Document Type

Conference Paper


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Publication Details

Mac Con Iomaire, M. and A. Cully (2007) 'The History of Eggs in Irish Cuisine and Culture' in Hoskings, R. (ed) Eggs in Cookery: Proceedings of the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery 2006, Devon, Prospect Books, pp.137-149


Eggs have played an important role in the Irish culture. For centuries, eggs have done so much more than simply nourish the body; they have soaked up mythological and folk belief, and have been used to celebrate certain religious festivals. They were also an early form of income or means of barter, often contributing far more to the family income than the commonly used term ‘pin money’ suggests. Initiatives sponsored by successive governments and the rise in the co-operative movement led to improvements in the poultry and egg industry from the end of the nineteenth century to the 1960s when intensive production in ‘battery farms’ commenced. Today’s hybrid hens can lay up to 330 eggs a year on a daily feed of 120g. Enriched feed produces value added eggs rich in Omega 3 and other nutrients. This paper traces the development of egg production and consumption in Ireland. It includes mythology and folklore, the type of eggs and the breed of hens used, the government schemes which influenced the Irish egg economy, and gives examples of how eggs were consumed in the different strata of Irish society.


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