There are few grocery staples as beguiling as the egg: color, size, grade, omega-3s …. seriously?
Prior to my Market Research column in amNewYork newspaper, my methodology for buying eggs may as well have been to cover my eyes and point randomly, giving preference to the more expensive, brown eggs over the most basic white eggs, eventually compromising on some middling dozen without really knowing why.
So when I was given the green light for this assignment, I just couldn’t wait to get in those little eggies’ faces.
I skulked around the egg sections at more than a half-dozen major markets around the city like some crazy chicken lady — Whole Foods, Gristedes, Food Emporium, C-Town, Gourmet Garage, among them — before I settled on five packages that covered the spectrum of the egg kingdom.
— Jack’s Egg Farm (Brooklyn), Grade AA, Medium, white ($1.99)
— Eggland’s Best (various), Grade A, Large, white ($3.79)
— Horizon Organic (Colorado), Grade A, Large, brown ($5.69)
— Giving Nature (Newton, Pa.), Grade A, Extra Large, white ($3.79)
— The Country Hen (Hubbardston, Mass.), Grade A, Jumbo, brown ($4.19/6)
On the day of the tasting, the chef and I cracked one of each of the eggs open to compare size and color of yolk; stature of egg white; taste of egg (sunny side up, runny yolk) with just the slightest dash of kosher salt and fresh-ground pepper as our quality control.
Admittedly, I’m not sure I knew how varied egg size and yolk color could be until I poured out five eggs at one time.
Huh. So you’re saying that I could pay less than $2.50 for a dozen eggs from a local manufacturer — which happen to be graded as AA — or I could pay $0.70 per egg (albeit, a guaranteed excellent egg that was conceived in living facilities with sunlit porches)?
(+) The only difference between brown eggs and white eggs is the bird from which they’re laid. Brown eggs are more expensive because the birds that lay brown eggs are larger and require more feed;
(+) Doesn’t matter how eggs are packaged. According to my source at the American Egg Board, the only difference in type of packaging is cost. “In the production industry, if you put good eggs in the carton, the carton should protect the eggs,” she said.
(+) The grade of AA is higher than Grade A; however, due to manufacturing processes, by the time that many eggs labeled “Grade AA” reach the market, they’ve become Grade A eggs. The difference is slight to consumers.
(+) Eggs naturally have about 100 mg of omega-3, so when a company (such as Eggland’s Best) boasts that their eggs are a good source of omega-3, having 115mg omega-3 per egg … it’s purely a marketing ploy. (If omega-3s are your deal, look for eggs that have 200 mg to 300 mg omega-3s per egg, such as Giving Nature‘s eggs or The Country Hen.)
(+) Recipes generally call for large sized eggs.
Nom nom nom!