Egg flavor vs chicken feed
The Chowhound Team split this discussion of chicken farming from the Pacific Northwest board. For where to find flavourful eggs in the Pac NW regions, please see here:
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Okay... I'm a city boy. I've never seen a live hen or a freshly laid egg.
Do chicken eggs really have a different flavor, dependent upon their food?
What goes IN the body affects what comes OUT of the body. Commercial egg farms feed CHICKEN FEED PELLETS. Chicks are raised on it. All the chicken meat tastes the same, so do their eggs. At the end of the chickens "LAY LIFE", its off to Cambles soup co. I can say from first hand experience, DEM SOME SOOORRY LOOKIN CHICKENS!!!
Absolutely...ANY animal product that you eat will vary in flavor based on diet. If you want eggs to use for their transforming properties (e.g., for baking) and you don't really want any egg taste, use commercial eggs. But if you want eggs that have real flavor, go for eggs from chickens that eat well.
We keep a small flock of chickens. The flavour of the eggs is definitely affected by their diet - which in our case depends on the season. They run free - and I mean really free, like all over our yard and our neighbours' - and during the summer the eggs are most flavourful with intensely yellow (almost orange) yolks. During the spring and summer these hens are eating lots of grass and bugs and whatever else they can find. Once I watched them chase down and eat a mouse! The chlorophyll from the green grass and weeds is what gives the yolks their colour and, I assume, incredibly rich taste. During the winter months, they go outside and wander around but there's not much for them to eat. The yolks become lighter yellow and the eggs taste slightly less eggy.
Either way, a homegrown egg is nothing like a commercial factory-farmed egg. And it's not all about freshness, either. I've eaten 2 week old homegrown eggs that taste better than anything you can buy anywhere. I'm quite sure it's the varied diet. Chickens are omnivorous and thrive on a diet of anything and everything. Commercial layers are fed pelleted food that contains everything they need to live and continue laying, but doesn't create a flavourful egg.
Thanks everyone for the information. Now, I'm very curious and will try to seek fresh free run eggs at the farmer's market.
The irony is that I went to an Ag school for my undergrad. I've seen horses, cattle, emus, mule deer in front of the dorms, a red foxes scampering around campus. The most surprising were hogs the size of mini-coopers, not the little pink piglets I imagined from movies. The college offered a poultry science degree, but I don't remember any poultry on-campus.