Wednesday, July 27, 2011

#61 - Weird Egg Information

Over the past few days, I've been reading everything I can about chickens and their eggs. Speaking of eggs, my brain is fried.

Often, we don't always find ourselves with heightened awareness on a topic until it hits us at home. Then, we suddenly become more sponge-like in that particular information zone. Right now, that's how things are for me. Some of this information about eggs has only solidified my stance and determination in raising laying chickens.

First, a shocking revelation about the USDA's lax regulations about egg quality has made me even more thankful that we are proud owners of laying chickens. I was under the mistaken belief that I was getting "fresh" eggs when I was at Walmart picking out a carton of eggs with the most far out date stamp that I could find. Then, I read the USDA's requirement that eggs be packed within 30 days of lay.

THIRTY DAYS FROM THE TIME OF LAY? How does this translate to me? Gross. It translates to gross.

This means that my carton of eggs may sit in my refrigerator for 2-3 weeks, but I had NO IDEA that the eggs might have previously laid around up to 30 days before they were even packaged for the market. This is NOT my idea of "fresh" or "Grade AA" or "Grade A" or "Farm-Fresh."

I feel duped by the USDA and am becoming increasing leery of their so-called "regulations."

On another note that currently doesn't apply to me because we re-located our two roosters several weeks ago...If you have a rooster in the yard and want to collect eggs for the fridge, then remember that higher temperatures (over 85 degrees) can result in faster development of embryos. These eggs might provide an above-average gag factor as you crack them over the pan only to find little chicken embryos sizzling.

On a common note...something that has happened to most of us, especially those of us who live in Southern states...Have you ever taken your eggs out of the refrigerator and put them on the kitchen counter in preparation for cooking to soon notice a thin layer of "sweat" forming on the egg shell? These sweating eggs are now vulnerable for the transmission of bacteria and other disgusting yucky scientific things to travel through the eggshell pores into the INSIDE of the egg. Try to not put these back into the fridge after they have been sweating. It sounds as if the best thing to do to prevent your eggs from sweating is to use them quickly. If they do sit on the counter and sweat, the eggs are fine to use, if you do so in a timely matter. To me, this is simply another solid reason to have your own laying chickens...there are less transportation issues and temperature changes that could promote sweating. And again, I wonder...What if that carton of eggs I bought from the grocery store has already sat sweating for an extended period of time, after all, we do live in Texas and it is difficult to escape temperature changes and eggs are especially susceptible.

Cleaning eggs is tricky. You do not want to soak an egg because the pores of the shell when wet will transmit bacteria. So, if your egg is a bit dirty, it sounds best to rinse it quickly with a light scrubbing. You don't want the shell to be wet for long, just enough to get the dirt off the shell. The rubbing of sandpaper to scrub the shell appears to weaken the waxy coating on the shell that protects the inside goodness, so I'd be more prone to stick with a quick rinsing in clean, running water. For goodness sake, if the egg is completely smeared with chicken poop...throw it away...unless you are starving.

It is interesting to note that if the waxy coating that occurs naturally on eggs is washed off, this will lessen the shelf life of an egg. So, washing might cause the opposite of your intention to take place. Again, our brilliant USDA's "excellent" commercial food production plan allows for eggs to soak FOUR hours before a water change is warranted. Anyone up for a four hour soak in dirty water? Once you start learning about the dynamics of egg chemistry and freshness guidelines for the commercial farmer, you become a bit more leery of the eggs sitting in that carton at the grocery store.

My previous concept of "fresh" eggs has been busted.

For those of you who are really into wanting to "clean" your egg shells, just so you know, it's probably not worthwhile to go through the effort or to spend the money on the sanitizers or to take the time to use the sanitizers because there are studies that prove that a regular running rinse water of your eggs is just as effective in cleaning eggshells.

Unless you are immediately eating your collected eggs, storage of eggs is something that should be given priority. Porous eggshells absorb odors, so make sure you store your eggs somewhere that will provide an additional barrier from odors. Remember to not let your eggs come in prolonged contact with any water or ice water during storage. Dry, cold storage is best. Don't use old ice chests used for fishing to hold your eggs because you might be surprised to eat a fresh egg that tastes like spoiled trout.

Yolk color of your farm fresh eggs will probably be much more pale than the commercialized version. I've recently learned through my elected inundation of chicken egg research that some commercial egg plants will add marigold flower petals (among other things) to their feed and this gives the yolk an "artificial" darker yellow coloring. However, there is no difference in taste from a pale yolk to a deep sunset colored yolk--- other than a TRUE farm fresh egg being actually FRESH and unaltered from its natural state.

