So you read about why I think pastured eggs are better than regular eggs, and saw that although I thought there was a taste difference, some studies showed that there was no taste difference. Am I insane? Are the studies wrong? Obviously, I needed to do an egg taste taste.
So. Do pastured eggs taste better than conventional eggs?
The short answer:
OH MY GOD, YES. GO BUY THEM. BUY THEM NOW (read where and how to buy them here!).
The long answer:
First, I had to get the two kinds of eggs. For my conventional eggs, I bought a regular carton of large eggs from Kroger – I made sure to get Grade A, large, run-of-the-mill eggs. They aren’t anything special – they aren’t organic, or cage-free, or anything like that. They’re just eggs. The kind you buy for $1.
My farm eggs were purchased several weeks ago from my mom’s neighbor – my usual egg source. I saved the egg to do the taste test for 4 weeks, to negate some of the “freshness” taste. It’s also winter here, so the chickens are being fed some kind of chicken fed. As far as I know, it’s not organic and there’s nothing special about it, though it’s probably high quality because these people really love their chickens. The eggs should taste better in the summer when the chickens are eating lots of bugs, but I decided to do the test in the winter to make it harder. To be fair, we have had a relatively mild winter (until recently when we got -50 degrees…) so at the time these eggs were laid, the chickens were outside for a decent part of the day.
In the photo above, you can see a substantial size difference between the two eggs, before I crack them into the pan. You can also see that the farm egg is beige whereas the regular egg is white – this relates to the type of chicken used, and isn’t a big deal. As far as I know, they don’t bleach/color conventional eggshells (Do they?)
Controlling the Variables
Like any good science experiment, I had to make sure the eggs were treated under the same conditions – in other words, I had to control the variables. I carefully cracked both eggs into separate (but identical) cereal bowls, and gently tipped them into a single frying pan that had been greased with butter. Photography attempts were made to show the difference in color of the yolks, but the lighting over my stove sucks (my kitchen is under construction right now…) and you couldn’t tell – just take my word for it: the farm egg looked more yellow.
I made sure to put them in the same pan at the same time in order to remove any heat-related variables. Then, I mixed some salt and pepper together in a bowl and sprinkled it evenly over the eggs. I covered the pan with a lid, and flipped them onto the same plate when they were done.
Next, I carefully separated the eggs onto different plates. You could still tell which was the farm egg because of the size, but the difference in yolk color was greatly lessened after cooking (you can’t tell in photo, though you could tell in person). Up until now I had kept track of position of the eggs to make sure I could differentiate between them, but it ended up not being necessary – the appearance was different enough to make labeling the eggs unnecessary.
Blind Taste Test
I blindfolded myself with a scarf, closed my eyes, and mixed up the plates. To make sure that I couldn’t keep track of where each of the eggs were by counting the number of times a plate switched hands, I sang the ABCs out loud twice. Seriously. My husband laughed at me and my cats both stared at me like I was insane. I can guarantee you that I had no idea which egg was which when I was done.
Now for the fun part – taste testing! I carefully took a bite of the egg on the right first.
Did you know that it’s really hard to cut a bite of egg when you can’t see? I do now.
Either way, using both hands, I managed to take a bite that included mostly egg yolk (where I believed most of the difference would be). The egg was delicious! I slowly savored the flavors, and carefully tried to memorize exactly how the egg tasted. I thought that it would be hard to differentiate between the two eggs, so I really wanted to remember what this bite was like.
Then I took a bite of the other egg…and swallowed quickly. There was no need to savor these flavors. In comparison, this egg tasted extremely bland and had a bit of a mealiness to the yolk. Remember that they were cooked at the SAME TIME IN THE SAME PAN…so they were cooked IDENTICALLY.
My guess, of course, was that the farm egg tasted better…and – when I tore off the blindfold – I was right.
“Holy crap,” I said out loud. “No way.” I took another bite of each of the eggs and shook my head in disbelief. This wasn’t a minor difference that I could barely discern with concentration and effort. There was a HUGE difference that was immediately apparent from the first time the egg entered my mouth until after it was swallowed.
Just for fun, I repeated the test with only egg white. I’ll be honest – the egg white tasted the same. I couldn’t tell which was which.
But man, that yolk wasn’t even similar.
But What about the Serious Eats Taste Test?
As I mentioned in my previous post about pastured eggs, Serious Eats did a taste test to see if pastured eggs were better than conventional eggs. When people could see the yolk coloration difference, they consistently chose pastured over regular eggs. However, when the eggs were all dyed, most people couldn’t really tell a difference, and those that could preferred regular eggs.
Well, I’m not 100% sure why the difference I noticed was so remarkable and the difference they noticed wasn’t, but I do have a couple of ideas:
- The taste test was primarily done with scrambled eggs, which I don’t think is a great indicator of yolk flavor. Since the egg whites tasted mostly the same, and scrambling eggs involves mixing the yolks and whites, maybe the difference was greatly lessened after scrambling.
- They used store-bought pastured eggs for their taste test – maybe the taste degrades over time, and having older, not-fresh eggs matters? I’m hesitant about this though, since the farm egg I used for my test was (intentionally) 4 weeks old. Eggs can last much longer than that though, so maybe the ones they used simply weren’t fresh enough.
- Food coloring – instead of using a blindfold like I did, the Serious Eats people blinded participants to the egg type by dying all of the eggs with green food coloring. But science shows that color does affect our perception of taste, and even though all of the eggs were colored, it may have thrown off the results.
I could probably figure out if their problem was scrambling or coloring the eggs by doing a few more experiments….but why would I? The results are clear – I want farm eggs for as long as I can get them!!