The Great Scrambled Egg Taste Test (aka the taste of gold)

a-tale-of-two-eggs.jpg

Regular readers will recall that Andy Dunham, the Hardest Working, Most Eligible Organic Guy in Iowa, told me recently that if people can only buy two things locally/organically, eggs should be one of them. He assured me that there was a profound difference between sustainably raised eggs from healthy local chickens and anything you can find in a grocery store.

He’s not the only one. Michael Pollan writes convincingly about the rich eggs from Joel Salatin’s Polyface Farms, noting that nearby pastry chefs attribute quasimagical properties to Salatin’s eggs.

I wanted to put it to the test myself. On Saturday, I bought two sets of eggs, cooked ‘em up, and did a blind taste test to compare them. The first set came from our small, organic CSA, Caretaker Farm (look, here it is). The other were the cheapest I found in the supermarket.

The rules: make scrambled eggs from each batch. All factors except the eggs’ origin are exactly the same — same exact amount of butter, same exact amount of milk, same pan. Have people (in my family, and Jenn’s) taste them, without knowing which was which. For reasons that will soon become known, this required that they shut their eyes as they eat. Can they tell the difference between the eggs?

The short answer: these are not the same eggs.

Difference #1: Price. Okay, price-wise, I’ll admit, these aren’t the same eggs at all. The pastured eggs from Caretaker Farm were $4.00/dozen. The cheapest eggs in the supermarket were less than half that cost ($1.59/dozen, medium size, with my supermarket card).

(It should be noted that at a farmer’s market on the same day, a local farmer had been selling farm-fresh eggs for a mere $2.00/dozen. I passed these up, though, since this farmer keeps the chickens confined to protect them from coyotes. They do have plenty of room to move about, and on any other day, I would have bought these. However, for the purpose of this experiment, I wanted eggs from chickens that I know have been outdoors).

Difference #2: The color. Another difference in the eggs became obvious as soon as I started cracking them. They looked totally different. Check this out:
broken-eggs1.jpg

First is that they didn’t have that weird squiggly white thing that comes off the yolks, but what stood out most was the color. Can you see the difference in color? Don’t know how it looks on your screen, but in real life, the color difference was profound. The pastured eggs were much darker, far more…I don’t know…vibrant looking, I suppose. That difference continued after the eggs started cooking:

cooking-eggs.jpg

And even once they were cooked:

cooked.jpg

The supermarket eggs really did look like a washed out version of the pastured eggs. And it turns out that they are, at least nutritionally speaking (which brings me to Difference #3: Nutritional Content). Studies vary, but they seem to consistently indicate that pastured eggs are much richer in omega 3s, have a better omega 3 to omega 6 ratio, and significantly higher amounts of vitamin A, vitamin E, and beta carotene.

When you really start to look into it, the $4.00 eggs start to look like a nutritional bargain.

Could you actually taste the difference, though? Here are the results.

Merrie (age 5): Licked her lips after each bite, declared confidently “I like both, but #2 [the farm-fresh] is better.” She then skipped off to play with Sophie. Conclusion: pastured.

Blair: “They definitely taste different. I’m not sure I like one better than the other, but #2 definitely [again: farm fresh] has a stronger flavor. Maybe #2.” Conclusion: can tell difference, but if there is a preference, it is a slight one for pastured.

Hannah (age 3, and she couldn’t have been cuter trying to hide her eyes behind her hands, even though she just couldn’t help peeking): “Yummmmm.” And then: “Yummmm…” Conclusion: no preference.

David (who was stuffed up with either raging allergies or a bad head cold): “I don’t know. I can’t tell. Maybe #1 [supermarket], but I don’t know why.” Conclusion: supermarket, although he was stuffed up enough that he couldn’t detect any flavors, of anything.

Jenn: “Number one [supermarket] seems to have less natural egg oils somehow.” (I kid you not, she said this). “They seem squeakier, whereas #2 [pastured] seems denser.” She also noted that #1 was “fluffier,” probably because there was less to them. Conclusion: if you like “fluffy” (non-dense) eggs, then supermarket. But if you want stronger flavor, pastured.

Sophie (age 6): “I like them both. Can I have some more?” Conclusion: no preference.

