Eggs: From Hen to Home
3 - 5
Students trace the production path of eggs, beginning on the farm and ending in their home and identify the culinary uses and nutritional benefits of eggs. Grades 3-5
Activity 1: From Hen to Home
- Eggs 101 video
- Egg Production Cards, 1 set per group cut apart
- From Hen to Home Discovery Sheets
- Poster paper, 1 per group
Activity 2: Build a Balanced Breakfast
- MyPlate Cards
- Container to hold cards
- MyPlate Poster* or MyPlate Image
- Paper/plastic plates, 1 per group
- Paper/plastic cups, 1 per group
- Crayons, colored pencils, or markers
*The MyPlate Poster is available for purchase from agclassroomstore.com.
Essential Files (maps, charts, pictures, or documents)
breed: a group of animals or plants within a species having a distinctive appearance and typically having been developed by deliberate selection
candle: test an egg for freshness or fertility by holding it to the light
consumer: a person who buys and uses goods and services
coop: an enclosure where poultry live
domestic: an animal that has been tamed and kept by humans as a work animal, food source, or pet
incubate: to provide heat so as to promote embryonic development and the hatching of young
leavening: a substance used in dough or batter to make it rise
nutrient: a substance that provides nourishment essential for growth and the maintenance of life
poultry: domestic fowl, such as chickens, turkeys, ducks, and geese
protein: an essential nutrient responsible for building tissue, cells, and muscle
Did You Know? (Ag Facts)
- The process of an egg traveling from "Hen to Home" takes approximately a week or less.
- When refrigerated, eggs have a shelf life of 3-5 weeks.
- The majority of eggs purchased in a grocery store have white shells and were produced by a White Leghorn, a breed of chicken known for their egg production.
Background Agricultural Connections
Eggs are produced by hens (female chickens) on farms. Hens begin laying eggs when they are 4-6 months old. A good laying hen will produce 6-7 eggs per week for the first 1-2 years of her life. Chickens are domestic fowl, as are turkeys, ducks, and geese. All species of poultry lay eggs. Chicken eggs are most commonly consumed in the United States.
Eggs come in various shell colors, although there is no nutritional difference between different colored eggs. The shell color depends upon the breed of chicken. Eggs can be white, tan, brown, or even a light shade of green. Chickens can be raised on a large or small scale. A few chickens can easily be raised in a backyard to provide eggs for a family. Eggs that are purchased from a store likely came from a farm. Chickens live in houses called coops. They eat a special feed that includes grains, such as ground up corn and wheat.
Eggs that are produced for the purpose of eating will never develop into a chick because the eggs are not fertilized by a rooster and they are never incubated (kept warm). On a farm, eggs are collected each day. The eggs go through a processing plant where they are washed, checked for cracks and abnormalities, sized, graded, and then packaged. The contents of an egg can be seen by a method called candling (holding it up to a light). If an egg has an abnormal shape or appearance, it is discarded and the remaining eggs are packaged into cartons. The eggs leave the processing plant in refrigerated trucks which deliver them to retail grocery stores to be sold to consumers.
Eggs are graded into three classifications according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) grading system—AA, A, and B. The grade of an egg is determined by the interior and exterior quality of the egg. Grade AA eggs have thick, firm whites and the yolks are free from any defects. Their shells are clean, smooth, and oval in shape. Grade A eggs have a slightly lower interior quality. Grade B eggs may have slight stains and be irregular in shape. Grade B eggs are not sold in supermarkets, but are used in powdered or liquid egg products. There is no nutritional difference between the different grades.
Egg size is determined by the average weight per dozen. Jumbo eggs are 30 oz. per dozen, extra large are 27 oz., large are 24 oz., medium are 21 oz., small eggs are 18 oz. per dozen. The age, breed, and weight of the hen as well as environmental factors influence the size of an egg. As a hen ages, the size of her eggs increase. Underweight birds lay smaller eggs. Stress, heat, overcrowding, and poor nutrition can also result in smaller eggs. Eggs are weighed by electronic scales and packaged by size based on weight.
The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans includes eggs in all three of its healthy eating patterns. The nutrients in eggs support brain development in early life and health across the lifespan.1 Eggs are a good source of protein and are a good or excellent source of eight essential nutrients including choline, an under-consumed nutrient the Dietary Guidelines recommend to support brain health.
Eggs are one of the few natural food sources of vitamin D, which along with calcium is critical for building strong bones. Egg yolks contain lutein and zeaxanthin, carotenoids that can support eye health as you age. The science on dietary cholesterol and eggs continues to grow and demonstrates that eggs are an important part of healthy dietary patterns across the lifespan.2
Numerous research studies show that students who eat breakfast—either at school or at home—have better academic performance and behavior.3 When children eat better, they learn better. A well-balanced breakfast, rich in protein, whole grains, fruits/vegetables and low-fat/fat-free milk gives children the energy they need to let learn and stay active. The protein in eggs, in combination with a well-balanced breakfast, can help keep children satisfied and fueled. Breakfast options that include eggs present opportunities to include other nutrient-dense foods encouraged by the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, such as vegetables and whole grains.
Egg consumption by American children and adolescents is associated with intake of several nutrients, including higher protein, polyunsaturated, monounsaturated and total fat, alpha-linolenic acid, docosahexaenoic acid, choline, lutein + zeaxanthin, vitamin D, potassium, phosphorus, and selenium.4
Though eggs can be prepared in various ways for breakfast, they are also important and commonly used in other foods. Eggs help bind ingredients together, act as a leavening agent, and help to thicken soups and sauces.
