Industry FAQ

The U.S. Poultry & Egg Association has compiled this list of frequently asked questions. They are grouped alphabetically by subject matter. Select a tab to view the corresponding category. Alternatatively, you can download these industry facts as a PDF. If you have additional questions, see the Important Links page of this Web site for organizations that might be able to answer your question.

  • Eggs
  • Food Safety
  • Grilling
  • Litter
  • Poultry
  • Recipes
  • Statistics
  • Terminology
  • Turkey

What are the differences between inspection and grading?
To learn more, go to http://www.fsis.usda.gov/Fact_Sheets/Inspection_&_Grading/index.asp.

What's the best way to store eggs?
The best place for an egg is in its carton on an inside refrigerator shelf. The carton's sponginess insulates the egg from jolts which can cause cracks. The carton also helps to prevent the loss of moisture and carbon dioxide to maintain quality, maintain the proper egg temperature, and keep the egg from absorbing undesirable refrigerator odors and food flavors.

What is the maximum storage temperature under which eggs should be stored?
45 degree Fahrenheit

Where can I find information on organic eggs?
Eggs that are labeled organic and have the U.S. Department of Agriculture organic seal on the carton were produced following the USDA National Organic Program standards. To learn more, go to www.ams.usda.gov/nop.

What are free-range eggs?
Free-range eggs are from hens that live outdoors or have access to the outdoors. Modifications for seasonal variations are acceptable. The nutrient content of eggs from free-range hens is the same as those from hens housed in production facilities with cages.

Do egg laying hens receive hormones?
Egg laying hens are not given hormones. Some egg cartons say that the eggs are hormone free; however, this is true for all eggs in commercial egg production in the United States.

What does antibiotic free mean?
Antibiotic-free claims on egg cartons can be only be made by egg producers who choose not to use any antibiotics in feed or water during the growing period of pullets or while hens are laying eggs. Flocks producing certified organic eggs must be antibiotic free by regulation. Flocks producing conventional eggs may use FDA approved antibiotics and must comply with FDA levels of use and other restrictions. FDA regulations assure that antibiotic residues do not occur in the egg itself. Eggs from hens treated with antibiotics cannot be classified as antibiotic-free, but the eggs themselves do not contain antibiotic residues. The list of antibiotics allowed by FDA for use in egg laying flocks is quite small, only three. Also, it is estimated that only a small percentage of laying flocks producing conventional eggs ever receive antibiotics due to use of effective vaccines and other management practices which minimize the need for antibiotics to treat illness. If any egg laying flock does receive an antibiotic, it is usually under the supervision of a veterinarian and only for a short period of time to treat a specific disease outbreak or for prevention of a recurring disease on that farm.

What does Grade A mean?
Eggs are graded based on their quality and appearance. Grade AA eggs have thick, firm whites and high, round yolks. Their shells are clean and unbroken. Grade A eggs are like Grade AA, but their whites are "reasonably" firm. Grade A eggs are usually sold in stores. Grade B eggs have thin whites and wider yolks. The shells are unbroken, but might show slight stains.

How are eggs packed?
An egg is placed in the carton with the large end up. This helps keep the air cell in place and the yolk centered. During the packing process, eggs are separated by size. The minimum weights per dozen are: Jumbo (30 ounces); Extra Large (27 ounces); Large (24 ounces); Medium (21 ounces); Small (18 ounces); and Pee Wee (15 ounces).

How do you tell if an egg is hard-cooked or raw?
Spin it! If the egg spins easily, it is hard-cooked. If the egg wobbles, it is raw.

Are the eggs I buy at my local supermarket fertile?
The eggs sold at grocery stores are unfertilized eggs. The hens that lay these eggs will never see a rooster in their lifetime. Fertilized eggs are not common although they are available at some specialty stores.

Where can I find information on egg nutrition?
Try the Egg Nutrition Center. Go here to view the Web site.

How many eggs does a hen lay in a year?
The average number of eggs laid by a hen in a year is 259. A hen starts laying eggs at 19 weeks of age. As a hen grows older, she produces larger eggs.

Is there a difference in quality between fresh and frozen poultry?
Both fresh and frozen poultry are inspected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service. The quality is the same. It is personal preference whether you buy fresh or frozen poultry.

How long can chicken remain in the freezer?
If properly packaged, frozen chicken should maintain top quality in a home freezer for up to one year.

Are hormones used in the production of chicken?
No hormones are used in U.S. chicken production. The Food and Drug Administration strictly prohibits the use of hormones in broiler-fryers. Nor are additives allowed on fresh chicken. If the chicken is processed, however, additives such as salt or sodium erythorbate may be added, but must be listed on the product label.

What are some safe handling and cooking practices when working with poultry?
Consumers should follow safety and handling guideline package instructions for raw poultry, as well as follow these steps when handling or cooking raw poultry.

  • Do not rinse raw poultry in your sink, as it can spread raw juices around. Bacteria in raw meat and poultry can only be killed when cooked to a safe internal temperature of 165°F, as measured by a meat thermometer.
  • Refrigerate raw poultry promptly. Never leave it on countertop at room temperature.
  • Packaged, fresh poultry may be refrigerated in its original packaging in the coldest part of the refrigerator.
  • Freeze uncooked poultry if it is not to be used within two days.
  • Thaw poultry in the refrigerator, not on the countertop or in cold water.
  • Keep raw meat and poultry separate from other foods.
  • Wash hands, kitchen work surfaces, cutting boards, knives and other utensils used in preparing raw chicken with soap and hot water before they come in contact with other raw meat or poultry, including frozen and fresh products. Hands should be washed before and after handling food, as well as when handling different food items.
  • Keep hot foods hot; refrigerate leftovers no more than two hours after cooking.

