It’s all about the eggs

Farm fresh eggs bought directly from a producer can be significantly more expensive than store-bought eggs and, to the unfamiliar eye, may be strange in appearance: a thicker shell that is hard to crack, very thin air cell, more upright and orangish yolk, and a tighter white with a yellow hue. These uncharacteristic qualities are actually proof of a more nutritious and healthy egg!

The average free-range egg has a quarter to a third less cholesterol, a quarter less saturated fat, two-thirds more vitamin A, three times more vitamin E, six times more vitamin D, seven times more beta-carotene, and twice the amount of omega-3 fatty acids when compared to commercially produced cage eggs from the store (ultra nutritious). The deeper orange-colored yolk indicates a higher amount of antioxidants which can help the body in several ways, including fighting off diseases; the yellowish tint of the white results from riboflavin which plays many important roles in the body. Over time, the yolk absorbs water from the egg whites, and moisture/CO2 in the white evaporates through pores causing more air to penetrate the shell. This chain of events expresses an easily broken, larger, flat yolk with a thin white that has lost its leavening powers and a big air pocket up against the shell. The qualitative attributes of an egg can tell you a lot about its’ freshness and history, so start looking at your eggs before you cook them into a delicious morning omelet!

What else is known about most commercially produced, store-bought eggs? Legally, if an egg carton is labeled as “Best By” or “Use By,” then the listed date can’t be more than 45 days past the packaging date, and if the carton states “Sell By” or “Expiration,” then the date can’t be more than 30 days past the packaging date. But unfortunately, the packaging date does not imply the date the chicken laid the egg. Commercial producers can store eggs for months before they are officially packaged, meaning your eggs are months old…and not very fresh…or nutritious. In addition, most of the terminology used to label eggs is not regulated and holds very little practical implications. Only the term “organic” must be approved and regulated by the USDA. ‘Cage-free,’ ‘free-range,’ ‘hormone-free,’ ‘natural,’ and ‘minimal processing’ could be meaningful to a producer or just marketing schemes.

Disheartening. But don’t lose hope! There are plenty of methods for getting some deliciously plump fresh eggs. Check your local market or nearby growers for spare eggs and a potential new long-term customer. And hopefully, you’re convinced that the cost of purchasing locally is worth the benefits. Worst case scenario, if you can’t find any fresh eggs, you can always start a backyard flock of your own…


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