Tuesday, February 07, 2006

The egg test

What are the best tasting eggs available on the shelves of my local grocery store?

If eggs differ in taste in the same way as the animals that lay them, organic eggs should be noticeably more flavourful than their industrial counterparts.

I have discussed the tasteless character of North American industrial chicken before (here et ) and the always eloquent Kate of the Accidental Hedonist offered us her own set of explanations for this demoralizing culinary fact. The topic has also been addressed on other food blogs such as Blue Lotus. What prompted me to ask questions and do some research in the first place was the discovery of huge differences in taste between Canadian raised chicken and Chinese chicken as well as between organic and free range chicken and the usual industrially raised chicken from the average North American grocery store. Organic and free range chicken taste much better than industrial chicken but all the backyard raised chicken I tasted in China were even superior. Partial explanation to this problem can be found on the Accidental Hedonist as well as on Blue Lotus, the comments on both these posts are extremely interesting as well.

Now, what about eggs? They come from the same animal and, as my little experience abroad (again in China) also suggests, their taste can also vary greatly. To answer this question I bought a box of each of the three kinds of eggs available at my local grocery store (organic, regular and ‘Omega 3’ eggs). I then tasted each type with my dear Fufu. I made two very simple recipes so that no other ingredients interfered with tasting: hard boiled eggs and scrambled eggs. Here are the results.


Hard Boiled Eggs


Visually all eggs were very similar. All had fairly pale yolks although the organic egg yolks were slightly darker. This was a bit disappointing since most of what I had read suggested that the darker the yolk, the better the flavour. And lets admit it, we also eat with our eyes and nice colours are always welcome on our plate.

Texture wise, they were all identical or at least none of us were unable to distinguish them from one another when considering their texture alone.

As for the taste, arguably the most important point in our little study, they were very little differences. For some reasons, before the test I believed that the ‘Omega 3’ eggs would have an off flavour but they were almost identical to the regular industrial eggs. The organic eggs were slightly better in my opinion but Fufu didn’t see any difference between them and the other eggs.

Scramble eggs


This time three ingredients were added in equal quantities: butter, milk and salt making the tasting a bit more challenging. The results from the scramble eggs test were nonetheless very similar to those of the hard boiled eggs test.

The color and texture of all eggs were practically identical and only at the taste test did I notice a barely perceptible improvement in the flavour of the organic eggs.


Conclusions

  1. Grocery store eggs pretty much all taste the same, including organic eggs. The very slight difference in taste that I perceived but that Fufu didn’t would be insignificant in any recipe. The way you cook your eggs is much more likely to affect the taste of the final dish. Eggs do not abide by the same rules as chicken it seems.
  2. That being said, I did try very good eggs in China and I believe better eggs could be available elsewhere than at the local supermarket.
  3. I am also in the belief that most grocery store eggs, being regular, ‘Omega 3’ or organic, are the product of industrial farms. What drives production is probably primarily economic: what counts is the number of eggs multiplied by their price on the market for each dollar invested. Smaller local farms might produce better quality eggs for a niche market of egg fanatics, I might have to investigate a bit further.
  4. On the other hand, unlike for chicken, I didn’t find the commercially available eggs to have any off taste but I grew up eating these eggs so I might be slightly biased.

6 comments:

Raspberry Sour said...

I had a similar experience with eggs- I always thought they made me sick (for years, more than 2 eggs a week used to leave me slightly squeamish and nauseous), but then I went to Africa, and suddenly I was able to eat eggs everyday, with no side effects.

Alas, it's hard to maintain here. Although brown eggs go down better for me (despite all the claims that they're the same as white), I can't bring myself to pay $5 for a carton- the cost of an organic, free-range, etc carton at the Dominion here in Toronto!

Alanna said...

Great post -- and I'm also glad to know I can keep buying the regular cheap eggs!

MagicTofu said...

Raspberry sour, I'm glad to hear that better tasting eggs can still be found in Africa as well. I bet some people raise chicken by themselves just to get good eggs here in Canada... I just need someone who is willing to share with me now! I am also surprised that eggs make you sick... could you be allergic or have some kind of intolerance to eggs?

AK, better tasting eggs do exist but what I understand from my little not very scientific test is that they are not available on the shelves of my local grocery stores. That being said, there are other raisons to chose certain eggs over others. One could be concerned about animal cruelty and consequently chose organic eggs and someone else might be concerned about his/her own health and chose specialty eggs like 'omega 3' eggs.

lehejazz said...

I just returned from Amsterdam, and have vowed to only eat really good tasting eggs. I just taste tested my San Francisco, Whole Foods, organics to the supermarket organics, and neither comes close to the wonderful taste of my plain sunnyside up eggs I prepared in Amsterdam. Must keep up the search for good tasting eggs. *peace* Linda

ronben said...

Eggs, like all other food products- always taste better
in Europe. As in the case of eggs, it has to do what they are fed while being raised. Other items such as bread, has to do with the way the wheat is milled.

philruby said...

I realize this post is over two years old, but I love eggs, so I couldn't resist posting something about this. I sometimes buy my eggs from a local, small farm where the "happy hens" as she calls them, spend their days outside. These eggs are far superior to anything else I buy in the stores. I get the most flavor from an egg if I do not cook it dry. I like soft-boiled, soft-poached, and soft-scrambled eggs the best. As soon as the yolk becomes hard and dry, about 50% of the flavor is lost, in my opinion.