Get ready for a passionate post. I LOVE EGGS!!! One of my favorite farm subjects! I have been collecting pictures for you for months now to show off farm eggs. But first, let’s get a little political here.
I am going to first state that I am not an animal rights activist. I AM, however, all for animal welfare. There is a big difference, but I’ll let you do the research on that. If you buy your eggs from a grocery store, I want you to know something very, very important. Please first read this little article: Factory Farming: Eggs, and then come back. (Note that animalsanctuary.org is an animal rights group, therefore, they do not support the slaughter of any animal, and are vegan. While this is not my own position, we do agree that the current condition of so-called ‘factory farms’ are appalling)
Finished? Now I want you to see the visuals: Egg Farming Photos
How do those cheap grocery store eggs look now? This is the reality of buying from a supermarket. Don’t be fooled by the phrase ‘cage free’ eggs either. This just means that they aren’t in the battery cages, but crammed in a building. You do not have to allow access to the outdoors to be labeled ‘cage free’. The terms ‘farm fresh’ and ‘natural’ don’t mean anything at all. The chickens in those photos can be labeled as such. Most people have a vision in their minds of happy, plump chickens running around the farm (with a red barn, of course), eating bugs and grass and soaking up the sunshine. The reality is that there are tens of thousands of birds literally crammed into 16″ or so cages (several to a cage) so tightly that they never have the chance to even spread their wings.
And THIS is called progress?
I am passionate that I educate you about this. As more people moved from the country to the city beginning in the 1950s, they stopped raising their own food. So, companies came up with an answer: industrial farming. “Farming” (I use that term VERY loosely here) animals and crops to meet the demands of the consumers. But somewhere along the way, we got lost, ethically speaking. I always think of these lyrics by Pink Floyd when I think about this :
“And did they get you to trade your heroes for ghosts? Hot ashes for trees?
Hot air for a cool breeze? Cold comfort for change?
And did you exchange a walk on part in the war for a lead role in a cage?”
I’m pretty sure Pink Floyd wasn’t singing about egg farming, but I hope you get the parallel here. What are we willing to trade off for convenience?
Now, I will step down from the soap box, but I want to open your eyes to the truth. Factory farming doesn’t stop at eggs either. I hope you will research more about where our food REALLY comes from. I hope this will inspire you to source out local food, or better yet, produce your own! I’ll help you out.
ON TO THE EGGS!!!
Some of the first eggs I collected on the farm. A mix of Cochin, Plymouth Rock, and Ameraucana eggs. Ameraucanas lay tinted eggs in shades of blue or green.
Fun Egg Facts:
A hen does NOT need a rooster to lay an egg.
It takes a chicken approximately 24-26 hours to produce an egg, start to finish.
Yolk color depends on what the chicken is eating. Chickens who are allowed free range and who are allowed to eat insects and plants will produce an egg with a much darker yolk (and better tasting, too!)
Fresh eggs can be stored in the refrigerator at least 3 weeks before you will notice a decline in quality. The air cell in the egg will enlarge and eventually the egg will dry up on the inside.
When you hardboil an egg, don’t use a fresh (meaning real farm fresh, not supermarket fresh) egg. Fresh eggs are extremely hard to peel!
An eggshell contains thousands of pores, mostly on the larger end. This is to allow the exchange of carbon dioxide and moisture to occur for a baby chick. (So the shell ‘breathes’….weird, huh?”)
There are approximately 280 million laying hens in the US, and we produce about 75 billion eggs a year. The majority of these eggs are produced in ‘factory farms’.
A chicken egg takes 21 days to hatch.
Fertile vs. Unfertile
How do you tell if an egg is fertile? Well, do you have a ‘dot’ or a ‘donut’? Huh? In the above picture, look closely at the yolk. In the center, you will see a very light ‘bullseye’ or ‘donut’. This indicates that this egg is fertile. An unfertile egg will only have a small white dot, not a ‘donut’. A fertile egg tastes no different that an unfertile egg. Development of the baby chick ONLY happens when the egg is kept very warm (about 99 degrees or so) and under the right conditions. This is what a fresh, fertile egg looks like! You aren’t going to open up an egg and find a chicken (unless you pulled an egg from a setting hen!). It takes several days of incubation for blood vessels/tissues to develop.