Then it was my turn. I shut my eyes, and Blair fed me the two sets of eggs, three different times (switching the order). I hadn’t tasted the eggs during the cooking process, so I really was “blind.” Each time, I chose the pastured eggs. I’ll note that my preference wasn’t strong. It’s just that the pastured eggs were a little…eggier. Conclusion: pastured.

So, there’s the fourth difference we noticed that morning: Taste. Every adult, save for the ones whose tastebuds were shot, noticed it.

The whole thing left me wondering whether pastured eggs are fundamentally more satisfying…to the point that we need to eat fewer to be “satisfied” (since there’s more nutrition packed into smaller amounts). I’m not sure quite how you’d test that in any kind of controlled way, but if I stumble across any research, I’ll let you know.

I’m told that the difference in flavor becomes even stronger as you add other ingredients (herbs, etc.). And by the way, the secret to the perfect scrambled egg? It’s apparently a double boiler.

Incidentally, it turns out I’m not the first to try the Egg Smackdown. And, oh, yeah, if you want to know more about eggs — including the questions to ask when you’re choosing your perfect egg, Expat’s got it all.

After the taste test was over, before digging in and eating what remained, the adults sat for a moment, looking at the pan, admiring the rich, golden color of the pastured eggs. The color was so intense it almost didn’t look real — like, if I’d gotten them in a diner, I might say “oh, my goodness, what is wrong with these eggs? They don’t look normal.” That’s how accustomed I’ve become to the washed-out color of eggs from factory-farmed chickens.

“Just look at that color,” Jenn said.

“Yeah,” I murmured.

Then Blair piped up. “That,” said my husband — my darling partner who is so frugal that he recently wrapped duct tape around his 9-year-old boots, in a desperate attempt to reattach the peeled-off soles, because he thought he could still ‘get a little more wear out of them’ — “is the color of money.”

We nodded. Then we shrugged and happily gobbled up what remained, everybody reaching first for the good stuff.

pastured-egg-taste-test.jpg

About these ads

34 Responses to “The Great Scrambled Egg Taste Test (aka the taste of gold)”


  1. 1 Maggie June 19, 2007 at 4:15 pm

    We’ve recently been forced to buy some pale-yolked grocery store eggs (mainly because they’re 1/3 the cost of the beautiful local ones). Seeing how pale they are (especially side by side in your pics) and tasting how much like nothing they taste, makes me wonder if, nutritionally, there’s even any point in eating the conventional eggs. (I find myself wondering that about most conventional food.) Fresh, local, pastured eggs get my vote hands down.

  2. 2 pamelotta June 19, 2007 at 6:11 pm

    I’m blessed to have a father-in-law right across the road from me who has chickens wandering all over the place. They are just starting to lay more frequently, so pretty soon, I will have a constant supply. They taste fantastic. No comparison in this household. Thanks for the pics!

  3. 3 Vikki June 19, 2007 at 9:11 pm

    The picture of the eggs cooking…well, looking at the cheap eggs cooking kind of made me sick. I can’t explain it, especially since I frequently tell Luisa to get the cheaper eggs rather than the good ones for no reason other than convenience. I don’t think I will be able to do that anymore because that picture is going to haunt me.

  4. 4 Anna June 20, 2007 at 12:10 am

    My husband and I each eat 2-3 eggs nearly every morning, plus I regularly use eggs in baked custards, fritattas, homemade ice cream, french toast, etc. Our family of three goes through at least 3 dozen eggs a week. I haven’t bought the conventional super-cheap supermarket eggs in a long time, but any price, eggs are a nutrition bargain, IMO. If I buy supermarket eggs, I get the “premium” high omega-3 organic “free range” eggs (I think free range is more of a marketing ploy than a reality).

    One thing that I have noticed is that if I am consuming the supermarket eggs exclusively for a while, I get a little bored with over-easy eggs gently cooked in butter every day and need to add variety with scrambling, omelets, herbs, cheese, etc. to give them some “ooomph”. That’s true even with so-called “premium” supermarket eggs.

    But if I have a long stretch of consuming the “truly” free range eggs from my local family farm source (which delivers to me and charges almost half the price of the supermarket premium eggs!), where the chickens are free to find & eat bugs and greens, I don’t get bored with them at all, no matter how many plain eggs in butter I eat every day. They have a lovely richness that “vegetarian” grain fed supermarket eggs just don’t achieve.

