Eggs are interesting, versatile, and part of a healthy diet. Scroll down to learn how eggs are good for you, how baby chicks grow, and find some fun egg activities.
LEARN THE PARTS OF AN EGG
Before you read on, look at this diagram to learn the names of the parts of an egg. The most important ones to know for now are the yolk, the big yellow part in the center, the egg white, labeled the “albumen,” and the shell, the hard outside.
WHY EAT EGGS?
There are five main food groups: fruit and vegetables, starchy food (bread, grains), dairy (milk, butter), fat (nuts), and protein. Eggs fall into the protein category. Why?
Eggs are a great source of protein and fat.
Proteins are made up of building blocks called amino acids, and the body needs nine of these amino acids regularly to function. Eggs are GREAT for the body because even though they are small, they contain ALL 9 of these “essential amino acids!”
How does protein help our bodies?
- Our body needs protein to “build, maintain, and repair tissues in our body”. Tissues are “groups of cells that work together to do a certain job in the body.”
- Proteins also include many other essential nutrients needed for body function:
- Protein mainly helps build muscle, fight infections, grow strong hair and nails, and keep us full throughout the day.
FAT: Each egg contains 5.5 grams of fat. (⅔ of this fat is unsaturated fat, the kind that’s good for you!). All of the fat is found in the yolk.
Why are fats important for the body?
They help our brain and nervous system. They support cell growth and function, they help with hormone production (hormones are chemical substances that act like messengers by traveling from one part of the body to others to help control how cells do their work), and help absorb nutrients.
Beyond the macronutrients, protein, eggs also contain MANY micronutrients (these micronutrients are mostly found in the yolk). Learn more about nutrients on our Superfoods page!
You can cook eggs in so many ways: that’s why we call eggs versatile.
You can put nearly anything in scrambled eggs – leafy greens, vegetables, cheese, meat. You can put poached or fried eggs on top of everything – on toast or even on a cheeseburger!
TYPES OF EGGS
Regular supermarket eggs – Many of these eggs come from factory farms, where you can have hundreds of thousands of chickens living in large warehouses. Sometimes these chickens live in a single cage their whole life.
“Organic” eggs – These eggs come from chickens who are fed organic feed. This feed usually has healthier ingredients and fewer chemicals. Sometimes “organic” farms have smaller numbers of chickens, but many “organic” farms still have thousands of chickens living in small spaces.
“Free-range” eggs – These eggs come from chickens who have more space to walk around. They get to spend more time outside and forage for food that grows in the wild.
“Local-grown” eggs – These eggs come from local farms that are close to you. They are often not sold in supermarkets, but only at farmer’s markets, or special stores like the Ypsi Food Co-op and Argus Farm Stop.
Eggs laid by an “Easter Egger” chicken
Picture by Sarah Hunt/ Matrix Lesson
The photographer compared 3 eggs. The store bought egg has the lightest yolk. The other two eggs are from a local farm. The regular chicken feed produced a light orange yolk, while the dark orange yolk came from a chicken that ate marigold flowers!
Interview with Kathy Sample from Argus Farm Stop
How can you tell the difference between a mass produced egg you find in a supermarket and one you buy locally from a farmers market?
Eggs mass produced in factories that are sold in supermarkets are made to look perfect. There is a long process to make sure that supermarket eggs have none in the package that are weirdly shaped, have more than one yolk, or anything else out of the ordinary. Often these eggs are all the same color. Facilities that grow these eggs often house millions of chickens that are constantly and efficiently producing eggs. These chickens are fed nutrients that will increase egg size and egg production, but they don’t have a very happy life.
How can you tell from the packaging if eggs are local or from a supermarket?
According to Kathy: Often packaging on eggs will tell you the location where the eggs were produced! If you buy eggs in Washtenaw County and they’re from Washtenaw County or even somewhere in Michigan, they’re likely local! If you buy them at a Michigan grocery store and they are from Arizona, they’re not local! Another fun hack is to look for a long number stamped somewhere on the packaging that shows the eggs are coming from a factory- that means they are mass produced and not local.
How does it help the chickens who lay the eggs when you buy eggs locally?
Chickens on small farms have space and are allowed to roam around the yard. They are fed natural minerals that may make their yolks orange, rather than yellow, and produce eggs of all different imperfect sizes! “These chickens scratching around in the year have a ridiculously good life”. Customers at Argus come back because they know produce there, like eggs, are grown naturally and with kind practices. In fact, according to Kathy, the University of Michigan wrestling team buys eggs almost exclusively from an Argus farmer!
