Monday, March 4, 2013

You Can't Fake Fresh



My husband came home from doing errands Saturday morning with a dozen eggs from the feed store. Eggs? Really? AND you paid $3 for them?  Did you not notice the four dozen of our own eggs we have in the refrigerator ? Immediately evil thoughts began racing through my head:  Traitor! Are our girls' eggs not good enough for you? You cheated on our chickens!!!

But then he explained that he thought it might be interesting to take a look at the local 'competition' and see how our eggs stacked up.  Oh.  Okay, well that makes sense.  

So what do you think?  How did our backyard eggs stack up to local free range chicken eggs?


The eggs were labeled 'free range brown eggs'. They were not graded or sized, which is acceptable per Virginia regulations.


At first glance, these eggs looked NICE. All were good-sized and uniform in color and shape - unlike ours that come in all different shapes and sizes and every color under the sun. I would be hard pressed to find two of ours that look similar, much less twelve! So far, it was looking like that was $3 well-spent.

Of course I decided to cook some up for breakfast.  The yolks were a nice sunny orange color, so that was a good sign.  But egg yolk color can easily be 'faked' by loading up your chickens with foods containing carotenoids, such as marigolds, corn, paprika etc. [Read more HERE about that.] So yolk color isn't necessarily an indication of egg quality.


All but two of the yolks broke when I cracked the eggs into the pan.  That never happens with our eggs. The whites were also extremely runny which surprised me because that usually indicates an egg isn't very fresh.  But the eggs tasted fine. They definitely had some nice flavor, they weren't completely bland like supermarket eggs.  But...maybe it was my imagination, but I think OURS had a slightly better taste.

A few eggs were fertile (showing the bull's eye), and there was a blood spot in one, indicating possibly rough handling. So the eggs weren't being candled before being sold, which is pretty standard for local small farm eggs. That's more of a commercial egg farm 'thing'. Some of our eggs are also fertile and I see an occasional blood spot in ours as well.  So we were tied on that aspect.

But now it was time for the ultimate test.  A Float Test to test freshness.  And confirming my suspicions, every egg I tested was already starting to rise up on one end!



These eggs were not fresh. I tested the rest and they all turned out with similar results, one end already starting to rise up off the bottom of the glass, indicating that these eggs were at least 2-3 weeks old, I would say, depending on when they had been washed, if they had they been refrigerated, etc. [Read HERE to learn how to do your own Float Test.]

So..the eggs were not fresh. Not even close. 


My conclusion -

1) The eggs may or may not have actually been free range, there is no way for me to prove or disprove that, and no way to know how the chickens are treated or what kind of conditions they live in short of visiting the farm. All free range really means is that the chickens are not in cages 24/7 and allowed to roam freely at least some of the time - but that could be on a cement slab, and at some farms, literally that's what 'free range' amounts to. A vision of chickens lazily roaming around a bucolic green pasture scratching for bugs under apple trees is what comes to mind, but usually that is not the reality, sadly.

2) The yolk color may have been the result of free range foraging or may have been artificially boosted.

3) The eggs did taste as though the chickens ate a varied, healthy diet however.

4) The eggs were several weeks old, so have already lost some of their nutritional value.

My concensus:  I'll stick with our eggs, thank you very much.  Not only do I know what our chickens are eating and how they are treated and housed, our eggs often are only hours old when I cook them. Despite eggs being labeled 'local' or  'free range' or 'pasture fed' or 'organic' .... You can't fake fresh.



28 comments:

  1. I love it! Good things to think about, Lisa, and as always you are most fair. Being biased towards your own girls is expected! It's certainly BEST if you know where your food is coming from.

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    1. So true and so important to remember that neither organic, free range, omega-3 or pasture raised equals fresh necessarily.

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    2. Blood clots happen in unfertilized eggs also. Tissue gets brought along the tube and then into the egg. It happens and it does not interfere with the taste of the egg, just an aesthetic thing... One of the reasons why our Farmer's markets DON't want us selling fresh eggs! (tsk, tsk)Different breeds also contribute to some darker yolks as I have witnessed within my own flock of free rangers. So life is like a carton of Farm fresh eggs around here,, you kinda know what you're gonna get!

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  2. Are you saying Virginia requires that "free range" eggs not be graded and sized? What's the thinking behind that?

    I'm moving to a town that's just passed an ordinance that allows hens in the city, but owners aren't allowed to sell the eggs. (The town anticipates only 20 or so homeowners will be interested in raising chickens, and are only allowing 4 hens per household.)

    Sounds like the egg industry is being protected from the little bitty homeowner.

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    1. Oh sorry no, it has nothing to do with the free range part. Here are the VA regulations. Here's what I found out, it's kind of confusing honestly:

      You do not need to register with any state or federal agency, pasteurize your eggs or use any special wash on the eggs you sell as long as:

      - you sell only your own eggs from your chickens
      - you don't grade (AA, A or B etc) or sell your eggs by size
      -the eggs are fresh and UNwashed
      - you don't label your eggs as 'organic' (you can't use the term 'organic' unless you have been certified under the National Organic Program' standards which is a rigorous process)

      You will also need to check with your own state department of agriculture to be sure you are complying with the local health and sanitation requirements. They vary state to state.

      For example, Virginia's 'Egg Law' applies only to those selling more than 150 dozen eggs a week, all others are exempt from any further regulation. However, if you sell eggs at a farmer's market (regardless of how many or few sold), then all eggs must be clean, held at 45 degrees or lower and cartons must include a label with the seller's name and address as well as the word "Ungraded" and the following:

      Safe Handling Instructions: To prevent illness from bacteria: keep eggs refrigerated, cook eggs until yolks are firm, and cook foods containing eggs thoroughly.
      ~Interestingly enough the term “fresh eggs” may NOT be used on ungraded cartons of eggs (and may only be used if graded eggs meet the requirements of Grade A quality or better)~

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    2. And wow...to not be able to sell your eggs? What do they care? I guess that's where the barter system comes in handy!