What is the best way to thaw chicken before grilling?
Always thaw chicken in the refrigerator or microwave, never on the kitchen counter or picnic table. Always keep uncooked meat refrigerated until it is to be placed on the grill or place meat in an insulated cooler near the grill, out of direct sunlight.

How can I speed up the time it takes to grill chicken?
Chicken can be partially cooked in the microwave before being placed on the grill. Partially cooked chicken should be grilled immediately.

How do I keep chicken from sticking to the grill?
Coat the grids on the grill with vegetable cooking spray or brush them with cooking oil. Apply tomato-based sauces or those containing fruit, sugar or other sweetners during the last 20-30 minutes of grilling to prevent over-browning.

How do I get the most flavorful grilled chicken?
To avoid loss of juices, use only long-handled tongs for turning chickens, not a fork. For a smoked flavor when cooking on a covered grill, add water-soaked chips of wood (black walnut, pecan, hickory, peach or pear). Avoid cedar, spruce, pine, and fir because they give a bitter flavor.

What temperature should my chicken reach on the grill?
Use a meat thermometer for the most accurate reading. The internal temperature should reach 180° F for whole chicken or parts with bones. Boneless parts should reach 160° F. When in doubt, remove the chicken to a plate and cut with a knife to make sure all flesh is opaque throughout.

How much litter does a chicken produce?
During the typical 47-day growout period, the typical broiler chicken will generate approximately two pounds of litter (manure mixed with wood shavings or similiar materials). This translates to about .7 ounce a day per bird, although that will vary considerably over the life of the bird. Please note that this generation rate is for litter. Actual manure generation will be lower because it is only a fractional component of litter.

What does the "fresh" rule mean to consumers?
Go to http://www.fsis.usda.gov/Fact_Sheets/Poultry_Label_Says_Fresh/index.asp for an explanation.

What is the liquid I sometimes see in the bottom of the chicken tray?
Many people think the pink liquid in packaged fresh chicken is blood, but it is mostly water which was absorbed by the chicken during the chilling process. Blood is removed from poultry during slaughter and only a small amount remains in the muscle tissue. An improperly bled chicken would have cherry red skin and be condemned at the plant.

How do I get into the poultry business?
Try contacting your local county extension agent or the poultry science department at the state university for information and publications. Select this link to obtain a list of contacts at the universities.

Are artificial color additives permitted in chicken feed?
No. The yolk's color depends on the hen's diet. Hens that eat feed containing yellow corn or alfalfa produce medium yellow yolks. Hens that eat feed containing wheat or barley produce lighter color yolks. Natural yellow-orange substances such as marigold petals may be added to light colored feeds to enhance the yolk color.

In addition to eatchicken.com and eatturkey.com, there are numerous Web sites that incorporate chicken recipes. Go here for a sample list.

Where can I find statistics on poultry and egg production?
Go to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service Web site.

What is a broiler?
A broiler is a young chicken raised for meat and meat products. Broilers weigh four to five pounds. Broilers are considered mature at 42 to 49 days old. The terms broiler and fryer are sometimes used interchangeably.

What is a roaster?
A roaster is a slightly older, slightly larger bird raised to be sold for pan-roasting or processing.

What does "processed" mean?
Processed chicken or turkey products are those that have been cooked, marinated, ground, deboned or otherwise altered to change their form or texture and/or add convenience for consumers.

Can turkeys fly?
Domesticated turkeys cannot fly; however, wild turkeys can fly for short distances up to 55 miles per hour. Wild turkeys can also run 20 miles per hour.

How much turkey is consumed at Thanksgiving?
In 2011, more than 248.5 million turkeys were raised. More than 219 million were consumed in the United States. We estimate that 46 million of those turkeys were eaten at Thanksgiving, 22 million at Christmas and 19 million at Easter.

How long can you store leftover turkey dishes in the refrigerator?
Cooked turkey should not be stored more than three or four days. Stuffing and gravy should not be left in the refrigerator more than one or two days. Other cooked turkey dishes can remain in the refrigerator for three or four days.

Did you know these fun Thanksgiving facts?

  • Only tom turkeys gobble.
  • Hen turkeys make a clicking noise.
  • Domesticated turkeys cannot fly.
  • June is National Turkey Lovers' Month
  • Moon Food: When Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin sat down to eat their first meal on the moon, their foil food packets contained roasted turkey and all of the trimmings.
  • One in four Americans breaks their diets on Thanksgiving.
  • Benjamin Franklin wanted to make the wild turkey the national bird of the United States.
  • On a quiet night, you can hear a turkey gobbling from a mile away.
  • Thanksgiving was celebrated on the last Thursday of November until 1941 when President Roosevelt signed the bill to move it ahead one week.
  • Israel has the highest consumption of turkey per capita at 26 lbs per year while Americans consume 16.9 lbs per year.
  • Turducken (turkey/duck/chicken) is a version of the classic turkey with duck and chicken layered inside.
  • 88% of Americans eat turkey on Thanksgiving Day.
  • New York was the first state to celebrate Thanksgiving.

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