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Fat Guy

The miracle of American supermarket eggs

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I know it's wrong to love them, but I think the eggs sold in American supermarkets are nothing short of a minor miracle. They tend to be produced locally, they get to the supermarket within a couple of days of being laid, they're uniform and predictable, and they taste very good. The conditions under which they keep the hens are terrible, but that doesn't seem to have a negative impact on quality. On the whole, I get better results from supermarket eggs than from farmers-market eggs when it comes to poaching, baking and other applications where consistency is a virtue.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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In my experience US eggs are pretty tasteless compared to the eggs I have had in Europe.

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In my experience US eggs are pretty tasteless compared to the eggs I have had in Europe.

I was just going to say the same. Every year when we spend a week of three in Italy eggs are right at the top of the grocery list. They taste so much better than anything I've been able to get here in SoCal and I wonder why?

It is not as if I had any expectation of them being better, just bought some eggs to make breakfast a few years ago and was blown away by their color & flavor.

Now the humble Italian supermarket egg is something that I very much look forward to every year.


Jon

--formerly known as 6ppc--

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I'd put a Burford Brown against any egg from a US supermarket. Let alone good italian eggs, with vivid orange yolks and a superb depth of flavour.

Plus the whole scenario highlighted in "Eating Animals" puts a bit of a distaste in my mouth..

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There are definitely variations in color, but when I brought deep-orange/yellow eggs back from England -- organic, farm-raised, etc. -- several years back they didn't taste any different blind.

I've noticed flavor variations around the US, though. Right now I'm in North Carolina and the supermarket eggs are better-tasting, I think, than what I'm accustomed to up north. I'd have to do a blind tasting to be sure, though.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I think it was proven on a recent episode of the Splendid Table that tasters can't tell a difference between US Supermarket eggs and those "vastly superior" orange European eggs"... we have a farm with fresh eggs most of the year. They do seem richer when I'm staring at the bright orange runny yolk, but I'm not sure I would want to place a bet blindfolded.


Edited by Crouton (log)

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Somebody,Steingarten perhaps, had a friend who grew his own eggs in England. Guy raved about how great they were. Steingarten,if it was him, arranged a surprise taste test and found no difference.

Similarly, Kenji Alt studied the issue and found that egg color biased the perception of flavor. When he dyed scrambled eggs green their was no advantage to the artisinal egg.

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I know it's wrong to love them, but I think the eggs sold in American supermarkets are nothing short of a minor miracle. They tend to be produced locally, they get to the supermarket within a couple of days of being laid, they're uniform and predictable, and they taste very good. The conditions under which they keep the hens are terrible, but that doesn't seem to have a negative impact on quality. On the whole, I get better results from supermarket eggs than from farmers-market eggs when it comes to poaching, baking and other applications where consistency is a virtue.

Do they really get to market within a couple of days of being laid? My sense was that commercial eggs could be stored for weeks before making it to market, and that waiting time is in part responsible for their cooking qualities. Farm fresh eggs tend to be hard to peel when boiled. As the eggs age, water evaporates and air permeates the shell, making it easier to separate from the white. If you hard boil a fresh egg, it won't have a large air space at one end, but an older egg will have a larger flat surface on one side.

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I can't see why they'd be held for much longer than the time it takes to transport them. Refrigerated storage is expensive. But you can tell the date on which your eggs were packed by looking at the Julian date on the carton. Here's a guide to making that determination: http://www.goodegg.com/eggdating.html


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I guess it depends on what is meant by local, but the eggs I see around NYC are usually from NY, NJ or PA, which seems similar to the radius of the Greenmarket.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I read the same things last year about blind taste tests. Currently I have a large batch of fresh eggs a friend gave me on my counter, and yeah, the yolks are gorgeous and my wife and I have remarked over and over "how delicious" they are. But I'm willing to wager this is mostly in our heads and I may just save a couple to do a blind taste test on her with. Do I begrudge anyone from raising hens for eggs or seeking out these small-batch, fresh specimens at farmer's markets? No way! I think it's fantastic.

But I doubt there is much of a difference in flavor. Perception is powerful stuff.

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Out here in the land that I live in there are several large commercial egg producers. One of them I have some familiarity with. I won't comment on how the hens are kept but I will say that in the processing their facility is immaculate. They package them under their own name and also under the name of many different customers. They process them, pack them and ship them with great alacrity. What they are looking for is uniformity and consistency of their eggs, and they do it very well. They come in and out the door very quickly. The eggs in my local supermarket are about 6 days of age on average.