    I thought I might have been biased because I knew the local source and am skeptical of the situation for supermarket eggs, premium or not. But when I gave a friend a dozen of the local eggs and her husband ate them (not knowing the source), he commented on how good they were and could she get more like them.

    So if available, I would encourage trying the local really free range eggs. Chickens that are free to run around and eat as much as 50% from grasses, greens, and bugs, just lay a superior egg. They are eating as nature intended, as omnivores. No egg produced in a large commercial egg operation can compare, they can only compete on price. But in my case, my locally-sourced eggs are beating the commercial competition even on price. I would gladly pay double for them, too.

  5. 5 Kirsten June 20, 2007 at 2:17 am

    Another difference that’s not visible, is quite possibly the freshness of the eggs. I recently learned that the shelf life of a box of eggs is determined from the time they’re packed, not the time they’re layed. So that brings to mind the whole idea that perhaps local eggs are way fresher than those trucked in from who knows where?

    Now I hate to break your heart, but Joel Salatin only charges $2.65 for his pastured eggs – and they are simply the best eggs in the world.

  6. 6 Expat Chef June 20, 2007 at 2:18 am

    Great taste test!

    We prefer the pastured ones for taste and textue, too. With a pastured egg, the yolk sits high and tight when you crack it. The beaten eggs have a lot of “body.” I always wonder about the eating less and eating better approach as well. It seems logical and, well, natural.

    Cheers!

  7. 7 Fairly Odd Mother June 20, 2007 at 4:27 pm

    What a great experiment! We have just been able to buy eggs from a friend who raises chickens in her backyard. I think it is worth it if only for the fact that her chickens are treated pretty well.

    We are also going to be getting local chickens (1x/week) this summer and I’m interested to see if the famly notices a difference in the taste of them.

    BTW, what IS that squiggly white thing in eggs????

  8. 8 frugalmom June 20, 2007 at 6:37 pm

    I love my egg share! We get them from a local farm and they deliver them to a spot here near us. It would be really hard for me to go back to grocery store eggs after eating the fresh ones.

  9. 9 Kai June 20, 2007 at 7:41 pm

    You definitely converted me! I already buy organic milk and I don’t buy eggs often, but I will absolutely be going out of my way to get the better eggs from now on. I couldn’t believe the difference in the side by side color comparison!

  10. 10 lainieb June 21, 2007 at 1:13 am

    Fascinating and delicious experiment. On an unrelated note, is there any difference in taste between organic and non-organic milk? I just came across a jug today (at $2 more than what a standard 2L jug goes for) at my local supermarket and was intrigued. All I’ve learned so far is that when the Best Before date arrives, that milk is OVER!

  11. 11 pretendfarmer June 21, 2007 at 4:22 pm

    It’s been almost three years now since I’ve eaten a store bought egg and I cannot imagine going back. I walk outside and the hens and roosters run towards me hoping for a treat, which I am usually suckered into dispensing, and then I gather the extra reward of eggs. My teenaged son brings his favorite rooster, Jakers into the house just about every morning and they watch Family Guy together. David laughs; Jakers crows; I smile. No matter where I live and what I am doing, I plan on always having at least a few chickens.

  12. 12 Emily June 22, 2007 at 12:58 pm

    Smell is another factor. The smell of (factory) eggs cooking used to make me gag – that nauseating sulfur smell. We switched to organic, free-range eggs, and I started to be able to tolerate eggs much better. We switched back for one dozen eggs a few years ago, and lo! The stomach-turning smell was back, and I decided right then we’d never go back.

  13. 13 meloukhia June 22, 2007 at 4:33 pm

    The squiggly thing indicates that the egg has been fertilized, and is, in fact, a very undeveloped chicken embryo.

  14. 14 Molly June 22, 2007 at 6:12 pm

    The squiggly thing is not an embryo. You’ll see it on eggs that were laid by hens who have never been within a mile of a rooster.

    The color of free-range eggs really does make them more appetizing. When coyotes wiped out our flock a few years ago and we had to resort to store-bought eggs, my kids wondered what was wrong with their home-made waffles, because they were sort of gray-ish, not the golden color they were accustomed to. (And no, Eggos are not made from free-range eggs; they get their golden color from something else!)

