When was the last time you got excited about an egg? I don’t mean finding an egg in a nest outside your bedroom window… I mean an egg you were about to eat for breakfast!
Like most people, I keep eggs in the fridge at all times. They come from a variety of places including the convenience store around the corner, the giant supermarket up the street and occasionally, the local feed store at the end of 149 in West Barnstable.
How much thought to do give to your eggs? Probably not much. We open the carton to make sure none of the eggs are cracked and we close them up and put them in our cart and finish shopping. Buying eggs is not rocket science… Nor is it advanced level biology or cooking for that matter.
Today, however, I gave myself an advanced education in eggs.
I had a rare chance to sit home and enjoy breakfast in my pajamas without rushing off to work at goofy-o-clock in the morning. I was down to my last few eggs and decided to fry a couple up to have with toast. Nothing fancy, just fried eggs. I grabbed one from the “big box store” carton and my last egg from the dozen I picked up at Cape Cod Feed and Supply. I cracked the eggs and gently dropped each on into the hot pan. I almost didn’t believe my own eyes -and I am not Egg-aggerating!
It was as if I was cooking eggs that not only came from 2 different chickens, it was as if they were from 2 different species! One yolk was flat and a dull yellow color, while the other was a rich orange and almost perky! Can you guess which was which?
As I poked at the yolks on my plate with my toast, I began Googling egg information online.
According to folks I will call “Egg-sperts” the only reason for color variation in egg yolks is variation in food the chicken consumes. If the chicken has access to a wide variety of grains and grasses and bugs, the yolks will be darker. If they have a limited diet, they will be paler in color. These same “eggsperts” claim there is really no difference in the amount of protein, but that free-ranging-grub-and-grass-eating chickens will produce eggs with a bit more Omegas.
The real difference I found in my “egg-citing” research was really about freshness and source. I will agree with my farm-friendly resources, that the farm-stand eggs have a richer flavor and texture when served sunny-side-up. Is the big differencefrom the diet of the hens, or how long the eggs have been sitting on a shelf?
Have you ever wondered about the series of numbers stamped on the end of egg cartons in stores? It doesn’t matter if you are buying brown or white eggs… cage free, organic or Omega 3.. or whatever is on sale in the dairy section. They all have codes. It’s the law. Of course, you understandthe “Sell By” date, but what does “P2102 331” mean?
Yes… I Googled that, too. The “P” code is where the eggs came from. Every carton of eggs will have the letter “P” followed by 4 numbers. Here is a link to a directory so you can see for yourself: Egg P-Codes
For example, these eggs came from Turner, Maine –not even a Massachusetts egg farm.
The next 3 digit number is the day the eggs were packed on a “Julian” calendar. Basically this translates like this: January 1st is “001”… December 31st is “365”… These eggs were packed on November 27th; which translates to someone telling me that these eggs can safely sit around on a dairy shelf or in my fridge for 6 weeks without going bad. One food website stated that fresh eggs will last for 66 days after packaging. (I will simply leave that nugget of information here for you to draw your own opinions and conclusions).
I looked at the egg carton from Cape Cod Feed and Supply. There was a piece of yellow tape with a few letters hand written in sharpie. This afternoon, Rick (the owner) said that’s where the eggs came from (Hamlin) and the month (December). And then he went on to tell me about Ms Hamlin’s chickens and how everyone’s egg production is slower in the winter along with a few other stories and tidbits. I actually ended up spending an hour in the store just talking about chickens… and dogs… and organic hay.. and pet quail!
I learned via social media that I have a lot of friends with their own backyard coops, too! Apparently it’s pretty easy to set up a coop and you can raise your own chickens from hatchlings via mail-order or your local feed supply shore! I looked up regulations in the Town of Barnstable and the town seems pretty chicken-friendly – so long as you don’t have a loud rooster annoying your neighbors. This chicken, for example belongs to my friend Leila. She has had her own coop for about 3 years now.
I am not going to stand on a soapbox and crow about where you should buy your eggs… But I will ask you to look at that picture of my fried eggs again and decide for yourself.
If you want to swing by and see Rick at Cape Cod Feed and Supply, tell him I said ‘Hello’!
If you are thinking about raising your own chickens, here is a little more information from the Town of Barnstable and the Cape Cod & Islands Farm Bureau
And finally, if you want to share your EGG-citing recipes or egg sources with me, send me an email: [email protected]