Petersburg Pilot -


Award-winning Science Fair project pits cage free eggs against store bought


Suzanne Ashe

Petersburg High School Senior Julia Buschmann garnered several awards at the Southeast Alaska Regional Science Fair, held March 9 and 10, for her research on the protein content of different types of free-range and store-bought chicken eggs.

Petersburg High School Senior Julia Buschmann cracked a few eggs before nabbing several awards at the Southeast Alaska Regional Science Fair in Juneau, held March 9 and 10.

A student in Joni Johnson's AP biology class, Buschmann, 17, was inspired to enter her project at the science fair as a first-time competitor.

“I was always interested in organic food versus modified food,” Buschmann said.

So, which came first the idea or the egg?

“When [Johnson] introduced the project to me at the beginning of the year as we were studying a chapter on molecules … I thought doing a project on protein would be cool. And I knew that chicken eggs were a good source of protein, but I never knew why,” Buschmann said.

She based her research project on the relationship between a hen’s lifestyle and the protein content of the eggs the hen produces, she said. “Definitely the idea came first, and then using the egg came second,” she added.

For the experiment, Buschmann tested a total of 22 eggs for their protein content. She used four different types of Petersburg-grown eggs, from two local sources, and two types of store-bought eggs.

Buschmann set out to prove the store-bought eggs she tested, produced from hens living in battery cages in deplorable conditions and often a poor diet, had a lower protein content than local, free-range hens that were on healthier diets.

Visually, there were tremendous differences between the home-grown and store-bought varieties. But then Buschmann tested the protein in the eggs and the result wasn't what she had suspected.

“The store-bought egg isn't first, there is one more protein present [in the home grown] egg. But it wasn't enough for me to say, 'Yes,' there is a difference,” Buschmann said.

“My research neither supported nor rejected my hypothesis by saying that the home-grown eggs had more protein,” she said. “It was kind of frustrating because I was rooting for the home-grown eggs.”

The project was nerve-wracking for Buschmann to present to the science fair judges, because she did all the work on her own, while other projects were presented by teams, she said.

"I immensely thank my Biology teacher, Mrs. Johnson, for providing me with resources, facilitating my project, and for the continual encouragement," she said.

“There are a couple of other international fairs that the Southeast Alaska Regional Science Fair selects top students to attend,” said Johnson. “I have to admit I was surprised at the number of monetary awards in Juneau, cash or scholarship. Julia was the recipient of a couple, which is a lot of fun – and deserved.”

Buschmann, who hopes to go into the field of medicine, has been invited to attend Genius-Olympiad at Oswego State University of New York, in June. Buschmann's next big project is raising the funds needed to attend the Genius-Olympiad, she said.


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