The Reason Eggs Are Typically Sold By The Dozen

Many foods at the grocery store are priced based on weight, but eggs are an anomaly. Instead of calculating costs based on weight, eggs are sold in a specific quantity. However, this seemingly simplified strategy has caused some debate over the years, as not all eggs are the same size. 

Here's a recent example of how faithful people are to this practice: In 2010, the European Parliament proposed foods be valued by their weight rather than merely counted. Shoppers and grocers alike assumed this "ban" would apply to eggs, causing an extravagant (er... eggs-travagant?) frenzy known as "The Great Egg Scare." Thankfully, the amendment only stated that food labels, including those on egg cartons, must display the weight — not that they needed to be sold by the gram. 

Every once in a while, you may see packages of 6, 18, or even 24 eggs. For the most part, egg cartons contain the same number of units, 12. Regarding why eggs get sold by the dozen, it turns out that this quantity pays homage to a tradition dating back centuries and has to do with a long-gone form of British currency. Inspired by Roman and Anglo-Saxon measuring systems, eggs typically cost one penny individually or could be purchased in a dozen for a single shilling because 12 pennies equaled one shilling. The shilling was popular in England from the early 16th Century until 1968, when the United Kingdom's new decimal system warranted recalibrating the country's existing currency. 

Why eggs are still sold in dozens today

Hundreds of years ago, well before the age of credit cards and not having to provide change for almost every transaction, selling and buying eggs by the dozen made things easier. Twelve whole eggs for a shilling? Easy. Done. Go on your merry way. The convention eventually ventured over to America and other parts of the world. Perhaps amazingly, this simple system has withstood the test of time. Plus, it's a way to honor a time-honored custom and the hardworking farmers of yesteryear.

In any case, eggs are undoubtedly one of the most versatile foods on the planet. They don't only act as emulsifiers in baked goods, waffles, and pancakes, but eggs also add viscosity and flavor to egg-based recipes such as soups, sauces, and eggnog. Beyond that, eggs can be prepared in countless ways, all by their wonderfully hearty selves, and are considered a breakfast staple for a good reason. Egg prices have been volatile in recent years, but as of May 2023, egg prices are getting slightly cheaper... by the dozen.