  15. 15 meloukhia June 23, 2007 at 6:11 am

    So, if it’s not an embryo, as I have always been led to believe…what the heck is it?

  16. 16 Sara June 23, 2007 at 12:51 pm

    It’s a chalaza – essentially a tether for the yolk. For more info, check out http://www.enchantedlearning.com/subjects/birds/info/chicken/egg.shtml

    (FWIW, I remember a teacher telling us, many years ago when we learned this in school, that a bloody spot on the yolk was a sign that that egg had been fertilized.)

  17. 17 Robin June 24, 2007 at 1:47 pm

    Ali,
    This is a tad bit late to chime in, but we did your experiment this past week as well. Ok…sort of, only half of it. But it was really interesting. Cricket Creek Farm also sells free range eggs and E checks out the hen house for them each week when he’s at 4H playing with his cow Willi (Willemena, in my book). Anyway, the eggs were AMAZING! I don’t think I’ve ever seen such golden, yellowish-orange colored eggs in my life. They made a fabulouse fritada with mushrooms and broccoli (sp?). Even chef DH commented on them.

  18. 18 Karen June 24, 2007 at 6:20 pm

    Farm fresh isn’t much of an option for me back in NJ like it was in ME, but vegetarian-diet-fed, no hormones or antibiotics added, organic as you can get eggs are hands down meatier and tastier to me.
    The shells are firmer and thicker which not only makes me worry about what makes the shells of non-organic eggs so thin and crumbly, but makes the organic eggs so easy to peel after boiling!

  19. 19 Hen June 25, 2007 at 11:50 am

    The Great Scrambled Egg Taste Test (aka the taste of gold) was featured on Chickenflicker.com’s One a Day where we feature a chicken related topic every day.

    There is nothing better than fresh eggs. I love them so much I am considering getting some chickens of my own.

    http://chickenflicker.com/1aday/

    –hen

  20. 20 Katharine June 28, 2007 at 7:03 pm

    Gosh Ali! Your experiment has certainly made shopping easier for this indecisive and economy-minded (I like it better than frugal! or just pinched for the green stuff, which is truer) ‘gal. I kid you not I was recently debating if local organic eggs were worth those four precious bucks. Now I know: yes.

    PS. The green stuff is money. You got that. Right.
    a plus.

  21. 21 Mandy June 28, 2007 at 8:23 pm

    I was shocked by the yolk color the first time I used fresh eggs that I got from a friend (whose mother raises backyard chickens). I couldn’t believe “real” eggs were so vibrant. Even turned our pancakes yellow. And they are delicious; I won’t go back to supermarket eggs. Plus she only charges $1.75/dozen!

  22. 22 Victoria August 6, 2007 at 7:40 am

    I would take issue with the need for a double boiler. Scrambled eggs just need attention and trust: you can make them in any (preferably non-stick) recipient and at any temperature. I’ve just had breakfast and yet my mouth is watering at those photos! Happy hens lay happy eggs, there is no doubt about it.

  23. 23 Hools October 3, 2007 at 3:15 am

    I recommend the hard-boiled egg taste test. We recently started receiving eggs through a local community supported agriculture program, and I found that the hard-boiled eggs were like no eggs I’d ever tasted before — creamy and buttery! We’ve been told that really fresh eggs don’t boil well. Not sure if that’s truen, but we waited at least a week before we boiled ours, and they were absolutely delicious.

    I was also fortunate enough to be able to meet our farm’s chickens, who were running around outside, leading happy chicken lives.

  24. 24 Troy February 10, 2008 at 5:33 pm

    Am I the only one to think this “experiment” is worthless as conducted? There are simply too many uncontrolled variables. For starters it is obvious that the eggs are from two different breeds of chicken. This alone could account for the differences that were noted. Additionally you have now way of knowing the freshness of either batch of eggs.
    For this experiment to have any real value you would need to have conventional and pasture eggs from groups of the same breed of chicken. Also the eggs would need to be prepared in the same time frame after laying.

  25. 25 cleanerplateclub February 10, 2008 at 10:44 pm

    Troy, thank you for taking the time to explain what makes this experiment, with its sample size of seven (three of whom were 6 years old or younger) less than fully statistically significant.

