Health Canada, egg white must reach a minimum of 54°C (130°F) for 3.5 minutes. Whole eggs must reach a minimum of 60°C (140°F) for 3.5 minutes.

To learn more about egg pasteurization, click here.

For more food handling information, click here.

If they have been kept refrigerated, eggs can be eaten for a short time after the Best Before date. Keep in mind however, the Best Before date (which is stamped on the side of the carton) indicates the length of time the eggs will maintain their Grade A quality. A Grade A egg has a firm yolk, thick white, small air cell at the large end of the egg, and no visible cracks in the shell. For optimum quality and functional performance, eggs should be consumed prior to the Best Before Date.
Eggs are a perishable food and should be stored in their carton in the refrigerator. For optimum quality, eggs should be used up within the "Best Before" date. For every hour eggs are kept at room temperature, they age an entire day.

Accidental freezing of eggs, especially in the winter is a common problem. If the eggs have broken through their shells they should be discarded. If the shells are still intact, the eggs can be thawed in the refrigerator and used in a thoroughly cooked dish such as scrambled eggs or hard-cooked eggs. Other uses are limited because once frozen the consistency of the egg yolk changes from a liquid to a solid (much like a hard rubber ball), and becomes lumpy.

How to Freeze Eggs: Raw egg may be frozen at -18ºC (0ºF) for up to four months. Egg whites can be frozen as is, in an air-tight container, leaving room for expansion. To freeze yolks or whole eggs, break them into a bowl, mixing gently without incorporating air to prevent lumpiness in the yolk, add salt, sugar or corn syrup (depending on the intended use) in the following amounts:

½ tsp. (2 mL) salt for every 1 cup (250 mL) egg
1 tbsp. (15 mL) sugar or corn syrup for every 1 cup (250 mL) egg

Place in freezer container, leaving room for expansion. Freeze eggs in small quantities so that only what is needed can be thawed. For easy storage, freeze eggs in an ice cube tray, then transfer to a plastic bag. Frozen eggs should be thawed in the refrigerator and used only in recipe dishes which are thoroughly cooked.

Hard-cooked eggs do not freeze successfully, as cooked egg whites will become tough and rubbery.

Hard-cooked eggs, in the shell or peeled, will keep for one week in a covered container in the refrigerator.
Homemade pickled eggs can be stored in the refrigerator for one month.

Egg Nutrition

Laying hens are fed a nutritious diet of grains such as corn, soybeans, and canola and supplemented with animal source protein and fat to meet the nutrient requirements. Pork meat meal is a readily available feed ingredient that provides laying hens with high-quality protein/amino acids and energy, and contributes calcium and phosphorus for shell quality and bone strength. Specialty eggs like vegetarian brands are produced from hens fed a diet containing only ingredients of plant origin.

Brown and white eggs have the same nutritional value. Shell colour depends on the strain of hen that lays the egg. Usually white-feathered hens lay white eggs and brown-feathered hens lay brown eggs.
The yolk has many essential nutrients including phosphorous, iron, zinc, vitamins A, B6 and B12, folic acid, pantothenic acid, choline, and thiamin, as well as almost half of the protein and riboflavin in the whole egg. In addition, egg yolks are among the few foods that naturally contain vitamin D. Both the yolk and white have different nutritional profiles. The majority of nutrients are found in the yolk. Finally, the yolk contains 190 mg of cholesterol and 5 g of fat, less than a third of which is saturated fat, and no trans fat.

A study* by the Harvard School of Public Health found no link between eating eggs and developing cardiovascular disease in healthy individuals. In fact, limiting dietary cholesterol could lead to an unbalanced intake of nutrients, which increases the risk for other health problems. Eggs are a healthy choice, containing only 1.5 grams of saturated fat and no trans fats. *Hu et al. JAMA 1999; 281:1387-1394.

