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Fat Guy

The miracle of American supermarket eggs

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What astounds me is their value for money. Not long ago I was routinely buying a dozen large eggs for under $1. That gives me very nearly a week of breakfasts for ONE DOLLAR.

Their nutritional value, along with the number of completely different ways they can be economically used are simply mind boggling for the money.

And the super/mega marts move A LOT of eggs. The only time I've seena an obvious freshness problem was when I bought eggs from a drugstore.

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Pharmacies, mini marts and bad supermarkets both urban and rural. Those places are at the ends of long distribution chains, whereas the large supermarkets, Costco, et al., tend to move a ton of product and the economics don't work out for anything except fresh and fast.


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 the whole taste-testing thing would be difficult to pull off.

Wouldn't you want to have all eggs at exactly the same freshness, since that seems to be a major determining factor in how eggs cook up and taste?


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Right. It would require more resources than I had. All I can truly conclude from what I did is that it's worth doing a more in-depth test.


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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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.

This was Calvin Trillin in Alice, Let's Eat.


"There is nothing like a good tomato sandwich now and then."

-Harriet M. Welsch

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I have to say that our experience with eggs is far different than most folks' here. Years ago when we lived in Miami we only ate eggs from a neighbor's coop- and they were what I thought at the time were just eggs. We then moved to NJ and began buying eggs at the supermarket- cage free, MUCH more expensive- and still, eggs were eggs.

Last year we moved to a small town in South NJ. We have a number of neighbors who raise chickens and sell eggs- my daughter and I bought some eggs from a neighbor one day for the adventure of it. I cooked a couple the next day- sunny side up and served atop hunks of toasted day old challah- the difference between what we had been eating recently and these eggs was startling! My daughter kept saying "These are so "EGGY", are you sure they're not flavored?". Well, we've since bought eggs from a couple of different coops- and there IS a difference in flavor. Although they all have the highly colored yolks of a "homegrown" egg, the flavors DO vary- in fact, my daughter has forbade me to buy eggs from one place- she just doesn't think that they taste as "eggy". And, you know what? She's right- I can't properly explain it, the eggs just taste more intensely of egg, almost chicken flavored. I'm not sure how to describe it, but if you've ever eaten a really "eggy" egg, you will notice immediately. I wouldn't be surprised if these eggs had extra MSG in them, the flavor is so much more intense.

Last month I was ill and in hospital so on my way home late one night I bought the expensive, cage free and organic eggs at the supermarket. Kiddle came home the next evening and I made us each a lovely fried egg, served over a grilled potato. She knew immediately that it wasn't from our usual suppliers- she asked me "Who did these come from? This egg doesn't taste "eggy" Mom!". She thought that the egg was from "the bad coop" and wasn't surprised when I told her that it was a supermarket egg. She said that as we are lucky enough to be near "the good stuff", we should only buy those coop eggs while we live here. Now, we're not gourmets, or even connoisseurs in any way- but I have to say, eggs DO taste different from different sources. I'm not a even a fancy eater, and I've noticed the differences, and if my Kiddle has, well, there has to be some truth to the taste buds in this house, humble as we are.


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I concur with Rebecca just above.

With the right producer, eggs can be astonishingly different.

When I was in North Carolina last year, there was a specific purveyor whose eggs I took the trouble to reserve each week, because his eggs tasted miles better than his erstwhile partner's eggs. I think he was feeding them slightly differently. The yolks were darker, the whites were less spready, and tasted blind, just fried in the same pan...both my then-husband and I could definitely pick out whose was whose.

It's not just the "home grown" vs. battery chicken difference. It's in the feed.

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We've been here before - click me ! - and I'm still on the same side with Rebecca & Kat. There are delicious eggs. I'm open to the idea that there might be a human-genetics 'taster' v 'non-taster' element at work, though for me it's academic. I keep going out of my way to go to the same store for the same eggs. The tasty ones.


QUIET!  People are trying to pontificate.

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When you have a situation where the anecdotal accounts conflict, the way to sort it all out is through blind testing. At least thus far I have not seen a rigorously conducted blind taste test supporting the notion that there is much difference in the taste of eggs. Although, I think we could come up with more rigorous methodologies.

Here are some of the recent publications on the subject. This one from the Washington Post is somewhat convincing:

"Backyard eggs vs. store-bought: They taste the same"

This one from Serious Eats is the best-done piece I've seen on the subject:

"The Food Lab: Do 'Better' Eggs Really Taste Better?"


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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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.

remarkable.

i've brought (or contemplated bringing) some wild stuff home before but...

i wonder if the lack of marked flavor difference in your side-by-side could have been due to (a) lack of freshness--after all, you must have had them several days if you brought eggs home from several countries and/or (b) jet lag. i can't help thinking that it affects taste in fruit that's shipped long distances...i know i'm not at MY best after a transatlantic flight, and i wonder if eggs might fare the same fate?

still, a remarkable effort! bravo.


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In my experience the crucial difference is not between store bought and "back yard" or "farmer's market" eggs. It's whether the chickens are allowed to free range such that bugs and wild greens are a substantial part of their diet. I keep chickens in my back yard. When our yard is buried in snow or I don't have time to deal with letting them in and out, they stay in the coop and eat organic feed and kitchen scraps. Their eggs have beautiful deep orange yolks and are wonderfully fresh, but the taste is not particularly remarkable. But when the weather is nice and I can let them out all day long, day after day, that's when the eggs get delicious and notably "eggy" as Rebecca describes.

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Well, I'm an egg fool. I eat huge amounts of eggs. I love eggs, maybe they are my favorite food. I think some people are more sensitive to individual foods than others, I'm egg sensitive. For me, it's about the smell. There's a smell to eggs . . .

