The Union Recorder

Top Stories

January 13, 2014

Small eggs taste better

NEW YORK — When I heard that FreshDirect, a New York-based grocery delivery service, had begun selling "small farmer's eggs," I was skeptical. "They are eggs laid by young chickens that are smaller than typical eggs sold in grocery stores, and many farmers say they taste best," read the invitation to a press event at which the eggs would be served. The email went on to explain that these miniature eggs are usually sold to food processors or thrown away, and that buying them from FreshDirect would "create more profit for the farmers, helping to make organic farming more sustainable." It sounded bogus: FreshDirect wanted me to buy something that farmers usually throw away and was claiming this would help support sustainable agriculture?

But when I tasted my first "farmer's egg" - or pullet egg, as they're more traditionally and less poetically known - I found myself also eating crow: It really did taste better than the large eggs I usually buy at the grocery store. The white was less rubbery, and the yolk was far creamier. And it just tasted, well, eggier than most eggs - it was assertively savory on its own, whereas most eggs I've eaten require ample cheese and salt to mask their blandness. Mike Alderfer, the co-owner of the farm that supplies FreshDirect with pullet eggs, told me that young chickens are pickier eaters than older chickens, and their preference for corn results in richer-tasting eggs.

The experience made me wonder. Why, if pullet eggs taste better than bigger eggs, is it impossible to find small eggs at most grocery stores?

Part of the answer has to do with biology. Hens lay eggs for an average of 13 months total, beginning when they're about 18 weeks old. The older they get, the larger their eggs. (Farmers can manipulate egg size by tweaking the hens' feed or environment, but as a rule, egg size correlates with hens' age.) Hens produce small eggs - defined by the USDA as weighing between 18 and 21 ounces per dozen - only during the first month or so of their egg-laying careers. (Very young chickens occasionally lay "peewee eggs," weighing less than 18 ounces per dozen - and yes, "peewee" is the term the USDA uses.) Young chickens lay eggs fairly infrequently, just one every few days or so.

When hens get older, not only do their eggs get bigger, but they lay more frequently - up to an egg a day. "During a hen's most productive egg laying period is when the hen lays large size eggs," Elisa Maloberti, the director of egg product marketing for the American Egg Board, told me in an email. So most eggs laid by commercial hens are large eggs (defined by the USDA as weighing between 24 and 27 ounces per dozen).

This doesn't explain why it's virtually impossible to find small eggs at any retailer other than FreshDirect (and the occasional farmer's market) these days. But it does hint at a few possibilities. Not all of the eggs produced in this country are sold in grocery stores - many of them are sold to "breaking plants" that liquefy, freeze, or dry them for use in processed food products. The proportion of eggs processed in this way has increased over the past 30 years. Maloberti suspects that as the industry's demand for liquid, frozen, and dried eggs has increased, the more small eggs have been diverted from grocery stores to breaking plants.

But why isn't there consumer demand for small eggs? I suspect there's a feedback loop in play. Large eggs are the most commonly available egg size. Subsequently, recipe writers (including, I'm sorry to say, yours truly), develop recipes using large eggs. The ubiquity of recipes calling for large eggs increases consumer demand for large eggs. Repeat.

There may also be good, old-fashioned ignorance and size-chauvinism involved. Most people - including me, earlier this week - don't know that small eggs taste better. And if you're working from the assumption that all eggs taste the same, bigger eggs probably seem like a better deal.

               

But taste isn't the only reason to favor small eggs over large: Poultry experts say that laying large eggs is painful for hens, which, you know, makes sense. It's conceivable that lower demand for large eggs would lead to less chicken suffering. Industrial farmers often induce molting in egg-laying hens to extend the period of time during which they lay large eggs. If consumers prized pullet eggs, farmers might let hens follow a more natural production cycle instead of trying to maximize their output of large eggs.

Of course, most consumers don't have the privilege of buying pullet eggs, unless they live near an independent egg producer or in FreshDirect's delivery zone. But there are good reasons for people who do have access to pullet eggs to seek them out. If enough people ask for them, who knows? Producers might start selling them to grocery stores, instead of letting their flavor go to waste in processed foods.

 

1
Text Only
Top Stories
  • web break-1.jpg Deal signs medical school scholarship regulation

    Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal has signed legislation requiring some recipients of a state medical school scholarship to work in rural areas.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • web break-1.jpg GA insurance commissioner releases enrollment data

    State Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner Ralph Hudgens says nearly 150,000 Georgians will be insured through policies they bought through the federal health care marketplace.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • web break-1.jpg Ga. alters state employee health insurance program

    The Georgia Department of Community Health announced Tuesday that it is looking to increase the number of companies participating in the State Health Benefit Plan and will offer more coverage options for state employees, including HMOs, beginning next year.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • bomb1 VIDEO: A year after marathon bombing, Boston remains strong

    The City of Boston came together Tuesday to honor those who were injured and lost their lives at the Boston Marathon on the one-year anniversary of the bombing. While the day was sure to be emotional, those affected by last year's race are showing they won't let the tragedy keep them down.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • web break-1.jpg Search teams will send unmanned sub to look for missing Malaysian airliner

    Teams searching for a missing Malaysian airliner are planning for the first time to send an unmanned submarine into the depths of the Indian Ocean to look for wreckage, an Australian official leading the multi-nation search said Monday.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • web break-1.jpg E-Cigarettes target youth with festivals, lawmakers say

    The findings, in a survey released Monday by members of Congress, should prod U.S. regulators to curb the industry, the lawmakers said. While e-cigarettes currently are unregulated, the Food and Drug Administration is working on a plan that would extend its tobacco oversight to the products.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • web break-1.jpg Police: Utah mom admitted to killing her 6 babies

    Authorities say a Utah woman accused of killing six babies that she gave birth to over 10 years told investigators that she either strangled or suffocated the children and then put them inside boxes in her garage.

    April 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • mfp file Hoffner Fired coach unjustly accused of visiting porn sites

    The president of Minnesota State University-Mankato accused a football coach of looking at Internet porn on a work computer before firing him, an arbitrator has revealed. The official said the claim could not be supported, and the coach shouldn't have been fired.

    April 12, 2014 1 Photo

  • Fast, cheap test can help save lives of many babies

    As Easley did more research into her daughter's death, she learned that a pilot program had started just months earlier at Holy Cross Hospital in Silver Spring, Md. (Easley had delivered at a different hospital in the Washington area.) The program's goal was to screen every newborn with a simple pulse oximeter test that can help detect heart problems such as Veronica's, allowing doctors to respond.

    April 9, 2014

  • web break.jpg Police: Pa. student flashed 2 knives, injured 20

    A 16-year-old armed with two knives went on a stabbing and slashing spree at a high school near Pittsburgh on Wednesday, leaving as many as 20 people injured, including a school police officer who eventually subdued the boy with the help of an assistant principal, police said.

    April 9, 2014 1 Photo

Poll
AP Video
Facebook
Twitter Updates
Follow us on twitter
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
Stocks
NDN Video