As long as you eat eggs as part of a healthy, well-balanced diet and lifestyle, there is no limit to the number of eggs you can eat in a week. (If you have elevated blood cholesterol, speak to a registered dietician or your doctor for diet advice.) Two eggs are considered a serving from the Meat and Alternatives food group in Canada's Food Guide, and are considered a nutritious choice.
Eggs deliver 12 grams of the highest quality protein in just two eggs. They contain all nine essential amino acids that your body cannot produce naturally. Regarded as the building blocks of protein, amino acids are vital to your body's health. Protein is important because it provides building blocks for tissue growth and repair, helps your body maintain a healthy metabolism, supplies energy (calories) for your body to work, and helps to provide lasting energy as it controls the rate at which food energy (calories) is absorbed.
One large egg contains 5 grams of fat. Of this, only 1.5 grams is saturated fat and there is no trans fat in an egg.

Egg Cookery

Leftover yolks can be stored in a covered container (cover with a little cold water to prevent drying) in the refrigerator for 2-4 days. These yolks can be used in recipes like hollandaise sauce for Eggs Benedict, or can be used to thicken sauces etc.

Egg yolks can be frozen as well - Beat in either 1/8 tsp salt or 1 1/2 tsp sugar or corn syrup per 1/4 cup of yolk (about 4 yolks). Pour into freezer container and cover with tight-fitting lid. Label with the number of yolks, the date, and whether you added salt (for savoury dishes) or sweetener (for baking or desserts). Substitute 1 tbsp of thawed egg yolks for 1 large fresh yolk. Yolk mixture can also be frozen in ice cube trays (1 tbsp portion sizes). Once frozen, place individual frozen yolks from ice cube tray in freezer bag to avoid drying out.

These strands are called chalazae and are a natural part of the egg. They anchor the yolk in the centre of the egg white and are perfectly safe to eat. The fresher the egg, the more prominent the chalazae will be. The chalazae do not need to be removed unless you are making a smooth custard or sauce. They can be removed with the tip of a knife or strained from a beaten egg mixture.
Place the egg on its side and spin it around with your fingers. A hard-cooked egg will spin smoothly and rapidly. A raw egg will wobble and spin slowly because the liquid centre will prevent the egg from building up momentum to keep it turning.

This discoloration is the result of a reaction between the sulfur and iron naturally found in eggs. It occurs when eggs are overcooked, or when there is a high level of iron in the cooking water. Although the colour isn't very attractive, the eggs are safe to eat and will still be nutritious and flavourful. An appropriate cooking time and rapid cooling of the eggs after they are cooked will prevent the formation of this grey or green ring.

Using the microwave is a quick and easy way to cook eggs:

1) Spray a small dish or mug with cooking spray or place 1/2 teaspoon (2 mL) butter or margarine in the dish and heat in the microwave for a few seconds. Rotate the dish so the melted butter coats all sides.

2) Crack an egg into the dish. Pierce the yolk with a fork or toothpick. Cover but leave a place for venting.

3) Microwave on Medium-High (70% power) for 45 seconds to 1 minutes. (Cooking time and power level will vary depending on the power of the microwave.) The egg should be undercooked slightly as it will continue to cook as it stands. Let stand for one minute.

*Note: Eggs should never be microwaved in the shell unless a container specifically designed for this purpose is used. Cooking or reheating eggs in the shell may cause them to burst open, creating a mess and possibly damaging your microwave or injuring you. *For microwave cooking, choose a good quality microwaveable container, round shapes work best for cooking eggs.
It is a blood spot that is caused by the rupture of a blood vessel in the hen when the egg is forming. This occurrence is rare. Blood spots are usually detected during the candling process at the grading station, where eggs pass over a bright light to make the interior of the egg visible. These eggs are then removed before going to the grocery store. Sometimes due to the density of the shell or shell colour (brown eggs), these spots are difficult to detect. An egg with a blood spot is safe to eat, and you can cook and bake with it in the usual ways. If you wish, you can remove the spot with the tip of a knife before you cook the egg.
If you wish to substitute large eggs with another size, you can use:

  Extra Large Medium Small
1 large 1 1 1
2 large 2 2 3
3 large 3 4 4
4 large 3 5 6
5 large 4 6 7
6 large 5 7 8

...or, if you have extra whites, you can use 1 whole egg + 2 egg whites for every 2 eggs in a recipe.

