Playing Games With Eggs
Spring is a time of rebirth. This is one of the reasons spring festivals involve eggs in some form or another. Easter has the egg hunt. Passover demands the presence of an egg on the seder plate. In Bosnia they have Cimburijada which I understand means, “The Festival of Scrambled Eggs,” at least that’s what I read on the Internet.
So this is an obvious moment to look at eggs themselves for a moment.
Shopping for eggs has always been an infuriating experience. There are just too many modifiers attached to eggs, which attempt to describe the farming practices used in their production. And some of them are completely meaningless.
My hunch is that most people imagine their eggs coming from birds, with fully intact beaks, that run around outside, are allowed to perch, spread their wings, and engage in other chickeny activities, all while being fed a diet free of junk food, supplements, GMO grains, rendered cows, and/or bird feathers.
If you know of any eggs like this, where you can get them within a week of being laid, and cost less than $6 a dozen, please let me know. Mostly because I’ve recently learned one of the secrets of the egg industry, which undermines my affection for the eggs I have been buying from Stewart’s.
Here’s a question for you. Outside of the marketing language on the carton, how do you tell a great egg from its factory farmed doppleganger?
This isn’t rhetorical.
I’m actually curious.
So think about it for a moment.
So I’ve got some guesses. And I’ll share them in reverse order of expected popularity. Which means shell thickness is third. Because I’ve noticed healthy backyard chickens can lay some beautiful eggs with hard, thick shells. While some of the specimens in their long slow supermarket demise, are remarkably brittle and thin.
Some might say the tightness of the white, or similarly how high the yolk rides on the egg. And this is a great indicator of egg freshness, more than anything else. But this is one of the traits I prize in the eggs from Stewart’s, and it makes for beautiful poached eggs.
But I’m fairly certain that most people go by yolk color. And I don’t blame them. Because I’ve never seen eggs with richer orange yolks than the ones from the chickens ADS raises in his backyard. These chickens eat organic everything, since they get the table scraps. Plus they enjoy all the bugs and grubs from the garden.
Did I get that right? Well, here’s the deal. And I hope you’re sitting down.
Do you remember how years ago we discovered farmed Atlantic salmon had a color wheel so that farmers can effectively dye the flesh of these fish whatever shade of pink desired? Well, the same thing exists for eggs.
Mostly because the chemical manufacturer realized that consumers will buy eggs based on yolk color, and they can provide an easy and reliable method for optimizing this output.
And in so doing, BASF destroyed a meaningful shorthand that consumers had of evaluating whether chickens were being fed a diet of diverse nutritious ingredients.
Did I say Gah? Because, GAH!
I had long wondered how Stewart’s eggs could be so rich in color, so fresh, and so inexpensive. And I allowed myself to not look into the situation all that closely. Now I feel a little bit dirty.
The thing is that real food is going to be more expensive than its industrial counterparts that mass produces ingredients, and cuts corners along the way to minimize costs and maximize profit.
Which isn’t to say you have to make a lot of money in order to eat well. Sure, it helps. But it’s not a requirement. But more on that later. In the meantime, the egg hunt continues.