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  3. I check all the julian dates on eggs if I buy from the store. If I can't read the date, I definitely don't buy.
    I also try to buy eggs from local farmers when I can; and some of those, sadly, are quite old, too.

    Thanks for your post!

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    1. I was very disappointed. You expect local eggs to be fresh.

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  4. Where were these eggs from? I live in the same area and am looking for an egg supplier.

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    1. Hi. I don't want to disclose since it could be a one-time thing. This was more of a warning that just because you buy local doesn't always mean they are fresh. I would try Full Quiver Farm in Suffolk if I were you - these eggs are not from that farm.

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  5. Hi Lisa, Good info! My eggs can get to be a month or so old but with not washing them and keeping them in the frig you'd never know it. When my girls are laying I can't keep up with eating them and right other times I'm getting them from friends who have a lot of chickens. Right now I have 4 doz in the frig...I'm not complaining mind you. But my adult kids won't take any cuz they are "afraid of getting sick" can you even believe it?! The boys were raised on RAW milk and their wives are afraid of backyard chickens!?!? What's up with that?! City slickers...what ya' gonna' do!? LOL That's ok, I see egg salad on the horizon! :-)

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    1. I hear you Audrey! I just steamed a dozen and a half and plan on making some egg salad and also eating them for quick snack hard boiled.

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  6. I know I have become very used to having eggs from our ladies, and having them fresh daily!

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  7. I would still consider 2-3 weeks still good. Maybe not as fresh as your day old eggs - but definitely not bad.

    My eggs never lasted more than a week. IE: They were all gone by the time a week rolled around.

    I have 4 week old eggs in my fridge from my own birds who all died in a barn fire on February 11th... The yolks are still very firm as are the whites. I wonder why some are not like this?

    I have never cracked an egg and had a broken yolk. When I cut the yolk it slowly leaks out. Hmm..

    Also free range eggs this time of year wouldn't have much value. At least not here. Not a blade of grass or bug in sight. :)

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  8. Thanks Lisa for your test and time, you always make for a good read!

    Sorry to hear of your barn fire Aoxas Chickenz!

    Keep up the good work Lisa! We enjoy you and FED!

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  9. If our ladies have a lull in egg laying, I don't eat eggs. I just can't bring myself to buy 'shop eggs' anymore.

    Thanks for posting this xxx

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  10. Homegrown eggs from our truly range free hens is always better than any we've bought. They taste, look and "feel" better when eaten. Your info in this post is interesting, Lisa.

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  11. Great article, and very informative! We too, can't keep up with our girls and their laying. They just started back up to full production since we've had a little longer light. I have been refrigerating mine because I wasn't sure how long they could stay out without going bad. Does anyone know? Thanks!

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    1. Here too! I just steamed a dozen and a half to make egg salad with! Eggs, unwashed in the fridge, will last at least 6 weeks no problem.

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    2. Ok, good to know! Thanks so much!

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  12. Interesting article! At the store just last night and saw a box of eggs with wording FERTILIZED EGGS. Now really, do people think that actually means something???? I love how the industry just throws words out there and the people are just so stupid about it. I posted a pic of a bloody egg we got afew weeks ago from one of our girls and one of my friends actually said it's because it was fertilized. I'm like...it has nothing to do with that and no, a chick was not developing as they are collected every day and refrigerated. People are not very educated on their eggs, that is for sure!

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  13. Love it! A couple of years ago, our pullets weren't yet producing a lot of eggs, so we purchased some "farm fresh eggs' from our local farmer's market. I brought them home and, just out of curiosity, did the float test. I kid you not, every single egg floated to the top of the glass! All 12. To say I was angry might be an understatement. Needless to say, we haven't purchased eggs since. If we don't have our own eggs, we don't eat eggs. Now, I'm sure this is not the norm for Farmer's Market eggs, but it was quite dis-heartening.

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  14. What a neat comparison! You know... I still buy eggs from the store. LOL! I'm working on remedying that, but my Heritage Rhode Island Reds and Production Reds are only 3 weeks old right now. Yeah - I got chickens for the eggs and have a lovely flock that has been laying very nicely... but I've been selling and shipping the fertile hatching eggs from my Swedish Flower Hens as fast as the girls lay them. (Irony at its best!) We do eat the eggs from our 2 Silkies and some of our Dark Cornish - the kids fight over them because there *is* such a difference, but one Silkie is currently raising the 3 beautiful Swedish Flower babies she hatched last week, and the other just went broody last night. Ah - the joys of raising chickens. On the bright side, the SFH flock is close to paying off their new (up-cycled) coop.

    Have a great week, Lisa!!
    Leigh
    Natural Chicken Keeping

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  15. I miss our chickens. Now that we live in an apt. we don't buy eggs. I can't stand the blandness of store bought eggs. Thanks for sharing on Wildcrafting Wednesdays!

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  16. Hello. I remember reading this post back when you originally wrote it. I came back to it today because I was curious why my "fresh" eggs have very weak yolks. I broke open several eggs tonight for supper and was really shocked to find many with broken or watery yolks. My eggs were no older than one week old, had not been washed, and were kept on the counter. Do you have any other reason why they would do this? I did the float test as I usually do and they all passed.

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    1. Hmm, I will have to research that a bit more. I've never read what makes for thin yolks other than age...but since yours were fresh, I'm just not sure.

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Lisa of Fresh Eggs Daily
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