Many things were difficult to get use to when I first moved to Switzerland. I knew that I would face many challenges, language the biggest among them, but I never expected grocery shopping to be the experience it has been!
Firstly, I am an American. I am use to an excess of choices — mile high shelves stocked full of more brands than is necessary and superstores where you can buy a years supply of almost everything, in one package! Although I did not expect this in Switzerland, there were some things that seemed a given: Bread, Milk, Butter and Eggs! I was not disappointed: Bread, Milk, Butter — status quo, better even, but Eggs? Hmm.
I remember more than one summer day walking to the store to pick up the “staples”, as Mom calls them, and being reminded, “Don’t forget the eggs”. She never had to say “a dozen”. After all, many things are sold by the dozen or 1/2 dozen: donuts, rolls, soda cans, beer bottles and eggs! So imagine my surprise when I got to Switzerland and could not find “a dozen eggs”!
We have eggs, of course. We have brown eggs and white eggs. We have big, medium and small eggs. We have eggs for salads. Quail Eggs. We have colored eggs and not just at Easter-time. We have Picnic eggs. We have eggs in 4 packs and 6 packs and 10 packs. You can even pack your own eggs, but only into 6 packs. What we don’t have is a “dozen eggs”. Why I should feel disturbed by this, I don’t know. I can only assume it’s because product choices are generally so limited in Swiss supermarkets, contrary to the obscene amount of choices in the US. Yet, there are numerous egg options but not a package of a 12 in sight.
I have not yet found the official reason for why there is no 12 pack in Switzerland, but I will accept the root cause is not a desire to be unique, but the inverse: Several countries, the US and UK among them, continue to use the Imperial System of Measurement where a dozen is a form of calculation, per Daily Mail:
“ Eggs have traditionally been sold by the dozen or half-dozen, because the old imperial measurements such as inches or pennies were calculated in groups of 12. Early in the 20th Century, eggs were sold from trays on shop counters and carried home in paper bags. But between the two world wars, it was discovered that eggs kept longer if they were left standing on their ends, so the cartons of 12 and six were developed.”
Whether or not the different measurement systems are behind the egg packing methodologies in Switzerland and the US, it is a suitable enough explanation for me. I can now stop wondering about the missing dozen. Truth be told: I have come to enjoy and appreciate the quirky selection of eggs and rarely find the absence of a 12 pack a problem.
Bon Appétit !
Eggs in Switzerland are delicious and noticeably different in look, taste and smell than eggs I've eaten in the US. Unfortunately, the Swiss egg industry is struggling in spite of, or perhaps because of, being the first to do away with factory farming techniques:
- Switzerland was the first country to ban Battery Cages for laying hens in January 1992
- Switzerland egg prices are roughly 3x more expensive than US eggs
- Switzerland egg industry stuggles against cheaper imports from the rest of Europe
- Switzerland often has a surplus of eggs after Easter and farmers find it increasingly more difficult to sell their eggs for production especially because of the cut in government subsidies.
It's hard to make heads or tales out of the pro/cons of the different farming techniques around the world which contribute to the varying cost of eggs so I am not even going to try. However, I do want to say: I like my Swiss Eggs even if they cost me more to enjoy ! The following quote sums up my feelings best:
" I spend more for my eggs because in the matrix of my life, they hit high marks in all the areas that matter most to me: taste, living lightly, stewardship, connection, beauty "
Think Local! Buy Swiss!