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Sep 22, 2010 07:55 AM

My egg dilema

So, I complained recently that the egg-lady at the LJ farmer's market sold eggs that were far below the quality I expected. The shells seemed weaker, and the whites and yolks didn't stand up like I expected. Last week, I tried the Hillcrest market, and bought two dozen from the egg stand there. Very similar results. On closer look at both cartons, I noticed the eggs were graded AA, not A. (Grade AA eggs are inferior.)

So my question is this: WHY are farmers selling lesser quality eggs at a farmers market? Where do the Grade A eggs go? And if I can't get them at my farmer's market, where exactly do I go to buy fresh, small-producer eggs that are Grade A? I am so surprised (and frankly, bummed out) by this. Does anyone have any background or insider knowledge they can share with me?

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  1. The only really good eggs I've found are at the Little Italy farmers market. Not sure if you can put much stock in carton, as many vendors recycle cartons, when I go to the Poway market I usually bring an armload for the egg lady there, her "free range"brown eggs are pretty good.

    1. Grade AA eggs are superior to A eggs. However, it's unlikely that the description on the carton applies to the eggs they're selling. I buy Curtis Womach's eggs at the Hillcrest FM when he has them (he sells out quickly), and the cartons, if any, are random leftovers or brought in by other customers. I usually bring my own cartons to pack the eggs or he packages them in a paper bag.

      It's possible that the eggs you bought were less fresh, as the older they get, the more the shells and the albumen weaken.

      4 Replies
      1. re: Auriana

        This is good info, I have never seen Curtis with eggs, and never thought to ask (duh).

        1. re: Auriana

          Gasp! You are right. My mistake. Still, these don't look like reused cartons. The sticker from the Hillcrest batch says: Gama Farms. Free Range Eggs, Grade AA. Packed (with a number that I think says: 261; Sell by: 10/18
          Arvin, CA Then a code: CA5318AN <--tracking, I'm sure.
          And then instructions to refrigerate after purchase.

          Do you think it could be a regional thing? I know the color of the hen determines the color of the shell. But my lament is more about the strength of the shell being noticibly weaker than what I was used to on the East coast; and the whites spread out in the pan far more than what I think they should, based on my experience with other straight-from-the-farm eggs. Maybe it has something to do with the weather, bugs, plants -- the terroir of these eggs? Could it be??

          1. re: DipCone

            You can actually go straight the egg farm and purchase there. Hillikers in Lakeside sells retail from their egg ranch. It is a commercial (i.e. large scale) venue. You generally have to purchase by the flat which is 30 eggs.

            Edible San Diego did an article about backyard chickens in one of their 2009 issues. There was a sidebar to the article that listed private egg vendors, i.e. backyard/small scale chicken ranchers that also sold eggs retail. IIRC, most of these folks have regular customers and rarely have excess production. I couldn't find the article in the Edible web site archives; you might try Googling for local egg vendors to see if you get any hits.

            1. re: DipCone

              The color of the egg shell is determined by the color of the hen's earlobes. White earlobes mean white eggs, red or brown earlobes mean brown eggs. The exception is the Easter Egger or Americauna, which lays eggs that range from blue to olive green. We have a white chicken that lays brown eggs.

              The strength of the shell and the color of the yolk are determined by the hen's diet. A diet rich in bugs and greens will give you a darker yolk. A diet lacking in calcium will get you a weaker shell.

              If your whites are spreading a lot, the eggs are most likely not as fresh.

              I'm not familiar enough with the various egg vendors at the farmers markets, but I think the quality of the eggs have more to do with the hens' diet rather than weather or regional issues.

          2. The grading process includes many different tests, shell thickness etc. Here's a link, hope it helps.
            I guess the real questions is, 'Where did the farmers market eggs come from?'


            1. Don't bother with eggs from farmer's markets here, they're just regular eggs. Most of the eggs at Japanese and Korean markets in town are far superior.

              6 Replies
              1. re: dmckean

                Second this. I bought a dozen for 99 cents at a Vietnamese market (Thuan Phat) on Saturday and so far, 5 have had double yolks. All very orange rounded in the pan yolks.

                1. re: dmckean

                  That's not true for all the eggs at the farmers markets here (though it is true for some/many of them). For instance, Curtis Womach's eggs and Schaner Farm's eggs are comparable to backyard eggs, they're not regular eggs.

                  It's unfortunate that there are vendors who sell bland, semi-industrial food at farmers markets, because it makes people think that there's nothing great about properly raised food, when there is. Unfortunately just because something is sold at a farmers market (of which there are countless in town) doesn't mean that it is done right. You've got to get to know your farmers, ask them (nicely) to explain what methods they use, try their food, use your palate, and go from there.

                  Also note that in a few weeks we'll be in moulting season, when naturally-raised (non-factory) chickens will lay a lot fewer eggs, so the great egg farmers at the markets won't have enough to meet demand.

                  1. re: dmckean

                    I haven't tried any of the FM's sources, but my favorite eggs for the longest time has been those from Nijiya Market, packaged (if I recall correctly) under their own label. I forget the details of the packaging (they sell several kinds), but it says something like "golden yolk", which indeed they are. Their yolks have a nice deep and saturated orange-yellow color with a good amount of surface tension to keep it's shape until broken...

                    Nijiya Market
                    3860 Convoy St # 109, San Diego, CA

                    1. re: cgfan

                      The color of the yolk really has nothing to do with the quality or freshness of the egg. The color completely depends on what the chicken was fed so it can easily be manipulated or dyed. You could even get a purple yolk by feeding it purple flowers. I suppose this is kind of like sushi restaurants dying their fish to make it look more attractive.

                      1. re: DougOLis

                        Understood, and thank you for the caveat. If only we lived in simpler times where such manipulations could be ruled out!

                        In the end I'm taking into account the appearance, performance, taste (where almost all of my egg usage is raw), and the vendor's (Nijiya Market as both brand and vendor, whom I hold in high regard) reputation. And at the risk of oversimplifying, in my experience Japanese producers tend to be, and in particular specialty producers such as Nijiya, sticklers regarding quality. While aesthetics is also highly valued in the culture, seldom is it likely to get in the way of delivering on taste and performance...

                        1. re: DougOLis

                          Indeed, in many parts of Europe, they like their yolks to have a much more orange color than Americans are used to, so it is fairly standard practise to adjust the chicken feed accordingly.

                    2. Seabreeze Organic Farms in Carmel Valley sells fresh eggs. I've never tried them, but it might be worth checking out.