Use moderate heat when cooking eggs. Cooking eggs at too high a temperature, or for too long at a low temperature, causes toughening of both the egg white and the egg yolk. .

Eggs are packed in cartons with the larger, rounder end up. This helps to keep the yolk in its natural position.

Poached eggs can be made hours or even a day or two ahead. Under-poach them slightly and store in ice-cold water. Immerse in barely simmering water for one to two minutes.

Although it is best to serve scrambled eggs immediately after cooking, you can hold them for a short time by placing them over a pan of hot water and covering. (Scrambled eggs will become rubbery if held over direct heat.)
Use the freshest possible eggs for poaching or frying. Fresh egg yolks are higher, and whites are thick and close to the yolk.
Refrigerate eggs immediately to maintain freshness. Egg shells are porous and should be kept away from strong smelling foods in the refrigerator. To prevent moisure loss and for additional odour protection, eggs should be stored in their carton. Store leftover yolks or whites in airtight containers and use as quickly as possible. Cover yolks with cold water to prevent drying.
When transporting perishable foods such as devilled eggs, be sure to pack them on ice in an insulated cooler.
The numbers stamped in pink on the egg shells are part of a traceability system which identifies the farm where the eggs were produced. Non-toxic food grade dyes are used which have been approved by Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. The pink colouring can be removed from the egg shells with some hot water and a little scrubbing.
When looking at the anatomy of an egg there is an air cell on the bottom wider end of the egg. As the egg ages this air cell widens and the membrane between the shell and egg white will loosen. This can explain why eggs will float when placed in the pot of water. The density of the egg will be less than the density of the water in the pot. Check the best before date on the carton.

Buying Eggs

A hen will sometimes produce double-yolk eggs at the very beginning or near the end of her reproductive life due to hormonal changes. When this happens, the shell forms around two yolks instead of one, creating a double-yolk egg. Double-yolk eggs are safe to eat and cook with. If substituting them for large classic eggs in a recipe, their additional volume may affect the outcome of the recipe.

Egg yolk is determined by the diet of the hen and does not affect the nutritional value or quality of the egg. Hens fed a larger proportion of wheat in relation to other components of the diet produce eggs with pale yolks. A diet containing a high proportion of yellow corn, for example, will result in eggs with much darker yolks. The choice of grains depends primarily on the availability of these crops.
Eggs are sized by weight. Eggs in the same carton may appear to be different sizes, but their weight will be within a similar range. The following minimum weights are used to classify eggs into different sizes.

Peewee - less than 42 g
Small - at least 42 g
Medium - at least 49 g
Large - at least 56 g
Extra Large - at least 63 g
Jumbo - at least 70 g or more

In Manitoba, eggs travel from the farm, to the grading station, then to the grocery store within a week of being laid.

The majority of eggs sold in Manitoba grocery stores are produced right here in Manitoba by regulated egg farmers.
The locations listed on some egg cartons do not necessarily indicate where the eggs were produced. Rest assured, the majority of eggs sold in Manitoba grocery stores are produced by regulated egg farmers right here in Manitoba.
There are three main things that determine Grade A quality of an egg: the condition of the shell, the position of the yolk, and the size of the air cell inside the shell. If the shell has no cracks, the yolk is centered, and the air cell is very small – it meets Canada Grade A standards. These are the eggs sold at the grocery store.
The Egg Quality Assurance (EQA) mark is our commitment to excellence. All Egg Quality Assurance (EQA) certified eggs will come from farms that have met the highest standards of our national Animal Care and Start Clean-Stay Clean® food safety programs. For more information, click here.

The best before date indicates the time the eggs will maintain Grade A quality, if stored properly. It is normally 28 to 35 days from the date of packing. If you use them after that date, they are better for baking, hard boiling or scrambling rather than poaching or frying.

Egg Allergies

Health Canada has released new infant feeding guidelines suggesting iron-rich foods as first foods for your baby at six months, including the whole egg. Iron-rich foods are needed to meet nutrient and growth requirements at this age. Health Canada says that there is no longer a need to delay or avoid potentially allergic foods for the prevention of a food allergy. For more information visit Health Canada's website.