    You’re right, they’re probably from different breeds. That’s because commercial chickens that are raised in battery cages are breeds that have been selected for traits that have nothing whatsoever to do with taste or nutritional value. I’ll take eggs from the breeds where nutrition and taste still matter, please.

    Freshness? You bet. They’re probably of very, very different freshness. My local farm’s eggs were laid within a few days from when we cooked them. I’d rather not think about how long it takes to get a commercial egg from chicken to my grocery cart. To you, the breed and freshness make the “experiment” worthless. To me, they’re a case in point.

    Not just a case in point…they ARE the point, actually.

    But anyway, there’s more research than my own (admittedly problematic) test:

    # In 1974, the British Journal of Nutrition found that pastured eggs had 50 percent more folic acid and 70 percent more vitamin B12 than eggs from factory farm hens.

    # In 1988, Artemis Simopoulos, co-author of The Omega Diet, found pastured eggs in Greece contained 13 times more omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids than U.S. commercial eggs.

    # A 1998 study in Animal Feed Science and Technology found that pastured eggs had higher omega-3s and vitamin E than eggs from caged hens.

    # A 1999 study by Barb Gorski at Pennsylvania State University found that eggs from pastured birds had 10 percent less fat, 34 percent less cholesterol, 40 percent more vitamin A, and four times the omega-3s compared to the standard USDA data. Her study also tested pastured chicken meat, and found it to have 21 percent less fat, 30 percent less saturated fat and 50 percent more vitamin A than the USDA standard.

    # In 2003, Heather Karsten at Pennsylvania State University compared eggs from two groups of Hy-Line variety hens, with one kept in standard crowded factory farm conditions and the other on mixed grass and legume pasture. The eggs had similar levels of fat and cholesterol, but the pastured eggs had three times more omega-3s, 220 percent more vitamin E and 62 percent more vitamin A than eggs from caged hens.

    # In both 2005 and 2007, Mother Earth News analyzed eggs from chickens that had been pastured, and found that they had significantly a third less cholesterol, less saturated fat, two-thirds more vitamin A, twice the omega-3s, and up to 3 times the amount of vitamin E

    Anyhow, if you can figure out a way to do the test the way you recommend, please the results my way! I promise I’ll post them. I swear to you, I will. In the meantime, thanks for visiting.

  26. 26 Julie June 14, 2009 at 4:26 pm

    Hi,

    We were definitely loving the organic eggs and then something strange happened. We started tasting a distinct lemon flavor in the baked goods we were making. It turned us off so much we quit using anything but the store bought. We even tried a different brand. These were all store bought, by the way. That was a few months ago.

    So, this morning we made pancakes and my son said that he smelled the same lemon type smell in the flour canister. I sniffed and, sure enough, I smelled it also but very faint. So now we are wondering if I left some lemon scented Joy in the canister. I guess I’ll have to throw it out and rewash. Then try again with the eggs. But I’m not sure that’s the answer. Has anyone else had a problem with the lemon flavor?

  27. 27 Julie June 14, 2009 at 4:27 pm

    Just wanted to resubmit as I noticed too late the “notify” button at the bottom.

  28. 28 Ronald Kovacevic June 3, 2010 at 6:14 pm

    Uuuu, I don’t like eggs!


  1. 1 The Ethicurean: Chew the right thing. » Blog Archive » Digest: Stop finger-pointing, start fixing the subsidy program Trackback on June 22, 2007 at 9:10 am
  2. 2 Breed ‘Em And Weep » 37 Trackback on June 23, 2007 at 4:34 am
  3. 3 AllMenus.com Blog » Blog Archive » A Peachy Little Taste Test Trackback on July 2, 2007 at 4:46 pm
  4. 4 In which I win a contest and am flabbergasted « The Cleaner Plate Club Trackback on October 3, 2007 at 6:00 pm
  5. 5 The Bronze Kettle » Recipe: Curiously Tasty Omelet Trackback on December 4, 2007 at 4:08 am
  6. 6 The World Needs Another Chicken Blog « The Monday Morning Chicken Run Trackback on May 12, 2008 at 5:44 pm
Comments are currently closed.



Archives


Crazy Hip Blog Mamas Web Ring

Join :: List :: Random

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 56 other followers

%d bloggers like this: