It seems like everyone is trying to sell their version all-natural these days and for obvious reasons. We all want to eat healthy nutritious food and we’re willing to spend money to get it. Unfortunately, just because it says ‘all-natural’ on the label, that doesn’t mean it fits our expectations of what ‘all-natural’ really is.
When it comes to eggs, there are two main differences between farm eggs and store eggs; production and taste.
Production is the tricky part. When people think ‘all-natural’ they tend to picture happy animals in wide open spaces; this is called free-range farming. But unfortunately, the bulk of items that have the label of ‘free-range’ on them will not match this mental picture.
So how can they label it that way?
The issue stems from the actual description for free-range farming; (it leaves a lot of room for interpretation).
This means the ‘all-natural’ you are paying extra for, isn’t exactly what you’r thinking it is.
Taste, however, is the easy part. The true farm egg has a much fuller taste and a thicker consistency. Take a bite of both kinds and you will instantly be able to tell the difference.
How To Spot A Factory Egg From A Farm Egg
A quick way to identify the factory from the farm is by the egg’s color and size. If you open up a cartoon and all of the eggs are white or if all of the eggs are symmetrical, then there is a very high probability that these eggs came from a production type setting.
If you open up a cartoon and the eggs are brown, green or blue and different sizes, then it’s a pretty good guess that these eggs came from the farm.
*** Special note ***
Just because all of the eggs are brown, this does not mean that they are ‘true’ farm eggs. Shell color is determined by the breed of chicken laying the egg. And these chickens could very well be confined in a production type setting.
If you want to make sure that you are, in fact, purchasing eggs that match your concept of free-range, then look for size and shape differences in the shell. There should be notable variations (and the occasional imperfection) with the eggs that come from the farm.
What Are Those Spots In My Egg?
Egg imperfections are not just confined to the shell. Occasionally, you will crack open a farm egg to find a small dot inside. For the record, it freaks me out every time. I do not like the looks of these little specs.
There are two causes for these gross looking specs in your egg, meat spots and blood spots.
Meat spots are the most common. They can be brown or black in color and can be located in either the white or the yolk. As to where they come from, originally people assumed that this was an indicator of the egg being fertilized. However, these specs are actually small pieces of tissue from the hen’s oviduct.
Blood spots are less common,(fortunately). Personally, I’ve ever only seen one…and I will not speak of it here! As to whether or not they are okay to eat, my uneducated advise is DON’T. Don’t eat it, don’t look at it, don’t even think about it. And for the love of all things good, please don’t take a picture of it and post it online. YUCK!!!
Meat spots and blood spots are usually found in farm eggs. Eggs that come from a production setting are screened in a process known as ‘candling’ – thus greatly reducing your risk of coming into contact. This is also why production eggs are usually white as the lighter color shells are easier to see through.
Can You Eat Meat Spots?
Meat spots are safe to eat, so long as the egg is cooked thoroughly. To recap, meat spots are not some sort of infection nor are they indication of a fertilized egg. They are simply pieces of tissue from the hen’s oviduct that have come loose and ended up in your egg.
The USDA is aware of meat spots and has documentation regarding them. As to whether or not you feel like eating a cooked meat spot, that’s up to you.
In our house, if we find a small meat spot, we generally just scoop it out with a spoon and pretend we didn’t see it. If there is more than one, then we’ll just trash the whole egg as we generally have a surplus. For this reason, we always crack the egg open in a small bowl first before putting it in the pan or mixing bowl.
Are Fresh Chicken Eggs Safe To Eat?
You might think after hearing of these gross imperfections, that farm fresh eggs are just not for you. And to be fair, an unwanted spot in your egg can freak you out. But I think people are actually at an advantage when it comes to health and farm fresh eggs as you are more conscious of risks.
With regards to production eggs, a considerable amount of effort has gone into removing these imperfections. And the lack of finding imperfections tends to lull people into not thinking of potential risks. It’s the whole, ‘there hasn’t been a problem in the past, why would there be a problem now,’ concept.
This is a very dangerous kind of thinking. Do a search on egg recall (or meat, fruit, vegetables, ect.) and there is no shortage of results. And each one of these results affects how many families? Families that are, unfortunately, not in the habit of thinking of food safety.
How Long Are Farm Eggs Good For?
To my knowledge, there is no bullet-proof criteria for the shelf life of a farm fresh egg. I’m willing to bet that with the variables being considerable (breed of chicken, food for the hen, location, temperature, etc) making a definitive statement would be difficult.
But I can tell you, that I’ve eaten eggs that have been stored at room temperature for four weeks without any kind of issues. Honestly, I couldn’t tell any difference.
There are some who will store the farm eggs in airtight containers in the fridge, claiming this will extend the shelf life up to six months. And should you want to store them even longer, there is the option of freezing the eggs.
Should You Wash Farm Eggs?
With Salmonella being a very real concern, it’s only normal that you should want to wash those eggs that came from someone’s farm/backyard. But here’s the catch, when you do that, you remove a natural coating called ‘bloom’. This coating seals the egg – as the shells are actually porous. And once that protection is removed, the shelf-life of your egg is dramatically reduced.
