About that. I will eat almost anything (although the CE and I both draw the line at eating creatures with tentacles), but I have just the teensiest problem with eggs. I’m good with things like egg salad and sometimes even quiche, but just a tad squeamish about things like eggs over easy with liquid yolk dripping onto the plate. You will not find me Grand Slamming at Denny’s anytime soon.
If you are in the chicken biz, however, you are in the egg biz, and there is a lot to know whether you’re eating the eggs or not. For instance, did you know that the eggs you buy at the grocery store can be anywhere from two to six weeks old? (This is, by the way, the reason they cook faster than farm-fresh eggs.) I’ve seen a claim that eggs are sometimes re-dated and re-packaged after a thirty-day expiry so that in some cases the eggs you buy are two months old. But that could just be urban legend. One bit of egg wisdom: an article at http://www.suite101.com/ suggests that egg cartons have a code showing the day the eggs were packed, which is a more reliable bit of information than the expiry date. “For example, if a carton of eggs reads P1183 022; the last three numbers indicate the eggs were packed on January 22 (the 22nd day of the year).”
Another tidbit about eggs from a poster on backyardchickens.com: “As eggs age the air cell will get larger. If you candle your store bought eggs you can tell the freshness. You will barely be able to see a small air cell on the large end for fresh eggs. If you see a definate (sic) space then your eggs are older and will peel more easily.” “Candling” eggs is easily done by holding the egg up to a bright light. Another way to test egg freshness is to roll the egg across a flat surface. According to an article on LocalForage.com, you should only consume them “if they roll wobbly”. The simplest test of all, of course, is to use your eyes and nose. If an egg is cracked or smells bad, do not use it. Obvious signs of egg age are runny whites and easily pierced yolks. We marvel at how firm the whites and yolks of the girls’ eggs are compared to those of store-bought eggs.
Yolk color also tells you something about the chickens who lay the eggs. Hope, Amelia and Autumn lay eggs with rich golden-orange yolks. This indicates that their diet includes greens. Most store-bought eggs are pale yellow in color because the chickens who lay them are fed only commercial feed. By the way, don’t fall for the “vegetarian-fed” label on egg cartons. This only means that you’re getting eggs from factory chickens who are not allowed to forage for insects. And “free range” does not mean that the chicken has access to the great outdoors, as it turns out. The word to look for is “pastured” – and it’s hard to find on any store-bought label.
The definitive article on storing eggs can be found at http://www.motherearthnews.com/Sustainable-Farming/1977-11-01/Fresh-Eggs.aspx?page=4. While there is considerable argument as to whether refrigerated or unfrigerated is the best way to go for egg storage, this article concludes eggs stored in a sealed container at 35-40 degrees Fahrenheit can last as long as seven months.
One caveat: DO NOT WASH EGGS BEFORE STORING! As stated in the Mother News article, “Hen fruit, as it comes from the chicken, is coated with a light layer of a natural sealing agent called “bloom”. And, while a good wash may make a batch of eggs look more attractive, it also removes this natural protective coating … leaving the eggs more subject to aging and attack by the air and bacteria in the air.”
Hope laid an interesting egg the other day. Take a look at this:
At first I thought there was sand on the egg but when I tried to brush it off, I realized that the raised bits were part of the shell. I did some research and learned that the egg was simply an indication that Hope had dined a bit too freely on the oyster shell supplement we provide. The bumps are nothing more than calcium deposits. The next egg she laid was perfectly normal.
In the Mother Earth News study, both refrigerated and unrefrigerated eggs remained edible for ninety days. In many parts of the world, eggs are kept unrefrigerated, and according to the LocalForage article, “in most cases, it is best to not refrigerate them for maximum nutrition.” Now that the weather here is starting to get a bit warmer, I think I’m going to go all 21st century, however and keep the girls’ eggs in the refrigerator. And maybe, just maybe, one of these days I will even scramble one up and eat it.