The first eggs of spring
To tell you the truth, one egg tastes like another to me. Some have different colored shells.Some have brighter yolks.
However, there doesn't seem to be much difference in taste from the bargain dozen I buy for 99 cents to the $8 dozen from the fancy farmers market.
Yeah, I like some eggs better than others but I can't say why ... some sort of egg umami-type of thing going on that I can't eggs-actly say why that is.
That being said, the reason I buy the pricier eggs more often is because they are fresher and one of those tv news reports years ago scared me about how long some supermarkets keep eggs, sometimes switching cartons with newer sell by dates.
Also I like the idea of a happy hen. I like it when animals are treated decently.
I was shocked this week to read an article from my local farmers market email about eggs that blew apart my understanding of egg carton terms (scroll down and ignore the local stuff)
The only label that assures the chickies are running around free in the sushine is "pastured"
Hmmm ... I saw that on a recent pricy dozen of eggs I bought and read it as pasturized ... which struck me odd about organic eggs ... looked back at the carton... pastured ... not pasturized ... duh.
Here's what some of those terms mean ...
Cage-free: Some are kept indoors and never see the sun ... they are just not in cages
Free-range (free-roaming): They can go outside ... but it might not be for very long
Hormone-free: A meaningless term it seems because hormone use was banned in the 1960s.
Organic: This one I'm going to quote from the newsletter and not paraphrase ... "Hens are given only certified organic vegetarian feed without pesticides, fungicides, fertilizers or antibiotics. Hens have access to the outdoors. Organic chicken operations must be certified by designated agencies"
Pastured: Some sort of movable outdoor enclosur eis used in the pasture. Hens have access to a coop. So the chicks can eat natural stuff like different grasses and bugs which may make the eggs themseles healthier. See link for details ... less cholesterol ... more vitamins, etc.
Interesting info about the health benefits of eggs ... so enjoy those Easter eggs this week ... they are good for you ... especially the pastured eggs.
When I was in early elementary school, we had a flock of about 20 to 25 chickens, mostly for eggs but also for the pot. It was my job to feed them and gather the eggs before breakfast, usually before I left for school. Let me tell you, there is nothing warmer and cozier on a cold blustery morning than sliding your hand under a sitting hen to gather eggs. It is sooooo warm!
Anywaay, this is what I wanted to share. Chickens hatch out with a fully developed sense of "run when you see a chicken hawk!" If you cut a silhouette of a chicken hawk with wings spread, as seen from the ground, out of paper, attatch it to stretches of parallel string that you can move it across in front of a light, and soar the shadow across a bunch of baby chicks, they will run for cover! Fly the silhouette backwards and they just ignore it.
Oh, and with ducks. Sometimes we'd slip a couple of duck eggs in for the chickens to hatch for future dinners. If you are the first living creature a hatching baby duck sees when it pops its head out of the shell, you're "Momma!" It will follow you everywhere. Mary may have had a little lamb, but Caroline had a baby duck!
When you grow the eggs yourself -- well grow the chickens and steal their eggs -- you get to keep all of the double yolkers and tiny little eggs. Kids today -- well, nearly everyone today misses all of this wonderful stuff. An egg not more than half an hour out of the chicken is delicious!
We had one big old fat Rhode Island red who was *always* on her nest, usually trying to hatch her glass egg. But she would lay to add to it, and she had such a nice deep "what are you doing" kind of cluck when I'd reach under her. <sigh> Chickens I have loved. (If we ever ate her, I was never told what I was eating.)
I'm blessed with a flock of 10 hens of various breeds that I release from their pen each afternoon (after they've laid their eggs) to wander through the garden eating grass, snails, worms, chard leaves, kale, and whatever else strikes their fancy. Their pen is huge and hilly, which gives them lots of good exercise, but completely bare of vegetation as chickens are voracious. Besides the natural browse in my yard, I feed them mixed grains and commercial hen food as well as alfalfa. We get from 6 to 10 eggs a day and trust me, the flavor is much more rich, and the yolks are of a deeper orange than any store-bought egg at any price. Because of the hens' green grazing their eggs are high in beta carotene. I've been told that because their life is free of stress and includes a lot of exercise, their eggs are quite a bit lower in cholesterol; and there is also a wives' tale that fertile eggs are more digestible, but I don't know this for sure. What I do know is the eggs are deeply delicious!
Re. chickens preferring to be inside.. chickens are descendents of a jungle fowl and aren't that comfortable being out in the open for long periods of time. They do seem to prefer tree or bush cover except when they're grazing. I'm sure a natural aversion to air-bourn predators counts for this behavior.
Even pastured birds don't usually "run around free in the sunshine." The mobile enclosures that are used outdoors usually provide less elbow room (wing room?) than a proper (uncrowded) chicken house.
There's no doubt that pastured eggs taste better; diverse food sources lead to more complexity of taste. But if you're interested in eating eggs from happy chickens, you need to know your supplier or trust the middleman. "Organic" and "pastured" hens can be stressed from overcrowding, while mere "cage free" hens might be raised very humanely.
As an aside, my family had a small chicken operation while I was growing up (we usually ordered 150 chicks at a time). And in my experience, chickens generally prefer the indoors to the outdoors. If you've ever flushed a pheasant (which is really just a wild chicken) you know that they like to get under cover and hold there. Driving past the pheasant hunting preserves in the Delta in November shows you why: there are inevitably dozens of hawks circling the area like well-upholstered customers at the Golden Corral's all-you-can-eat steak counter. If you were large, slow-moving, defenseless, and tasty, you'd probably want to stay indoors too.
There is an elderly lady a few miles from me who sells eggs for $1.50 per dozen. A few years ago, they were $.95 per dozen. The last time I purchased a couple dozen, I asked her what she feeds the chickens. She said in the winter, whatever comes from the feed store in bags. In the spring and summer, the chickens are free range and eat whatever they find in the chicken yard as well as feed store food. Two years ago, she sold brown eggs, then last year I never saw the sign. She told me that her hens stopped laying so she started over and this is the first year with the new hens. They lay green, light blue, and brown eggs. I didn't ask about breeds since I don't know much about it anyway.
I have bought Eggland's Best, some other kind of "organic" eggs, regular store brands, and hers. Out of all of them, hers stand out the most. They have a richer flavor. The yolks are a deeper yellow color and overall just taste and cook up better than the others. She apologized for going up on her prices but had to increase because the cost of the food increased. I can't complain when I can get the best eggs ever for $.40 less than the store brands.