One of these eggs came from my free-ranging, bug-eating, sunshine-loving Easter Egger chicken. Another egg came from organic, vegetarian-fed, cage-free chickens (or so the carton said). And the last egg is standard-issue Grade AA sold under the supermarket’s private label.
Can you guess which is which?
The answer: The green egg on the left is farmlette-fresh and laid just a week ago. Its yolk is round, high and firm with a rich, viscous quality and a deep orange hue. The egg white is nice and thick. Even the shell is noticeably different — denser, harder to crack, and when it did crack, it split apart cleanly without the edges shattering into little pieces.
The white egg in the middle is your run-of-the-mill commercial egg, and the brown egg on the right is the so-called organic egg.
These other two eggs had thinner yolks that were paler in color. The “organic” egg yolk was a tad darker than the regular egg, but was otherwise just as runny, despite being pumped up with all that extra vitamin E and omega-3 and whatnot. (And by the way, chickens are not vegetarian by nature, so don’t let the “vegetarian-fed” label fool you. Vegetarian-fed chickens imply industrial factory-farmed chickens fed a mixture of cheap grains, like corn and soy, which don’t offer any nutritional value. Feeding excess corn does, however, boost the yellow in yolks.)
But I’m no egg snob. When I couldn’t make it to the farmers’ market, I would buy the cheapest eggs on the supermarket shelf. According to this organic egg scorecard from the Cornucopia Institute, there’s no discernible difference between most organic eggs and regular eggs, especially if the organic line is the store’s private label. Widely used terms such as “free-range” and “cage-free” are misleading, as there’s no standard definition that indicates how healthy or humane those farms truly are.
The best eggs come from small family farms and backyards, where the hens are happy and the eggs are full of nutrients. If you can’t get your hands on those bold orange yolks, don’t just buy the most expensive eggs at the market. An unlabeled generic box of eggs is likely just as good as an over-labeled premium box.