Interest Approach - Engagement
- Write the words Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner on the board. Ask the students to name as many ways they can think of to prepare eggs for the different mealtimes. Write a list of their ideas under each mealtime. Examples could include:
- Breakfast: scrambled, poached, omelet, boiled, baked, over easy, over hard
- Lunch: frittata, quiche, egg salad, egg sandwich
- Dinner: deviled eggs, Pad Thai, pasta salad
- Explain to the students that they are going to explore where eggs come from, how they get to the grocery store, and how they can be part of a healthy diet.
Activity 1: From Hen to Home
- Watch the video Eggs 101.
- Ask the students, "What are the steps involved in getting eggs from the farm to the grocery store?"
- Organize the students into six groups. Provide each group with a set of Egg Production Cards. Ask the groups to work together to place the cards in the order that show the steps it takes to get eggs from the farm to the supermarket.
- Explain to the students that technology is used in every production step to increase efficiency and decrease costs. Ask the students to describe some of the technologies they noticed from the videos.
- Assign each group one of the production steps below to explore. Provide the groups with the From Hen to Home Discovery Sheet that corresponds with their production step.
- Hens lay eggs
- Eggs are washed
- Eggs are checked for cracks
- Eggs are sized
- Eggs are graded
- Eggs are packaged and shipped
- Have each group read the information on their discovery sheet, watch the video, and create a poster to present to the class. Each poster should include the following information:
- Name of the production step.
- What happens during this step.
- Technology that is used during this step.
- Interesting information about this step.
- Allow each group time to share their poster with the class.
Activity 2: Build a Balanced Breakfast
Teacher Preparation: Prior to this activity, print an equal number of MyPlate Cards (5), so there is one food group card for each student. Cut the cards apart and place into a container.
- Ask the students, "What are the five food groups?" (fruits, vegetables, grains, protein, and dairy)
- Once all food groups have been identified, ask the students to name some foods that fit into each group.
- Fruits: Any fruit or 100% fruit juice. Fruits may be fresh, canned, frozen, or dried, and may be whole, cut-up, or pureed.
- Vegetables: Any vegetable or 100% vegetable juice. Vegetables may be raw or cooked; fresh, frozen, canned, or dried/dehydrated; and may be whole, cut-up, or mashed.
- Dairy: All fluid milk products, calcium-fortified soymilk (soy beverage), and foods made from milk that retain their calcium content. Foods made from milk that have little to no calcium content, such as cream cheese, cream, and butter, are not considered to be part of this food group.
- Proteins: All foods made from eggs, meat, poultry, seafood, beans and peas, processed soy products, nuts and seeds.
- Grains: Any food made from wheat, rice, oats, cornmeal, barley, or another cereal grain. Bread, pasta, oatmeal, breakfast cereals, tortillas, and grits are examples of grain products. Grains are divided into two subgroups—whole grains and refined grains.
- Use the MyPlate Poster or project the MyPlate Image onto a large screen. Introduce MyPlate and discuss the importance of eating balanced meals that include the different food groups.
- Have each student close their eyes and pick a card from the container.
- Organize the class into groups of five students. Each student in a group must have a different MyPlate Card. (If the number of students in the class is not divisible by five, either have the extra students double up in one of the other groups or give the smaller group the extra cards needed to cover all five food groups).
- In their groups, have the students take turns sharing which food group they have. Ask the groups to plan a well-balanced breakfast. Students can suggest foods for a meal from the food group they represent.
- Provide each group with a paper/plastic plate and cup. Instruct them to turn their MyPlate Card over and draw the breakfast food from their food group. When the drawings are complete, attach them on the plate or cup with tape.
- Invite each group to share their well-balanced breakfast plate with the rest of the class.
- Lead a discussion about planning and eating balanced breakfasts. Use the following points to guide the discussion:
- Eating a balanced breakfast (including at least three of the five food groups) can help you grow and learn better.
- Eating breakfast provides you with energy.
- High-quality protein options, like eggs, are important to help you stay full, so you can focus on your schoolwork.
- Eggs contain protein and important nutrients that help you stay focused in school.
- Eggs can be eaten for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or snacks.
Concept Elaboration and Evaluation
After conducting these activities, review and summarize the following key concepts:
- A female chicken, called a hen, is raised on a farm to produce eggs for us to eat.
- Eggs are produced on a farm, cleaned, sized, graded, and packaged at a processing plant, transported to a grocery store, and then finally sold to a consumer.
- Eggs are an important part of our diet because they are a good source of protein and contain other nutrients.
If any of your students have their own chickens, invite the students to bring some eggs from home. Compare the size and color(s) of the eggs with those that are typically purchased from the grocery store.
Visit the Interactive Map website and view the interactive map for Chickens in the United States. This map shows how many laying hens are in each state. Where does your state rank?
Activity 2 was adapted with permission from The Incredible Egg Build a Balanced Breakfast with MyPlate activity.
Suggested Companion Resources
- Chick Life Cycle
- Chickens on the Farm
- Chicks & Chickens
- Daisy Comes Home
- Farm Animals: Chickens
- How Food gets from Farms to Store Shelves
- One Egg
- One Hen: How One Small Loan Made a Big Difference
- The Chicken-Chasing Queen of Lamar County
- The Hen Who Sailed Around the World
- Tillie Lays an Egg
- Zinnia and Dot
- Nutrition Posters
- All About Eggs
- Eat Happy Project video series
- Eggs 101: An Egg's Journey from the Farm to Our Tables
- Virtual Egg Farm Field Trips
- Eggs in Schools
National Center for Agricultural Literacy