Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Trying to find a good egg

In recent years I have become somewhat obsessed with our diet and finding healthier sources for our groceries. It started with reading Michael Pollan and also Barbara Kingsolver's book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. I had been feeling guilty about my role as consumer of cheap and inhumanely produced meat and dairy products. Pair that with an overindulgence of meat at the holidays and I was ready to give vegetarianism a try. Thankfully, my husband was on board with this change because it probably wouldn't have worked any other way. It's been more than three years since we stopped eating meat. OK, we've cheated a couple of times when faced with a particularly delicious roast made by good friends at a holiday dinner but that doesn't count, right? And I should really call us Pescetarians since we do eat seafood. Good thing, because we moved to the Connecticut coast in April and the seafood here is pretty freaking good.

We do eat dairy products, too. We love cheese and go through a ridiculous quantity of milk each week. This is because we make our own kefir (almost 5yrs doing that!) and have smoothies every morning. Mike is much more consistent with the kefir smoothies than I am. Sometimes I just want a bowl of oatmeal on a Winter morning. Our toddler also drinks a lot of milk now. We buy organic milk but sometimes I think it'd be cheaper to just get our own cow!

Because we don't eat meat, eggs have become an important part of our diet. Once again, I buy the best eggs that I can at the grocery store but I always felt like I was being duped. Organic, free-range? What does it mean when it comes to eggs? Not much, apparently. A little research into the "free-range" eggs I'd been buying revealed that it was just another factory farm with some tricky marketing labels.

I searched the web for local eggs and found a woman who lived just a few minutes from me who was
raising chickens and selling eggs. We had a back and forth email exchange about how she uses no drugs or chemicals in raising her chickens. I drove over last week and picked up my first dozen of her farm eggs. She was really friendly and insisted that I meet "the girls". We walked over to a fenced pasture area with a vintage camper trailer in the middle of it. Pretty cool chicken coop, if you ask me. Maybe a dozen or so hens were milling about pecking at the ground like chickens are supposed to. They were white, black, speckled and buff colored and quite fluffy looking. One white rooster was strutting around; proud of his harem, no doubt. Occasionally, one chicken would appear at the open door of the camper-coop and jump down to the ground. That alone was worth the trip. This lady loves
her chickens. She picked them up and hugged them while we were talking.

Then there were the eggs. The egg lady explained to me that she doesn't wash them and they still had the bloom on them. I admit that I had no idea what that meant so I looked it up when I got home. Turns out its a natural protective coating on the egg that keeps it fresher longer. Store eggs have had the bloom washed off but then they are sometimes oiled to put a protective coating put back on them.
I still had some store eggs around so I did a side by side comparison. The store egg's white was runny, almost watery and spread over half of my frying pan. The farm egg's white was thicker and barely spread at all. It was also a double yolked egg. Probably an unfair comparison right there. The farm egg's yolk was almost orange to the store egg's more pale yolk. I planned to compare the flavor
of each egg but my husband came into the kitchen and was hungry so I gave him the store egg. My
double yolk farm egg was delicious!
Farm egg vs. Trader Joe egg

It's nice to know that the chickens that produced the eggs weren't debeaked (http://www.animalrightszone.com/birds/debeaking/)or hadn't eaten arsenic laden feed (http://abcnews.go.com/Health/truth-eggs/t/story?id=16871055). In fact, I'd say those chickens looked pretty happy (and sporty)in their vintage camper-coop.