After all of the Memorial Day festivities are over, have you ever thought about what creamy cole slaw, potato salad, and deviled eggs have in common? They are all made with Mayonnaise! Now be honest, how many of us take a moment to think about how mayo is made when we reach into the fridge to gather the ingredients for our deviled eggs? Do you think about the farmers involved in this product that we use every day? Lets start from the top. What is it actually made of? Mayo is made from combining egg yolks, lemon juice or vinegar, oil, and seasonings. Check out the video to get an idea of what the process actually entails.
Can you believe there is that much work in making mayo! I never thought about the entire process until I started teaching my Food Science and Technology Class.
Did you know that when you look up the ingredients in mayo, there are several major producers that pop up. The first one is Hellman’s and they are excited to tell you that their product is made from cage free eggs.
What in the world is a cage free egg? Well, it means that the egg in the mayo was laid by a chicken not kept in a cage, but that chicken is still kept in a barn. A caged chicken is kept in a cage in a barn and a free range chicken is not confined and kept outside. So why does that matter? There is a big movement for cage free hens, but I wonder if those individuals have every thought about the hen? A hen is a female chicken that is mature enough to produce an egg. Not all eggs are fertile and can produce chicks. Most hens will start laying between 5-7 months of age. They will lay best at 1 to 2 years of age. Younger hens will lay 1 egg every 3-4 days. A hen 30 weeks old can lay 2 eggs every 3 days. Some have been known to lay an egg a day. All breeds have different laying abilities, as explained by Murray McMurray Hatchery. Chickens kept in cages are in a comfortable temperature controlled environment. They never get rained on, pecked or pushed around by the other hens, and never have to fight for food and water! Each hen in a cage has adequate water and food and can produce a fabulous egg to be made into mayo. Studies have shown there is no real difference in caged and cage free eggs (The Poultry Science Journal). Granted, I will say that farm fresh eggs might have a different taste, but they are in a completely different category when thinking about large scale commercial production with caged vs. cage free eggs.
I love to do an activity in class with my students concerning this same issue. They have to answer the question,”Which egg would you rather eat: caged or caged free?” Then, students get the opportunity to complete the process of actually making mayo! It is a great way for them to learn valuable research skills and actually be able to back up their own beliefs and opinions.
So the next time you go to the fridge and grab the mayo jar think about how much time, effort, and care goes into the egg production which eventually makes your mayonnaise!