LookingBack Apr. 24

Photo by Vicki Harris

Photo by Vicki Harris

Each week Albany Herald researcher Mary Braswell looks for interesting events, places and people from the past. You can contact her at (229) 888-9371 or mary.braswell@albanyherald.com.

One of the most recognized symbols of Easter is the egg. Here is a look back at eggs throughout history as well as facts about eggs, some well known, some...not so much.

In history

* East Indian history indicates that wild fowl were domesticated as early as 3200 B.C.

* Egyptian and Chinese records show that the fowl was laying eggs for the human in 1400 B.C.

* There is some evidence of native fowl in the Americas before the first arrival of Christopher Columbus. It is believed, however, that Columbus brought the chicken, related to those now in egg production, on his second trip to the New World.

* With nearly 200 breeds and varieties, the chicken egg is the most widely eaten worldwide. The most economically important laying hens in the United States are the Single-Comb White Leghorns.

* In the 1920s and 30s, egg farms were mostly backyard systems. There was a coop for resting but the hens generally roamed around .

* Medicines were developed to battle diseases but there was still the problem of the weather, predators, not to mention the "pecking order" that hampered the growth and production of the smaller, less aggressive birds.

* As advances were made, production improved somewhat but an average hen still only produced about 150 eggs per year. Mortality rate within flocks was about 40 percent.

* It was in the late 1940s that researchers (and farmers) began using raised wire-floor housing for chickens. Sanitation greatly improved with the cage system.

* As feeding became more uniform, the more timid hens were able to drink and eat and this resulted in more uniform egg quality. Mortality rates dropped to about 18 percent.

* Today, a hen produces from 250-300 eggs per year and the United States produces about 75 billion eggs each year.

Odds & Ends

* To tell if an egg is raw or hard-boiled, spin it. Because the liquid content has become a solid, a hard-boiled egg will easily spin. A raw egg will wobble.

* Egg yolks are used in shampoos and conditioners and, sometimes, soaps. Cholesterol, lecithin and some of the egg's fatty acids are used in skin care products such as make-up foundations, revitalizers and lipstick.

* Howard Helmer, Senior National Representative for the American Egg Board, is the Omelet King. Helmer holds three Guinness World Records for omelet making - fastest omelet-maker (427 omelets in 30 minutes); fastest single omelet (42 seconds from whole egg to omelet); and omelet flipping (30 flips in 34 seconds).

* Double-yolked eggs are often produced by young hens whose egg production cycles are not yet completely synchronized. They are also produced by hens which are old enough to produce Extra Large-sized eggs. Occasionally a hen will produce double-yolked eggs throughout her egg-laying career. It's rare, but a young hen can produce an egg with no yolk at all.

* Long before the days of refrigeration, the ancient Chinese stored eggs up to several years by immersing them in a variety of such imaginative mixtures as salt and wet clay; cooked rice, salt and lime; or salt and wood ashes mixed with a tea infusion. The treated eggs bore little similarity to fresh eggs, some exhibiting greenish-gray yolks and albumen resembling brown jelly. Today, eggs preserved in this manner are enjoyed in China as a delicacy.

* In modern henhouses, computers control the lighting, which triggers egg laying. Most eggs are laid between 7 and 11 a.m. A hen requires about 24 to 26 hours to produce an egg. After the egg is laid, the hen starts all over again about 30 minutes later.

* A large egg contains about 70 calories.

* About 60% of the eggs produced in the U.S. each year are used by consumers and about 9% are used by the food service industry. The rest are turned into egg products which are used mostly by food service operators to make restaurant meals and by food manufacturers to make foods such as mayonnaise and cake mixes.

* Yolk color depends on the plant pigments in the hens' feed. Natural yellow-orange substances, such as marigold petals, may be added to light-colored feed to enhance color. Artificial colors are not permitted.

* It is completely safe to keep fresh, uncooked eggs in the shell refrigerated in their cartons for at least three weeks after you bring them home, with insignificant quality loss. Properly handled and stored, eggs rarely spoil. If you keep them long enough, eggs are more likely to simply dry up. Keep eggs refrigerated - they'll age more in one day at room temperature than they will in one week in the refrigerator.

* When poached or fried, the fresher the egg, the more it will hold its shape rather than spread out in the pan. On the other hand, if you hard cook eggs that are at least a week old, you'll find them easier to peel than fresher eggs.

* Some sources declare that a chef's hat, called a toque, has a pleat for each of the many ways he (or she) can cook an egg.

* The amount of cholesterol in a single large egg is actually 14 percent less than previously believed, according to the 2010 United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) nutrition data. Consuming an egg a day fits easily within dietary guidance, which recommends limiting cholesterol consumption to 300 mg per day. One large egg averages 185 mg- all in the yolk.