I can go out my door and around the corner is a guy who raises some chickens and I can get farm fresh eggs from him. They are not uniform in appearance or size. And they do have that bright orange yolk.

I also buy eggs at the supermarket. And I must say that if I fry them up I can’t really taste any difference.

When I bake I lean towards the supermarket eggs for the uniformity of size.

Of course, what do I know?


Edited by lancastermike (log)

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There are definitely variations in color, but when I brought deep-orange/yellow eggs back from England -- organic, farm-raised, etc. -- several years back they didn't taste any different blind.

I've noticed flavor variations around the US, though. Right now I'm in North Carolina and the supermarket eggs are better-tasting, I think, than what I'm accustomed to up north. I'd have to do a blind tasting to be sure, though.

wait. i think an important point is being overlooked here. you brought eggs back from england?

i want to know so much more about that!?

as my avatar indicates, i'm a fan of backyard chickens and fresh eggs. that being said, when i don't have a good supply, i buy brown eggs from trader joe's and find them to be surprisingly fresh. thick white, high yolk, etc. (brown eggs are aesthetically pleasing to me--that's why i buy them. i rarely buy white eggs, so now i wonder if those are as fresh as the brown ones i get? might have to do a side-by-side...)


"Laughter is brightest where food is best."

www.chezcherie.com

Author of The I Love Trader Joe's Cookbook ,The I Love Trader Joe's Party Cookbook and The I Love Trader Joe's Around the World Cookbook

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There are definitely variations in color, but when I brought deep-orange/yellow eggs back from England -- organic, farm-raised, etc. -- several years back they didn't taste any different blind.

I've noticed flavor variations around the US, though. Right now I'm in North Carolina and the supermarket eggs are better-tasting, I think, than what I'm accustomed to up north. I'd have to do a blind tasting to be sure, though.

wait. i think an important point is being overlooked here. you brought eggs back from england?

i want to know so much more about that!?

as my avatar indicates, i'm a fan of backyard chickens and fresh eggs. that being said, when i don't have a good supply, i buy brown eggs from trader joe's and find them to be surprisingly fresh. thick white, high yolk, etc. (brown eggs are aesthetically pleasing to me--that's why i buy them. i rarely buy white eggs, so now i wonder if those are as fresh as the brown ones i get? might have to do a side-by-side...)

If brown eggs are pleasing to your eye I salute. I don't understand why people pay more for brown eggs. The stuff on the inside is exactly the same

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In the interest of "research," I just went to my local supermarket.

The most recent Jilian date was 046, and if I do my math right, that makes them packed 8 days ago - David Goldfarb is correct in that the Julian date is the date the eggs are packed.

They carry a number of brands of eggs. And they were locally from Indiana, Ohio and Illinois.


Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

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In the interest of "research," I just went to my local supermarket.

The most recent Jilian date was 046, and if I do my math right, that makes them packed 8 days ago - David Goldfarb is correct in that the Julian date is the date the eggs are packed.

They carry a number of brands of eggs. And they were locally from Indiana, Ohio and Illinois.

The processing company I spoke about above processes, packs and ships eggs on the day they are received. And it is correct that the date on the carton is the date they were packed.


Edited by lancastermike (log)

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I love eggs and while I usually get my eggs from a local person, I also buy supermarket eggs.

Recently Walmart has begun carrying the Land O'Lakes eggs that are packaged in clear cartons with a double top that makes them less likely to be cracked.

I'm a subscriber to the email newsletter and tried the Organic eggs when I got a coupon in an email. They were very good.

Walmart also carries Eggland's various types, eggs from a "local" (Bakersfield, I was told) egg producer and others, from Free-Range Organic Brown eggs to the ubiquitous white eggs in "flats" for those who need them in quantity.

I've tried them all and while there is sometimes a bit more flavor, basically, eggs are eggs. :biggrin:

Some do have more color in the yolk and that can be a result of diet or some breeds just produce a more orange-colored yolk.

When I want jumbo eggs, I usually go to Smart & Final because they have a huge turnover, the eggs are very fresh and are really "jumbo" and often double yolked.

If properly refrigerated, eggs can keep a very long time if they are kept in a closed carton and not exposed to the drying effect of the modern "frost-free" refrigerators.

In the old days (not that old - back when I was a child) we had chickens that laid more eggs seasonally and when the egg production was highest, some were chilled, dipped quickly in melted beeswax and quickly chilled again. These were stored in wooden egg crates in the dairy spring house, which was always around 40 degrees, winter and summer. They would keep well for three or four months, with the yolks still full and round and if hard boiled, no big space at the round end.