I have bought eggs in the grocery store and I think if the hen is free and the egg is fresh, they are pretty good.

However, I buy all my eggs at the farmer's market and I have them ranked in my head as to which I think are best. When I get to the farmer's market, I run to my supplier because there is a limited amount of eggs available and I get two dozen at a time. If none are available, I go to supplier number two on down. All of my favored suppliers are very small and I think that's key.

These eggs are green and they come from Araucana chickens. I worship these chickens as goddesses.

I am an egg fool. Blindfold me!


I like to bake nice things. And then I eat them. Then I can bake some more.

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One problem with double-blind tasting tests is that we don't usually eat food blindfolded. Color and appearance have a huge impact on how we appreciate food.

Does that mean that if we dyed US yolks orange they'd taste better?

Somehow I doubt it. I lived in England for 5 years and even the crappiest, overcooked eggs in a pub blew away anything I can get here - including eggs bought on farms in Connecticut or Maine. Rich, full-flavored, egg-y in a way that virtually no US egg can approach. And that goes for battery-reared UK eggs.

I will say that when I stay at a friend's house in Vermont, the neighbors sometimes drop off eggs from their layers in the morning before we get up. They are all covered with hay and sometimes some other, less savory bits. They're usually different colors. And they are AMAZING.

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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 am always confused by egg storage. In much of Europe and the rest of the world, eggs are not refrigerated. I thought I read somewhere that in the US our farms wash the bloom off the egg making the shell permeable so we have to refrigerate our eggs. I'm not sure if that is true or not.

And if our egg distribution is good, you have to admire those countries that imprint a number on every single egg in the name of food safety. Bravo.

With that said, I did have a miracle with my eggs recently. A couple of weeks ago, I bought a dozen eggs and every single egg had a double yolk. Either that is a miracle or I don't want to know what drugs that bird was on.

k.


I like to say things and eat stuff.

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Commercial eggs do have to be washed, so they must be refrigerated. I have chickens, and I don't have room in the fridge for any eggs except the 3 or 4 cartons with eggs that I have washed and am saving for boiling when they get old enough.


sparrowgrass

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I was at Costco in Charlotte, NC, today and it occurred to me to check the packing date on the eggs. The carton on top of the pile was packed on Julian day 50, which I believe is February 19 (today is February 24).

IMG_20110224_145937 (1).jpg

The carton didn't specify exact origin, just that it was produced by Cal-Maine, which has a large network of producers and distribution around the Southeast, as well as elsewhere.


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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This is by no means a scientific opinion, nor is it well tested or challenged more than the one time I experienced it. But, it's my opinion, and I'm stickin' to it.... :wink:

About 6 months ago, I joined a CSA. Last month they started offering eggs. Last pickup (on 2/10), I got a half a dozen (they have limited hens, its been cold here and the girls don't lay well in cooler weather, and lots of members want the eggs, so its currently limited to 1/2 dozen at a time).

A couple of days after I got the first CSA eggs, I didn't feel like making a big dinner, so I decided I'd have a fried egg sammich instead. I had decent bread, some decent Cheddar, decent butter, you get the drift. I also used a bit of ketchup, S&P and some very thinly sliced sweet onion. The typical players in my fried egg sandwiches.

I took my first bite of the CSA egg sandwich and thought *HOLY CATS...THIS EGG HAS FLAVOR*. I could taste the egg even above and beyond the ketchup, onion and Cheddar. And the texture of the yolk was different from the commercial eggs I'm used to. It was.....creamier. And I'd been buying "cage free, organic" eggs from Trader Joe's for a while now.

Maybe I just had a good egg zen day cooking it. Maybe I was seduced psychologically by the siren song and myth of happy chickens and happy eggs and happy farms and happy happy joy joy. But I believe there was a difference in the taste of that egg, and now I can't wait to bake with the new 1/2 dozen I have in the fridge.

And to make another fried egg sammich.

Not to say commercial eggs aren't a great deal, and a great product, and a model of efficient distribution and marketing. But, I think small producer eggs may be better.


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Eggs can be packed up to 30 days after being laid--the Julian date is for processing--washing and packing. Eggs are kept in cold storage sometimes. There is probably about the same amount of production all year round, since modern facilities have temp and light control to keep production high all year round, but use of eggs varies--it peaks in Nov-Dec (all that baking) and at Easter.


sparrowgrass

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Eggs can be packed up to 30 days after being laid

The USDA says "Typically, eggs are packed within 1 to 7 days of being laid."

Although, the one time I visited an egg processor (this was in Canada), the conveyer went straight from the egg-collection are to washing, candling, packing and refrigeration -- and trucks were coming for the eggs all the time.


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 lived in England for 5 years and even the crappiest, overcooked eggs in a pub blew away anything I can get here - including eggs bought on farms in Connecticut or Maine. Rich, full-flavored, egg-y in a way that virtually no US egg can approach. And that goes for battery-reared UK eggs.

I also felt this way in the UK, which is why I brought some eggs back to the US. Tasting them back home didn't support my perception. My wife and I were amazed at the lack of corroboration. This led me to think maybe there's another factor at play, such as the butter used for frying eggs.

Right now, I'm in North Carolina having a similar perceptual issue. I think the eggs here taste so much better than in New York. I have to bring some back with me to see if I can confirm that.


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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Maybe the way to approach this, FG, is to bring a supply of NY eggs with you wherever you go, and taste them in situ!

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Your logic is unassailable. I should always travel with eggs.

please do this.

i have long held you in high esteem, fat guy. knowing that you traveled across the atlantic with raw eggs has lifted it to exalted heights. thinking that you might adopt an "eggs always" travel policy delights me beyond all reason. do it.


"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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