Rachel's Table

An Eggsperimental Breakfast

Weekends are for two things: sleeping and big breakfasts. Well, maybe only for big breakfasts if you have kids. I don’t, so I sleep in and then eat a big breakfast.

This past weekend I decided to try a little experiment with my breakfast. I chose two eggs–one was free range, pasture fed, hormone and antibiotic free and bought locally from my farmers market. The other egg was the grocery store brand.

Here are the eggs in question:

The brown egg is free range, antibiotic, hormone free. The white egg is from the grocery store.

I took these eggs and fried them:

Grocery store egg, frying

Free range egg, frying

Notice the first egg. It looks like a nice enough egg and is frying up splendidly. But compare with the second egg. Look at that yolk! It is such a lovely shade of gold-ish orange!

Guess what I discovered after my very serious eggsperiment? The grocery store egg didn’t taste like much, but the free range egg tasted like the best egg I’ve ever had. The yolk was rich and velvety, not thin and translucent, like that other egg. And the egg white had more body and “fluffiness.” Here’s another comparison:

Which one is free range and pasture fed? The one on the left. Notice the darker yolk.

The color of an egg yolk is determined by a chicken’s diet. Yolks from caged birds that do not have access to green vegetation (grass) and little to no sunlight, like my grocery store egg, will be a paler color. Free range chickens that eat grass, leaves, bugs and roam around in the daylight will lay eggs with much darker yellow to almost orange yolks.

In my opinion, a darker, bolder-in-color yolk translates to more flavor and richness. Happier chickens mean better yolks and superior eggs. Superior eggs mean more nutrition. Based on a 2007 study, eggs from free range hens are much more nutritious than factory farm eggs. More vitamin D (4-6 times more), more omega-3 fatty acids (2 times more), more vitamin E (3 times more), and less cholesterol and saturated fat–all wrapped up in a tastier, fluffier egg. I’m sold!

So where can you buy these amazing eggs? I get mine from my farmers market and sometimes from Toby of Bayberry Farm. You can get them there too, or from your own farmers market, or better yet, from your hen-keeping neighbor. Unfortunately, cartons in the grocery store marked “free-range” or “cage free” are neither. The hens may have access to the outside, but they rarely make it there, which means no foraging for grass and bugs and no sunlight. If I absolutely have to buy from the grocery store, I buy Certified Organic and Pasture Raised, but if you want to know more about egg labels so you can choose for yourself, click on these links: Egg Carton Label Guide, Unscrambling the Claims (NY Times article).

Did I mention that my entire breakfast Saturday morning was local? It was simple, but so delicious. The egg was the best part, of course.

Local bread + local bacon + local eggs = happy locavore (and husband)


  1. You don’t have to tell me twice! I love eggs so much. And I STILL crack up every time I see those beautiful chickens at the end of our road, just livin’ the life, ownin’ the territory. The other day they were all lined up on the lowest rail of the fence, just chillin’. …Does everyone imagine animals talking to each other, or is it just me? You should hear the cows across the street.

    P.S. – “Unscrambling the Claims” is an AWESOME name for that article.

    • I ate eggs for dinner last night! With a bunch of swiss chard and garlic.

      I imagine my cats having conversations with each other all the time (they mostly involve the phrase, “I’m going to bite you.”)

      Birds, specifically, when they’re all lined up like that, definitely talk and they have names like Frank, and they smoke cigars.

      • I knew it couldn’t just be me.

        I neglected to mention I was eating a Go Jules Go epic omelet when I read this post! Spinach, habanero, red onion, sour cream, and tomatoes from magical neighbor Jeff’s garden.

  2. This post looks strangely familiar… 😉
    Great side-by-side comparison! I love that you actually went out and bought the not-good eggs just make your point!! As a side note: the word “free range” no longer has anything to do with whether a chicken spends any time outdoors any longer. You may want to start utilizing the word “pastured” from now on. This is a great link for the ways that the marketers are co-opting the terms being used out there:

    • Why, whatever do you mean?? 😉

      Yes, I always buy pastured unless I know where they come from. I’ve held my friend Toby’s chickens, so that’s where I like to get them most of the time! They get to graze in different parts of the farm each day, so that makes them and me happy.

