For the first time, mini eggs are to be sold in supermarkets in a non-chocolate variety. They will, in fact, be egg-flavoured, because they will, in fact, be eggs.
Pullets – hens less than a year old – begin laying at about 16 weeks, but their first eggs will be considerably smaller than an ordinary large egg. While pullet eggs can make up 10% of an egg farmer’s overall stock, most of them are thrown away because the supermarkets won’t take them, with as many as 1.5m eggs going to waste every year. Now, Waitrose has plans to sell pullet eggs at £1.99 for a packet of four.
In the bid to reduce waste in the industry, the pullet egg joins the so-called no-kill egg, the result of a technological innovation that allowed unhatched eggs to be sexed. This prevents the culling of male chicks, many of which are shredded alive.
In 2015, Jamie Oliver tried to get the public interested in pullet eggs as a premium product rather than a by-product. Chefs like them because the yolks are richer and the eggs themselves are rounder. They should really be considered a seasonal delicacy, but if they’re used at all they generally end up in industrial food processing, mixed in with lower quality eggs.
A pullet egg is, at bottom, just a little egg, suitable for anything you would use a big egg for. In the pre-1996 numbered sizing system, when recipes commonly called for a size three egg, the pullet egg would have been a six or a seven (the numbers, perversely, went up as the weight went down).
The main difficulty for consumers is getting the ratio right when cooking. The most common conversion rate is three pullet eggs for every two large eggs required, but it’s not an exact science. Large eggs vary in weight, and a small shelled egg can sometimes be heavier than a bigger one. The most failsafe method is to weigh your eggs after shelling, reckoning with about 57g for every large egg needed. Alternatively you could shrink the amounts of all the other ingredients to suit your eggs, and make a smaller quiche. In which case, you do the maths.