How the Swiss sell their eggs

November 22, 2011, 17 Comments

Eggs. Such an everyday item that it’s easy to overlook them as something of cultural significance. Eggs are eggs, aren’t they? Either brown or white, always the same shape and the occasional bad one, metaphorically speaking. In fact, nothing too exciting at all. Except in Switzerland. Swiss eggs might look the same as any other but the way they are sold certainly isn’t. Does anyone else sell eggs in boxes of 9? Or is it only the Swiss?

Half a dozen eggs. Or maybe even a dozen. But three-quarters of a dozen? It doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue or look great on a shopping list. So why sell eggs in such a strange number? I think it’s because it means having nice square boxes that look neat on the supermarket shelves. That must be the reason, because why else would the Swiss also sell eggs in fours? Another example of a tidy square box. When I first arrived in Switzerland, the concept of buying four eggs fascinated me. I was so used to the six- or twelve-packs we get in Britain that the dinky little foursome seemed so odd. Who bought them, I wondered. My friends soon told me – they did, when making a cake. What a strange concept that is: being able to buy exactly the number of eggs you need for a cake. No need to have two left over and sitting in the fridge. Such efficiency!

If that wasn’t peculiar enough, you can also buy eggs in boxes of ten. How very metric. Less awkward than a box of 12, easier to pack than that square box of 9. Trouble is, when I buy a ten-pack the egg rack in the door of my Swiss fridge is too small. It has, of course, nine holes! So I’m always left with one floating around precariously until it gets used. Perhaps that is the real reaso
The big question is not why any country needs such a bewildering array of choice when it comes to buying eggs. Nor is it why some eggs are brown and others white – I have never worked that one out. No, the real question is if there’s no difference between brown and white eggs, why don’t you ever get them mixed together in one box? Every box is always full of only white or only brown. Egg apartheid, something that even happens when eggs are bought individually. In Bern market last week, while I was waiting to buy some pumpkin, the woman in front of me wanted four eggs (clearly she was baking a cake), and was asked ‘Brown or white?’ as if it mattered. It’s almost as odd as selling them in fours and nines.

n why the Swiss buy those nine-packs. To make the shopper’s choice complete, there are also the traditional half-dozens and in bigger supermarkets, pick-your-own stands where you can buy local eggs individually. Not forgetting the other factors involved as well: free range or organic, Swiss or foreign, large or normal.

17 Comments on "How the Swiss sell their eggs"

  1. Jenny Tuesday November 22nd, 2011 at 08:28 PM · Reply

    What a coincidence – I’ve just returned from shopping in our local Waitrose with a square box of 9 eggs! All brown. Quite difficult to buy white eggs in the supermarkets, though blue/green ones are readily available. The reason I buy boxes of 9 rather than 12 is because the long box holding 12 eggs doesn’t fit so easily on the fridge shelf. I’ve only ever seen boxes of 9 in Waitrose.

  2. jpr Tuesday November 22nd, 2011 at 11:46 PM · Reply

    I have to disagree on the ‘apartheid’ – shopping boxes from Migros gets you a happy multicultural egg society in a box. Also I found the four eggs boxes relly handy when yuo are left with two leftover eggs from a traditional half dozen and then need to refill to six.

  3. David Wednesday November 23rd, 2011 at 06:45 AM · Reply

    I just feel like ranting about the packaging industry in general – plastic that refuses to be removed or alternatively insists on destroying the whole bag when you try to tear according to instructions. Anyone ever succeeded in opening a tetrapak of milk without spilling a few drops? Damn their eyes!

  4. Janie Wednesday November 23rd, 2011 at 09:07 AM · Reply

    Well, the difference between brown eggs and white eggs is that there are different types of chickens. Some of the ones that lay brown eggs are the Rhode Island Red, the New Hampshire and the Plymouth Rock. These are larger birds and eat more food. Don’t think that has anything to do with brownness though. I am assuming that Switzerland has the same types of chickens as America but not sure about that.

  5. Peter Thursday November 24th, 2011 at 01:06 AM · Reply

    Indeed something is weird. In Basel, even more strange are the so-called pic-nic eggs, which are already boiled and have been colorfully painted on the shells! Perhaps they were sold Swiss-wide in the Summer?..

    Regarding egg apartheid, I can tell you that it IS a racial matter. Some races produce brown eggs, some produce white – and typically one farmer only has one race – thus the apartheid you observe:)
    Often the organic farms have brown hens, leading to the wide-spread misperception that the brown egg is an exclusive feature of the organic hen

  6. swisssimon Friday November 25th, 2011 at 11:10 AM · Reply

    …and what about the painted eggs?

    They are best egghead idea I have seen since living here. Brilliant.

  7. Alistair Scott Friday November 25th, 2011 at 02:01 PM · Reply

    In my Migros you get brown and white eggs mixed together in one box, at random. No Apartheid here.

  8. Kerrin @ MyKugelhopf Friday November 25th, 2011 at 06:32 PM · Reply

    i’m with swissimon, the multicolored eggs are the most fun ! in addition to your combinations above of how many eggs and in what geometrically shaped container they are in,… you’ve got the eggs that are already hard-boiled ! what color would you like ? and again, how many ?! truly eggstraordinary ! šŸ™‚

    some more egg options for you:

  9. emschuch Saturday November 26th, 2011 at 06:14 AM · Reply

    Reblogged this on CoolBrands.

  10. emschuch Saturday November 26th, 2011 at 06:27 AM · Reply

    Reblogged this on CoolBrands and commented:
    9! Excellent šŸ˜‰

  11. Jess Tuesday December 13th, 2011 at 11:07 AM · Reply

    And you haven’t even touched on the whole dyed, boiled phenomenon here?

  12. Jenni Monday January 2nd, 2012 at 04:20 AM · Reply

    I bought this week a 6-box of eggs in Aldi an they were mixed: brown and white. No apartheid there too. šŸ™‚

  13. Claire Wednesday August 1st, 2012 at 03:21 PM · Reply

    Having just moved from Australia to Lausanne one of my first “interesting discoveries” was when I was baking a cake and cracked the egg……????? I re-read the carton to discover it was “pour piques-niqes”. Good idea when you think about it, but totally new to me! As are the coloured eggs. I’ll make sure I read the cartons carefully before I buy now. šŸ™‚

  14. Ian Sunday August 25th, 2013 at 10:28 PM · Reply

    an old subject but have to comment. Love the picnic eggs. I can only presume that the eggs are painted so that I dont walk home hoping to bake a cake and then pick out a pink, blue and green egg and hope it will crack šŸ™‚

  15. Soo Toh Tuesday October 22nd, 2013 at 03:22 PM · Reply

    Interesting reading. I used to live in a small village in Malaysia. White egg could be duck egg, sandy chicken egg or domestic chicken egg, whereas farm-raised chicken usually lay brown egg. About the three quarters to a dozen packing, i think it could be a business strategy to increase the selling price by 10% by taking away one egg out of ten but selling at the price of ten. Just my two cents though.

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