How to buy eggs

  • By
    Steffi Dellner - Recipe writer

Be a happy shopper by getting to know your labels. Our guide to reading egg packaging will help you to understand size classifications, ethics and nutrition...

Egg box

Many of us add a box of eggs to our weekly shop, but beyond free-range and caged the terminology and symbols on packaging can be confusing. We talk you through common terms and markings. 


Stamped egg• Organic

Always free-range. Hens must be fed an organic diet and can only roam on organic land.


• Free-range

Hens must have continuous daytime access to open-air runs that are mainly covered with vegetation. There must be at least 4 square metres of ground available per bird.


• Barn hens

These hens are kept indoors without cages. There must be 15cm of perch space per hen and 1 square metre of floor space for every nine hens.


Eggs in box• Caged

‘Battery’ cages were banned in the EU in January 2012. In the UK, these cages have been replaced with enriched colony cages. These have 0.75 square metres of space per hen. Most cages contain 40-80 birds.


• Omega-rich

Hens are fed a naturally enriched diet of essential omega-3 fatty acids, however, there is some debate as to whether the amount of omega in these eggs is worth the extra cost.


• British Lion Quality mark

This stamp (see top left picture) guarantees that the eggs have come from hens vaccinated against salmonella and are produced in accordance with UK and EU law.


Blue box of eggs• Best before date

Not a requirement, but there is a legal obligation to ensure that all eggs are sold within 21 days of laying.


• Hen egg weights

XL or Very Large: 73g and upwards, L or Large: from 63-73g, M or Medium: from 53-63g, S or Small: below 53g.

More egg know-how

Ultimate guide to storing and cooking eggs
Egg glossary 
Egg recipe collection
How to poach an egg
The health benefits of eggs 
Bill Granger's guide to cooking eggs

What kind of eggs do you buy, and do you think packaging is clear enough? 

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