I hate to see food wasted and when I see someone toss out a carton of eggs because of an arbitrary "sell-by" date, without even checking them, it angers me.

It's easy enough to test them, simply break one into a saucer to see if the yolk "stands up" - if the yolk breaks easily or flattens out level with the white, it is time to toss, but you have to check more than one, not all eggs are equal and some older eggs may be mixed in with newer.

Of course that's just my opinion, but it has worked well for me.


Edited by andiesenji (log)

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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IIf properly refrigerated, eggs can keep a very long time if they are kept in a closed carton and not exposed to the drying effect of the modern "frost-free" refrigerators.

In the old days (not that old - back when I was a child) we had chickens that laid more eggs seasonally and when the egg production was highest, some were chilled, dipped quickly in melted beeswax and quickly chilled again. These were stored in wooden egg crates in the dairy spring house, which was always around 40 degrees, winter and summer. They would keep well for three or four months, with the yolks still full and round and if hard boiled, no big space at the round end.

50 degrees F and 80% humidity are the perfect conditions for holding fresh eggs. andiesenji is exactly correct that humidity is a key factor along with the temperture.

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I also have an issue with how hens are treated. While I realize that "cage free" is not necessarily better in most cases, it is a good start. I have been quite happy with Costco (Kirkland's) cage free organic AA grade eggs. I get them in 2 doz flats for about $2.75 per dozen. Otherwise, I buy Trader Joe's cage free eggs.

One thing I find interesting here in the US is that cage free and typically organic eggs are only available in brown eggs, not white.

Dan


"Salt is born of the purest of parents: the sun and the sea." --Pythagoras.

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A few of the chicken breeds that have been bred for heavy laying and for tolerating cages, lay only white eggs.

There are a few breeds that lay brown eggs and are caged but they don't live as long or produce as well (the reason brown eggs are often priced higher).

The breeds that do well cage-free or free-range, are hardier and don't require as regulated temperature control and those breeds tend to lay brown eggs.

In the late '60s I got to tour Egg City, just outside Moorpark, CA., and was given a long lecture about chickens, eggs and etc.

At the time they had over a million chickens (and it smelled like it), but while they were in cages, they weren't stacked on top of each other and the cages were larger than pictures I have seen of other facilities.

They had some problems over the years and closed in the mid '90s.

I've toured the processing facilities of an Eggland place that was in Riverside until a few years ago, but didn't get to go through the buildings where the chickens were housed because of time constraints.

The plant was extremely clean and there was no unpleasant odor at all anywhere I went.


Edited by andiesenji (log)

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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and they taste very good... On the whole, I get better results from supermarket eggs than from farmers-market eggs when it comes to poaching, baking and other applications where consistency is a virtue.

That's definitely not my experience. Farmers market eggs are much better tasting especially at dishes were eggs play a key role like Spaghetti Carbonara, and also don't give any more or less problems than supermarket eggs


Edited by Honkman (log)

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wait. i think an important point is being overlooked here. you brought eggs back from england?

i want to know so much more about that!?

I brought eggs home from England AND France. We were at Harrod's (London) and they had an incredible selection of farm eggs. Each type of egg had a little photo album chained to the shelf under it, where you could look at photos of the happy chickens on Mrs. so-and-so's farm. I also purchased French eggs. I bought the minimum quantity of several kinds, discarded a bunch of eggs, and packed a mixed carton deep within my suitcase in layers of plastic, foil and socks. All eggs arrived intact in Newark. I fried them up with some NY supermarket eggs and eggs from Ronnybrook. The color differences were remarkable. The flavor differences were ambiguous. It's not that they all tasted exactly the same. It's that, tasted blind, it wasn't possible for me to say one was notably better than another. Maybe some of the fancy Euro-eggs had a little more flavor than the US supermarket eggs, but probably not. I'd have to repeat the experiment under better conditions with more samples and tasters. But everything I've read about other people's blind-tasting results confirms that there's no major flavor difference. What I'd really like to do is replace the eggs at Momofuku Ko, Arpege, et al. -- places where they have internationally acclaimed egg dishes -- with US supermarket eggs. Kind of like the old Folgers commercial.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Don't mean to go off topic, sorry.

I have had quail eggs, duck eggs, chicken eggs. I don't remember they tasted any different.

dcarch

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