Eggs have two allergenic components with different properties - the yolk and the white. The egg white is the component which causes the most severe reactions. However, it makes little difference which part of the egg a child is allergic to. It is very difficult to separate the white from the yolk without having some parts of each combine. Thus, extremely small amounts can sometimes trigger severe reactions.
Usually not. Egg white is only slightly modified by heat, making it allergenic either raw or cooked. Egg yolk is substantially altered by heat and it can be tolerated by some if it is well cooked. But remember, it is very difficult to separate the white from the yolk without having some parts of each combine. However, sometimes when the allergy is disappearing, a person can eat cooked eggs but still react to raw eggs.

In most cases, the answer is yes. Most often the antibodies against eggs identify chicken as non-egg and chicken can be eaten safely. In rare cases, the antibodies find a similarity between the protein structure of chicken and eggs and the child can react to both.

Types of Eggs

Omega-3 eggs are from hens fed a diet that contains either flax seed or fish oils. Both flax seed and fish oil contain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids which are important for lowering blood triglyceride levels and have been associated with a reduced risk of heart disease.

Vitamin-enhanced eggs are from hens fed a nutritionally-enhanced diet containing higher levels of certain nutrients (eg. vitamin E, folate, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12). As a result, the eggs produced will contain higher levels of these nutrients. The amounts of each nutrient will vary between brands of eggs.
Organic eggs are produced by hens fed certified organic grains. Organic eggs have the same nutritional content as regular eggs. Check for a "certified organic" designation on the carton plus the name of the certifying organization.

Vegetarian eggs come from hens fed a diet containing only ingredients of plant origin. The nutrient content of these eggs is the same as that of regular eggs.

Free-run eggs are produced by hens that are able to move about the floor of the barn and have access to nesting boxes and, quite often, perches.

Free-range eggs are produced in a similar environment as free run eggs but hens have access to outdoor runs as well. Due to the extremes in our climate, outdoor access is only seasonally available in Canada.

Unless the hens are fed a nutritionally enhanced diet, the nutrient content of these eggs is the same as that of regular eggs.

Processed Eggs

Processed eggs are broken then pasteurized and packaged in liquid, frozen or dried form. Though some products are available at grocery stores, many processed egg products are used by the foodservice and food manufacturing industries.

Liquid egg products contain pasteurized egg whites, a small amount of pasteurized yolk and other ingredients. Omega-3 fatty acids, in the form of fish oils, may be added. These products are sold in packages containing two 250 mL cartons and can be found in the egg case or frozen foods section of grocery stores.

*50 mL (4 tbsp) is equivalent to one large egg
*One carton (250 mL) is equivalent to five large eggs
Liquid Albumen is pasteurized egg whites. This product contains no fat or cholesterol, or any of the essential nutrients found in the yolk. It is sold in packages containing two 250 mL cartons and can be found in the egg case of grocery stores.

*30 mL (2 tbsp) is equivalent to one large egg white
*50 mL (4 tbsp) is equivalent to one large egg
*One carton (250 mL) is equivalent to eight large egg whites

Low fat, yolk-replaced egg product contains egg whites and other ingredients. It is sold in packages containing two 227 mL cartons and can be found in the frozen foods section of grocery stores.

*50 mL (4 tbsp) os equivalent to one large egg
*One carton (227 mL) is equivalent to 4 1/2 large eggs

Dried whole eggs provide a convenient product for hikers or backpackers who wish to cook eggs without worrying about refrigeration or breakage. Dried eggs may be purchased at a store that sells hiking or camping supplies. The eggs can be reconstituted with water to make pancakes, scrambled eggs, etc. Follow the instructions on the package when using.

Dried albumen and meringue powder are sometimes used in baking. Dried egg whites contain only egg whites and can be reconstituted for use in recipes that call for egg whites. Meringue powder contains eggs whites and other ingredients including cornstarch and sugar, and can be reconstituted for use in icing or meringue recipes. These products can be found in stores that sell bulk food or baking supplies. Follow the instructions on the package when using.