Ew!!! What’s that spot in my egg!!! I thought these were fresh….
Let me address something here. Fresh farm eggs vs. Industrial Farmed eggs. When you get eggs fresh from the farm, there is a slight chance you will come across an egg with a ‘blood spot’, which is typically a small speck of blood/tissue inside the egg. This typically happens in hens who have just begun to lay or older hens. They are caused by the rupture of a blood vessel on the yolk surface during the formation of the egg or sometimes by a similar occurence in the wall of the oviduct. They are NOT the beginnings of a chicken (again, UNLESS the egg has been incubated for several days! But, if you collect eggs daily you will not have that problem.)
But why don’t I see these in grocery store eggs?
Simple. Because industrial egg farmers use electronic ‘eyes’ to ‘see’ the spots in the eggs before they make it to a carton. Small producers don’t have that kind of luxury, so you will sometimes find these spots. There is no need to throw away the whole egg. It is very easy to remove a spot with a bit of shell. It does not affect the egg in any way. In fact, many years ago it was commonly recommended to first break an egg into a separate bowl before adding it to a recipe for this very reason. So, in conclusion: Blood spots are a little gross looking, but do not affect the egg.
Difference between real farm fresh and industrially produced eggs
In the picture, I have set grocery store eggs on top, and my eggs on the bottom. In the grocery store eggs you will clearly notice a paler yolk and fairly uniform appearance. You will also see that my farm eggs are definitely different and there’s even a ‘double yolker’ in the group. (yes, chickens can produce twins!)
Factory farm eggs are produced almost exclusively by one breed: The White Leghorn chicken. It is a small chicken that makes a big white egg. They are very productive and very efficient as far as feed to production ratio. My eggs come from several different breeds, which are becoming more endangered with time, due to the fact that factory farms only use one breed for white eggs and most people only eat factory farm eggs. Another picture:
My egg on top, factory egg on bottom. Yolk color is determined by yellow-orange plant pigments known as xanthophylls. My hens are allowed to eat fresh weeds, thus the darker color.
Is there a difference in taste in fresh farm eggs and factory eggs?
I can personally vouch for this. YES, YES, a million times YES. Now that I am spoiled to eating extremely fresh eggs, I can honestly tell the difference in the two. Fresh farm eggs where chickens are allowed natural foods have a richness to them, almost like they are creamy when compared to factory eggs. Quite honestly, factory eggs taste ‘eggy’ (if that makes sense) and almost have a plastic quality to them.
Difference in egg sizes: From L to R: African Goose egg, Turkey egg (double yolker, twice the normal size), Cayuga duck egg, White Leghorn egg, Bantam egg
What do other eggs taste like?
My favorite eggs actually aren’t even chicken eggs! Actually, my favorite would have to go to the duck egg. Before you cringe, let’s discuss. An egg is an egg is an egg. Chicken eggs are no cleaner than duck eggs and the other way ’round. In fact, it surprises me that we mostly eat chicken eggs since ducks are extremely economical as far as feeding goes (they eats lots of juicy bugs and weeds, and little grain), and the eggs are so much richer. You will hear people say that duck eggs are great for baking, but the truth is that they are great for anything you do with chicken eggs. And talk about rich! Duck eggs have a thinner white, but a much richer yolk. One night Jason scrambled some eggs and I really thought he had added cheese to them, but no, they were just duck eggs. That is how rich they taste. The flavor is absolutely the same, no difference. It is always possible for eggs to get ‘off’ flavors depending on what they eat, so ducks who eat out of a pond may produce stronger flavored eggs, but my ducks stay here at the house and eat what the chickens eat. Goose and turkey eggs are also delicious. I think that they are also richer than chicken eggs, in my own opinion. An egg is an egg is an egg. Repeat this 5 times.
Julia Child’s recipe for baked eggs. Set ramekins in a pan of boiling water. Add a small amount of oil to the ramekin. Crack a fresh egg into the ramekin, and season with your choice of spices (I use salt and fresh cracked black pepper and fresh chopped herbs). Add a small amount of cheese to the top, such as provolone, Havarti, or Swiss. When egg white begins to turn white, place pan, ramekins and all, in a 350 degree oven for about 7 minutes. Do not overcook! (I still manage to over/under cook them, but they’re great anyway).