March 24th, 2008
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Hi breakfast minded readers! Another theWAREHOUSE article pops up just in time to miss Easter. But it was part of the inspiration. Excuse? Hey, take a look at the article title. Egg Static. Two words. It's a pun on the old pun. Layers upon layers. That's how we roll, here. Today we're going to be taking a look at eggs and conquering the question as to if it really makes a difference to the average consumer which egg you buy.
Now, we had two direct comparisons. Grocery Store Eggs and Rochester Public Market Eggs. It's a lot more differentiated than that, though, so keep reading. And the evidence is definitely empirical - by which I mean you can see it in the pictures.
We kept as many factors controlled as possible. I bought a dozen of each egg on the same day, to alleviate any time they'd be sitting at my house. Was there a price difference? Yes, the public market eggs were a few cents more expensive.
I talked with the man selling the Public Market eggs. The chickens that lay the eggs have lots of time to roam freely outside, and are not kept in cages. They also grind all of their grain for them directly on the property instead of trucking it in, so they know exactly what's being fed to them, and it's not a bunch of scraps as other places get. The store brands tend to, well, not do those things. And they pass the savings on to you!
Note that these eggs were not "certified organic" because there is a huge cost involved in getting that stamp and small farmers often can't do that, but this guy was very passionate about being able talk about how his chickens were raised.
I marked them each with a Sharpie mark to be able to tell them apart because the first test was the hard boiled egg test. To again alleviate any possible discrepency we're boiling them together. The P is for Public Market and the W that looks like a 3 is for "Wegmans" - the grocery store from which the store brand came. I thought of using a W for Wegmans and an M for Market but then....nah. Really though I should've just used a P and a G for grocery store because you readers without Wegmans are sitting there going "what?"
I hard-boiled three of each of the eggcelent little suckers in the way I was taught growing up. I know there are a billion different ways, but I haven't seen any comparison or reasoning as to which way's better. I started with luke warm water with the eggs in it, brought it to a boil, boiled for about five minutes, and then turned the heat off and covered for about twenty or thirty.
During the boiling part, two eggs cracked. I was thinking "hot dang, wouldn't it be cool if it was two grocery store eggs?" because that would be a nail in the coffin, of sorts, wouldn't it? Or if they were both Public Market ones it would be a big surprise. But it was one of each, so it kept things even.
Then, it being Easter, we dyed them. Just red and blue so as to not mess with any fancy interference from onion skins or wax crayons or other hippie crap. Heh.
Shell Conclusion! After cooling them in the refrigerator overnight, we peeled them. Obvious differences began to surface. While there was a little splintering from each brand, the Public Market eggshells tended to come off in much larger pieces - suggesting thicker, healthier eggs. Another way to look at it is that the thin and brittle store brand eggshells are a total pain in the henpicking ass to get off of the egg!
Bare Egg Conclusion! The second observation, also visible in the above photo, is the color of the eggs. The color is not altered in Photoshop in any way. The store egg is pale white. The market egg has a lot more color to it. I don't directly know what that results from, whether it's a more robust diet, healthier chickens being able to get exercise, or what. But it's interesting that there is a difference.
Color Conclusion! Slicing them open, the grocery store egg looks like a rubber replica of the public market egg. It's shimmery and not nearly as firm. The colors look fake.
Taste Conclusion! We each had half of each egg. The tastes were totally different! I honestly did not think there would be much of a difference, especially since I don't have the world's most developed sense of taste, but in a side by side comparison: there is no comparison. The grocery store brand seemed watered down, flimsy and pale. The robust taste of the public market eggs was immediately noticeable. I really thought it might be something only noticeable by, say, testing nutrient levels in a lab. But everyone involved in the taste test (er, my wife and I) clearly preferred the public market eggs.
The next morning is eggs over easy. Check these bad boys out, sucka! There's not much to look at, but you can definitely tell that the public market yolk is more orange in tone. It might be hard to see but look right at the center. Also look around the edges of the yolks; the general store one is a lot flatter and more, hmm, what's the word. Flimsy? Like it was a sandwich bag filled with water, wheras the public market one seemed much more sturdy.
Again, keeping miscellanous factors out, I used just a very bare amount of olive oil, a quick spritz of nonstick cooking spray, and no salt or pepper, no toast, or salsa etc. I know, I suffer for you guys. Please feel free to send me toast. Or raw toast. We can cook it here.
Taste Conclusion! Once again, the public market egg outperforms the store egg. The store egg is cheaper in every sense of the word. Once cooked you really can't tell much by the above picture, but oh well.
FINAL Conclusion! So is it worth it? Well here's the thing. It's not like the Public Market eggs were so darn good that they made me spit the grocery store eggs out in a blind rage. And it's not nearly enough to convince me to pay an arm and a leg for something stupid like those "omega 3 bulked" fancy-pants eggs they sell in the armored troop transport containers.
But here's where we personally net out. We don't eat eggs all the time, so we will pay the extra few cents to have a better eggsperience with the Public Market eggs. Not to mention that we were assured that they stay fresh longer. There's no reason to pay a lot more for any marketing ploy for anything ridiculous they tell you is going to cure cancer in the grocery store aisle by adding $3 to the sticker price.
On the other hand if you're feeding a big family and go through two cartons of eggs a week (yeesh!) and/or can't get out to a public market, don't sweat it. The eggs won't taste as good, but really if you're not taking the time to enjoy them then what's the point? I mean besides the fact that the chickens are better treated and the eggs are probably healthier. Jeez. Not to be a downer, but you probably should buy the public market eggs if at all possible. Why not?
Faults! Some readers brought up some great points, both here and on the eggcelent Serious Eats blog that we did not subject ourselves to a blind taste test. That's a very fair and valid point. I suppose my response to that is that while they're totally right I simply encourage each of you to try your local public markets and see if you don't like their eggs. The likelihood of freshness is much greater, and the likelihood of pure feed is too. I know the taste difference was clear as day. I wonder if my friends wouldn't mind coming over to get a little egg on their faces for a blind taste test?