The fact that we buy eggs by the dozen has always seemed like one of those everyday facts of life that’s not particularly worth thinking too hard about. But this week, while preparing an omelet, the question suddenly gripped me: Why are eggs sold by the dozen? Life can truly be surprising sometimes. One moment you’re making breakfast, the next you’re pondering the significance of the number 12. And then the next moment you’re calling an egg farmer in upstate New York to ask her why eggs are sold by the dozen. At least, that’s what happened to me.
The farmer was Betsy Babcock, co-founder of Handsome Brook Farm. “My understanding is that back in the 1400s and 1500s in England, eggs were sold in dozens because there were 12 pence to a shilling, so you could buy 12 eggs for a shilling. So when they came over from England to the States, they brought that concept over here,” Babcock told me.
Interesting, I thought. Where had she heard that?
“That’s a piece of trivia I picked up years ago. I don’t know if it was during Trivial Pursuit or something like that. We have a lot of British friends who live near us. I asked them today to see if they’d heard that, and they’d heard the same thing,” she said.