Here’s How to Grade, Candle, & Size Your Eggs | Small Scale Farming Guide

Egg grading can seem intimidating to farmers or homesteaders just starting out – there’s a whole new world of vocabulary, legal standards, and farm tools needed. While it may seem daunting, there’s no need to stress – here’s how to start grading, candling, & sizing your farm fresh eggs.

If you want to know how to grade eggs as a small scale farmer, these are the basics!

New to the world of backyard poultry? Check out our Guide to Selling Eggs by State!

What is Egg Grading?

eggs sorted from smallest to largest

Egg grading tells us the quality of eggs based on appearance, both inside and out.

While there is no nutritional difference between the different grades, exterior appearance is key as it relates directly to what is ‘safe for human consumption’, as well as how the eggs should be used (more on this below).

What Are the Different Egg Grades?

Grade AA Eggs:

  • Egg whites are firm & thick
  • Yolks are round and high
  • Shell is clean and unbroken
  • Air cell is 1/8 inch or less in depth

Grade A Eggs:

  • Egg whites are slightly less firm than grade AA
  • Yolk outlines are fairly well defined
  • Shell is clean & unbroken
  • Air cell is 3/16 inch or less in depth

Grade B Eggs:

  • Egg whites are weak and watery – small blood/meat spots may be visible as well
  • Yolk outline is plainly visible, enlarged, and flattened. No blood or other serious issues with the yolk.
  • Shell is clean or slightly stained – may have an abnormal shape
  • Air cell is over 3/16 inch in depth

Grade C & Beyond:

  • These are typically considered unsafe for human consumption and should not be sold to customers. May be used in pet food

How Do I Grade my Eggs?

egg being candled for the incubation process
Egg being candled for incubation purposes

Although it may seem impossible to judge the inside of an egg without breaking open the shell, it can be done! Eggs are graded with the use of a nifty tool called a candler.

Egg candlers are farm tools used in egg grading and incubation. You place the light from the candler directly onto the egg to see inside. From there, you will need to check air cell size, albumen (egg white) thickness, and yolk quality (see above).

Although they all do the same thing, candlers can look very different depending on the size of your flock. Farmers with 25 chickens need a much less robust candler than a farmer with 2500 chickens!

Egg candling options for small-scale farmers and urban homesteaders from the egg carton store
Pictured (Left to Right): Jiffy Way Candler, Mobanette 3 Egg Grader & Candler, Egomatic Egg Grader & Candler

What is Egg Sizing?

Egg sizing is a way to categorize your eggs based on weight. The official sizes used and accepted by the USDA are Jumbo, Extra Large, Large, Medium, Small, and Peewee.

Sizing can be just as helpful to farmers as it can consumers, because it helps them know if jumbo sized or standard cartons are the best for their business.

Jiffy III Egg Grading Scale chicken shaped

How Can I Size my Eggs?

Sizing eggs is a bit simpler than grading them since it is completely weight-based.

You can use your own scale at home, although there are plenty of tools available for farmers to make sizing a breeze, like this classic chicken-shaped egg sizer!

What is the Difference Between Egg Grading and Egg Sizing?

Aside from the obvious difference off egg grading relating to appearance and egg sizing relating to weight, they both serve different functional purposes as well.

Egg grading allows consumers to know what to expect when they’re cracking open their morning breakfast! It is also useful for restaurants and manufacturers who use lower graded eggs to make processed products.

Egg sizing has a few different uses:

  • For the Farmer: Sizing your eggs is a nice way to know how to sort your eggs for sale. It’s also a good metric for determining which egg cartons to purchase.
  • For the Consumer: Many recipes call for specific egg sizes, so it can be especially helpful to bakeries & restaurants that purchase eggs in large quantities. In this case, even if it is not required in your state, sizing your eggs may help to generate more sales from local eateries.

What are the Laws around Egg Grading and Sizing – Do I Have to Do it?

Unfortunately, this isn’t a simple yes or no answer. Some areas require your packaging to say ‘no grade/no size‘, others are more strict, and some are quite lenient!

Depending on your state, you may be able to skip out on grading your eggs entirely. Read our Guide to Selling Eggs by Stateto check the laws in your specific state.

Congrats – you’re an expert now on all things egg grading, candling, and sizing! It may take some time, but you’ll have it all memorized like the back of your hand before you know it.