Local farmers look to make personal, long lasting connections with their customers and use natural growing practices like making their own feed mix to feed the chickens.
Are there any other things to keep in mind?
Eggs from large farms have to follow strict rules from the government to make sure their eggs are safe and nutritious for people to eat. So, supermarket and local eggs are both very healthy for you.
Yolks from local farm eggs are even cooler. “There’s a lot more variability in local yolks, you’re not candling and grading eggs when they are local,” says Kathy. That means that you might find big yolks, small yolks, heavy yolks, and light yolks all in the same carton of eggs. (Candling is when you test eggs to see if they are fresh by holding a light up to them to see the inside of the egg.)
Sometimes yolks will change color depending on what food the chicken who laid it eats like in this picture!
What are some of your favorite recipes that use eggs?
Kathy “loves to poach her eggs because she feels it’s the purest way to eat eggs and tastes excellent!” She also loves to make scotch eggs (if you’ve never had one, see a recipe here!).
What brings you the most joy in working with sustainable and local food?
“Knowing the people in the local food community because they’re just cool people…that have a really good perspective on how to balance life. These are my people, who I’m excited to see everyday. And I’m just just happy that I’ve found this community of people.”
CRUSHED EGG SHELLS AS A NATURAL FERTILIZER ACTIVITY
Watch this video to see us use eggshells to start growing seeds!
Eggshells are made up almost entirely of a chemical compound called calcium carbonate- this substance is essential (or should we say, “egg-sential”) for plants to grow and thrive! Eggshells also naturally break down in soil. Once your seeds start to grow you can simply bury the eggshell into the soil with the growing plant! As the eggshells break down, they add calcium and nitrogen to the soil, which the plant absorbs and uses as it grows!
Eggshells are also a natural substance and instead of wasting them by throwing them away, you’re putting them to good, environmentally friendly use!
Try the experiment on your own using this link!
**Experiment Hack: Use a butter knife to gently open egg shells at the top so that your egg can hold the soil better!
HOW CHICKS DEVELOP
Baby chicks typically grow inside their eggs for 21 days until hatching. The chick inside is called the embryo. The embryo grows bigger and bigger every day.
The embryo floats in liquid called amniotic (am-nee-AH-tik) fluid and eats the yolk, or vitellus, to grow.
The albumen is a white layer that surrounds the embryo and amniotic fluid to keep the chick warm and snug.
After the 21 days have passed, the baby chick is ready to hatch! It knows how to all by itself.
Baby chicks grow a special hard tip on their beak called the egg tooth that helps them break through the hard egg shell.
Remember, the eggs you buy from the store do not have baby chicks in them. The yolk in our eggs was produced in case a baby chick was created (a process called fertilization), but the chick never came. Watch “Are Miss Pauletta’s Eggs Fertile?” to see how farmers tell if an egg is fertilized!
Spring is the season of rebirth and new life. Colorful flowers grow again. Baby birds hatch out of eggs and fill the air with their beautiful songs. Eggs are important for several spring holidays around the world.
Artistic Easter eggs are very famous in Eastern Europe. The Ukrainian word for these special eggs is pysanky. The artist uses wax to make the detailed designs.
Maybe you’ve decorated Easter eggs before. If you haven’t, it’s easy! You can buy a dye kit from the store, but you don’t have to. Here’s how!
- hard-boiled eggs
- vinegar or lemon juice
- food coloring or natural dyes
- jars or mugs
Boil a large pot of water. Carefully pour about 1/2 cup hot water into jars or mugs. Put 1 teaspoon of vinegar and 10-20 drops of dye in each jar.
Place a hard-boiled egg in the jar of the color you want. Let it soak for about 5 minutes, and flip the egg halfway through to get color on both halves.
Use a spoon to gently take the egg out of the jar.
Click the buttons below for more details and instruction on how to make colorful dyes from vegetables.
MORE ABOUT EGGS (AND CHICKENS!)
The Graham Scholars Program supports 50 undergraduate juniors and seniors at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor campus annually. The co-curricular program complements many academic programs. Scholars work with organizations through summer internships and sustainability projects that provide an opportunity to refine project management, collaboration, and other skills applicable to all career paths. The Scholars Program is open to all schools and colleges and is supported by the University of Michigan Graham Sustainability Institute, see graham.umich.edu/scholars.