A Little About Eggs

by John Wood

A Little About Eggs

A couple years ago, I told a farmer how I was having a really hard time finding consistently good eggs.  He laughed at me and said “that’s because it’s impossible”.  I was confused at the time, but totally understand now. Good eggs require a natural lifestyle for the chickens - a varied diet and lots of space to walk around and eat whatever bugs, worms, or greens they come across.  This type of diet and lifestyle creates eggs that vary in color and texture - especially as the weather varies and seasons change.  Consistency would require feeding them the same thing for every meal every day.  The more I learn, the more I realize that consistency and excellence in ingredients do not go hand in hand.  Nature isn’t consistent - and trying to force it to be often results in a dumbed down product.

The other issue with sourcing good eggs is that no one makes much money producing good eggs.  The few who do make money at it are able to do so by selling at a premium directly to the consumer.  They aren’t interested in any wholesale customers - they only produce a small amount and need to sell their eggs for the highest price possible.  Raising and taking care of a small amount of chickens is hard work, and they deserve as much money as possible.

We source our eggs from a number of small local farms.  This way, if someone is out of eggs or their chickens aren’t producing the most colorful yolks - we can use someone else’s.  By purchasing from a variety of small farms, we get a variety of eggs and then we can decide which eggs to use for what.  The eggs with orange yolks go to pasta, while the lighter colored yolks are better for pastries and cakes. 

One thing I have learned about purchasing eggs is that if a farmer goes through the trouble of raising a variety of chickens, most likely they are also going through the trouble of making sure the chickens get a good diet and plenty of exercise.  It’s a huge pain to have a variety of chickens, and no one is going to do it unless they care about the chickens, or they just want to sell their eggs for a really high price.  Either way, they are going to need good quality eggs to get away with charging as much as they will need to in order for it be worth their time.

Moral of the story - when looking for good eggs, go smaller.  Try to find a small producer who has a variety of different chickens and realize that you will have to pay for this.  Anybody who has over 750 chickens probably won't be able to give them what they need to truly produce excellent eggs.  Anybody that has less than 10,000 chickens or so won't even begin to be able to sell to a supermarket like Mom's or Whole Foods.  At the end of the day, you are only going to get what you pay for.  I suggest, as always, go to the farmer's markets and try everyone's eggs and see which ones you like best.  

About the Author
John Wood
Chef John Wood
John’s passion for humble, authentic food developed from a childhood spent moving around in Africa and Central America. As the son of diplomats, he moved a lot as a child, immersing himself in the rich cultural and culinary traditions of different nations. In his teens, John got a job as a dishwasher in a small French restaurant in DC. It was there that he fell in love with the kitchen and decided he wanted to be wanted to be a chef. John has spent the last 20 years working with the areas best chefs and restauranteurs like Bob Kinkead and Ashok Bajaj. Strict adherence to proper technique and sourcing quality ingredients are the foundation of his cooking.
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