Photo by Grotmarsel via Getty Images

Part of the company’s push to set its new breakfast sandwiches apart

Tim Nelson
January 19, 2018

With proposed USDA changes to what constitutes an organic egg, there’s already been a bit of confusion over how exactly the federal government defines eggs are defined these days. Thankfully, it sounds like Panera is ready to cut through the confusion with one simple question: “what, exactly, is an egg?”

The fast casual chain filed a petition this week that they hope will determine exactly that. In it, Panera asks the FDA to “Amend 21 CFR 160.100 to clearly define the term “egg” to reflect a food made from a cracked shell egg without addition of additives or further processing.” In the process, they hope to challenge the FDA’s assertion that “no regulation shall be promulgated fixing and establishing a reasonable definition and standard of identity for the food commonly known as eggs."

The petition isn’t the product of wide-eyed naivete, but a direct effort by Panera to differentiate itself from competitors as it prepares to retool its breakfast menu. "We looked at the ingredients and saw the eggs that over half these top brands were using have five ingredients or more. And they're still calling their product an egg," Panera director of food policy and wellness Sara Burnett, told Forbes

Panera’s new sandwiches will feature over-easy eggs with the same kind of runny texture that you might find in a bacon egg and cheese at home. The product of months of R&D, it’s a marked contrast from the “egg patty” at a place like Dunkin Donuts, whose ingredient list includes “Egg Whites, Egg Yolks, Soybean Oil, Water, Contains 2% or less of: Corn Starch, Salt, Natural Flavor, Xanthan Gum, Cellulose Gum, Citric Acid.” 

It seems that by forcing the FDA’s hand, Panera hopes to have one more way to tout the freshness of its ingredients and stand out from the breakfast sandwich crowd by becoming the only true bacon egg and cheese on the scene. Because as Panera CEO Blaine Hurst told Forbes: “we don't know of any QSR or fast-casual restaurant concept that does a runny egg sandwich, and we're not sure of many that could.”  

There’s no telling how— or even if— the FDA should respond, but it sure sounds like Panera’s recent merger with Au Bon Pain has given the company the confidence to take on all comers in the breakfast world. 

You May Like