It’s worth stating that in a normal situation (providing fertilization has occurred), the eggs would be potential chicks that are gestating outside of the hen’s body. They need protection from a lot of things, including bacteria. This is why this ‘bloom’ coating is so important to them.
Now while the eggs that come to you from the farm, probably aren’t fertilized, this doesn’t mean that the coating stops protecting the contents held within the shell.
Instead of washing your eggs with soap and water, simply rub any debris off with a dry paper towel. This way, you’ve left the natural protection on the shell – helping shelf life. Be sure to throw the paper towel away after your done, as well as, give your hands a good soapy wash.
Cooking With Farm Eggs
Cooking with farm eggs adds to the sense of really producing something healthy for your family. But there are two main differences between your farm egg and a store egg; these are thickness and color.
Thickness: I have found farm eggs are a little tougher to mix in. If you’ve got an electric mixture, then you’ll just have to run it a little longer. But if you’re like me and do everything by hand, then be prepared to have a tired arm.
The reason for this difficulty is because the eggs whites are considerably thicker on farm eggs. Your store bought production eggs are flat out runny when compared to eggs out of the coop. Consequently, more effort is required when mixing.
Color: You will also notice a coloring difference when using farm eggs as the yolks are darker – more of a burnt orange color than the pale yellow of a production egg. This can affect how things look such as your yellow cake that comes out a little darker than what’s on the box. However, this only applies to cooking when you’re using the yolk. Recipes with only egg whites should see no difference.
Where Can I Get Farm Fresh Eggs?
This is another tricky question. Technically speaking, almost all eggs are fresh from the farm – however this farm might be a production facility as opposed to the ‘free-range’ that you’re looking for. It might seem redundant to say this, but you need to keep this in mind when shopping as there will be someone trying to sell you their idea of a free-range egg.
Looking locally is always the best place to begin. This will provide you the opportunity to meet the seller and see the facility; thereby giving you a little bit of an idea as to the quality of the product. If you don’t know any farmers, then ask around at the local feed store. Farmers, especially the small scale hobby version, are always shopping there.
You can also post on social media – ‘looking for local farm eggs’. And if all else fails, ask the person cutting your hair. These people are literal gold mines when it comes to networking!
But if you still can’t find anyone in your area looking to part with a few eggs, there are the online options. Just be sure to research the facility as there is a huge range in opinion as to what free-range eggs actually are. And it’s in a business’s best interest to sell you a product.
What Breed Of Chicken Lays The Best Egg?
Asking someone which chicken lays the best egg is like asking your grandfather who the worst president was. You are guaranteed to get a passionate answer. It might not be an unbiased answer, (or even a factual one) but you will get an answer that’s full of conviction.
With regards to taste, I have never noticed a significant difference between breeds, not when compared to the difference between production eggs and the eggs from my personal flock – that is very noticeable!
You can, however, add a little novelty to things by mixing the color of the egg shells.
Brown Eggs: These are the most plentiful among hobby farmers as they come from the most common breeds. The Orpington, Barred Rock, and Australorp are just a few of the chickens that have become a staple of the backyard flock.
Crazy Colorful Eggs: If you thought white and brown were the only two colors available for non-dyed eggs, you would be wrong. Eggs shells can range in colors from light blue to mint or olive green. The Easter Egger breed has even been known to lay rose colored eggs.
Personal Thoughts On Farm Fresh Eggs
For me, the most ideal situation for fresh non-factory eggs is to grow them yourself. And while you’re at it, grow a few extra for your friends and neighbors. Nothing says community like sharing.
Having a backyard flock does a lot more for you than just free eggs. For starters, it puts you in touch with your food. Nothing is taken for granted because you are involved in the daily well being of your birds. Grabbing eggs out of the coop has so much more meaning than ‘swinging by the store to pick up eggs’.
And chickens do so much more than just lay eggs. They eat insects… a lot of them! Our very first batch of chickens were purchased specifically to combat ticks – which cause Lyme disease.
Chickens provide meat. Take a time machine back to when your grandparents were little and you would see that raising your own birds for butchering was quite prevalent.
Chickens also provide fertilizer. One of the highlights of our warmer days is turning the birds loose on a freshly tilled piece of ground. They absolutely love scratching through the soft soil, pecking at any leftover weeds and roots. And I love them converting everything to into fertilizer. It’s a win win!
Chickens are entertaining. We’ve had some very friendly birds in the past, friendly enough to waddle up to a total strange and ‘cluck’ for snacks. A visitor once remarked to me, “Is that a chicken or a dog?”
“Why do you ask?” I returned.
“Because it came right up to me,” he answered. “Thought maybe I was supposed to pet it or something.”
I laughed at this and then proceeded to explain that because the visitor walked on two legs, then he must have something good to eat.
After this, we always kept some leftover snacks in the garage specifically for visitors to feed the birds. The chickens are always happy for snacks and more importantly, we’ve generally brightened someone’s day.