I've yet to break open one of our eggs, but I will take pictures of the first egg we crack. As Mike from just let me know, the first few eggs may be "wind eggs" and have no yolks. It will be interesting.

So far, we have three eggs --- all found by Deputy Dave. It is Wednesday and I've still yet to find an egg on my own. But, we've only had three eggs laid in the past five days. Some of our chickens are not mature enough to start laying...we're just getting started, and I am learning so many fascinating lessons about raising chickens. It's more exciting than I imagined it would be.

Feathered Ladies...Bring on the eggs!


LindaG said...

I belong to a couple of chicken groups and the question of storage came up a little bit ago. There were people that said they'd kept their eggs for 4 week on the counter, a little longer in the fridge. What is bad is to cool the eggs and then take them out, as you noticed.
Remember before refrigeration, eggs were collected and kept in a bowl on the table.
Also, many of them don't wash eggs until just before use, unless really dirty.

Ever since the egg thing at the 'factory farms', one thing I've educated myself on is how to read the egg cartons. ( The date they were 'packaged' is a julian date. I don't pay any attention to the sell by date any more. If I can't read a julian date, they are automatically out. If I can read the julian date, then I pick the one with the date closest to the actual julian date. (I have an app on my phone that tells me, because my memory fails, haha!) Sometimes I'll shop a couple of different stores to find the freshest eggs possible, because yes, the odds are they are still quite old. I can tell when I cook them.

Another thing I have seen on the groups is that yolk color is dependent upon what the chickens eat. And your yolks should actually be much darker than the pale store-bought eggs. Probably closer to orange since your chickens forage in the back yard.

Lucky you! I am so happy for you all, Lana. Look forward to hearing about your first meal with your eggs. :)

Mike said...

Thanks for the mention, Lana. Since I've run across your blog, I too, have taken up researching chickens.

Something else I found out about egg size is some chickens lay small, some medium, etc., It all depends on the breed as to what size they lay. We'll just learn together as your chickens develop and mature how big yours are going to be.

One day soon, I'll probably break down and get some chickens, too. I'm looking more into silkies for selling other than layers. But, I do like the looks of a golden laced wyandotte. So, who knows what I'll end up with. Knowing me, both, I'm sure.

As for eggs at Walmart, unfortunately I've work for them both as an associate and now as a vendor. Their coolers temps fluctuate quite a bit and I wouldn't be surprised if they haven't sweated a time or two before they're sold. Not to mention how long a stocker will allow them to sit outside the coolers before placing them in the floor coolers.

I have a favor to ask. I like the idea of a chicken tractor and wonder if you'd take a couple pics of the inside of yours. I've looked and can't seem to find any pics allowing me to get a good view. Particularly, the bottom. Also, does the run have wire on the bottom or is it open to the ground? I've seen em both ways and am just curious.

This comment is more like a post. I'll not post anything on my blog yet. I still have to sell Susan on the idea. She caught me looking at pics and joined in. So, I think she's on board. ;)

Charade said...

I'm with LindaG on this one. My grandmother, great aunts and the old ranch woman who taught me how to bake bread (ooh, too bad those lessons didn't stick) all kept their eggs hanging in those wire baskets, unrefrigerated, and nobody ever got sick from them. Of course that was before the days of humongous factory farms laden with antibiotic-treated feed, thinner shells and runnier albumin. Who knows now what the answer should be.

Rae said...

Huh. The yolks in our eggs are orange, as opposed to the bright yellow of store eggs. As for "freshness", here's what my friend told me about her chickens. She said that a hard boiled egg that is easy to peel is old. As eggs age, moisture evaporates through the shell, causing there to be more air IN the shell, thus the easy peel. You can test how old an egg is by how it floats... Older eggs will float to the top. (ex from online search, fresh sink, 1-wk tilt up, couple weeks sit sorta vertical, several weeks+ float). She said that in order to have anywhere near an easy-peel egg from her chickens, they had to be at least a couple weeks old. So... Every easy-peel egg from the store when you're making deviled eggs... How gross is that?

Mike said...

I read this post earlier and Linda's comment about the julian date intrigued me. I just looked at my latest purchased eggs and it appears the julian date is 134, 14 May. The sell by is: 11 Jun. Today is: 1 Aug. I know I don't use eggs too often but, these suckers have been out and a bout for 2 1/2 months? I should hard boil em so I won't have any trouble peeling them and then throw them in the trash ;)