      Thanks for the link! All these terms can be so confusing.

      • There are too many to tell which are which. The Queen of the Roost, who is the first chicken we ever had, the kids call “Big Mama.” And the little fluffy black Chinese rooster, who is at the other end of the pecking order, they call “Fluffy.” That’s about it.

  3. I have my own egg lady, like some people have a drug dealer. She calls me when she has too many and I get them off her hands. I also love that getting eggs directly from a hen owner means they have a longer shelf life. So you can stock up and not feel pressure to use them up right away.

  4. It still surprises me sometimes when I taste the difference between local, organic and free range meat, eggs and produce. Once you have made a comparison it is difficult to go back to the grocery store for fresh food. I do love a big weekend breakfast! Yum

    • My breakfasts are usually more elaborate than this, but sometimes an over easy egg, bacon and toast is the BEST.

      I don’t think I can ever go back to eating “regular” eggs. Usually if I can’t get to the farmers market, I won’t buy eggs at all.

  5. My family has about a dozen hens roaming the pasture happily, producing deep orange-yolked eggs rich in nutrients and without any added chemicals. I have enjoyed many a happy breakfast, lunch, or dinner with them. 🙂

    • My dream is to have chickens one day! I recently had turkey eggs from happy, pasture raised turkeys – so, so good. Eggs in the form of frittata or an omelette for dinner is the BEST.

  6. Great side by side. I’m so disappointed when I run out of eggs and need to rely on our neighborhood grocery stores rather than the coop or farmer’s market. I generally buy Nature’s Yolk there which is supposedly local (PA), veggie fed (the fact that they clarify it freaks me out, plus chickens eat bugs and are definitely not vegetarians, but that’s another story) and claim to be pastured. The almost $5 dozen boxes (more expensive than the local options) might convince some consumers, but they don’t even come close to what a real pastured egg should look like.

    • Thanks, Melissa!

      I know, veggie fed is so misleading, because they could be eating corn or grains, when they need to eat grass and like you said, BUGS. I pay about $3/dozen for my eggs–cheaper than some “specialty” grocery store brands. And so much better!

  7. And on another note, the farm eggs we got in main had yolks so orange and dense, you could toss them (pretty high) in your hands. I actually had to pierce them with a fork to break them.

  8. This is amazing. I’ve been leading a campaign to buy only the fancy schmancy farmer’s market eggs for years and have been getting a lot of push back from the dude, who balks at the price, claims that all eggs are eggs, and bemoans that I am paying a premium so that the chickens can live in a spa-like environment that is nicer than where he lives. I just emailed this to him and his response was: “Fine. You win.”


  9. Eggcellent! (I’m sure others said that…) I get mine from the Amish families at our farmers market. If u look at the profile, they “stand up” a little more. I find they have some more body and better texture. I’m guessing this helps with baking and Creme brûlée

  10. Whoa, those photos don’t lie. You’ve convinced me, RP.

    I don’t eat eggs much at all (almost never) but Jim has them nearly every single day. He gets Eggland’s Best or something or other, I never looked to see how the chickens were raised or if they talked to each other (re: JD’s comment, lol)

    But I do know that eggs are really tiny undeveloped baby chickens (gasp!) so that pretty much turns me off of eggs entirely.

    I’m just kidding, I’ll still eat them if I’m super hungry and all out of frozen waffles. I make THE BEST scrambled eggs on the planet. I’ve read that a mark of a good cook is the ability to make eggs. Ha! Such a myth.

    …And that concludes my rambling about eggs….

    • I guess when you consider they ARE tiny, undeveloped baby chicks, eggs seem gross. But so does almost all animal protein if I think about it too much!

      Tell Jim to find some farm fresh eggs – the difference is vast, even if you buy the good brands like Eggland’s Best.

      I’m longing for the day when you will make me scrambled eggs and coffee – I’ll bring the Amish bacon!

  11. Since most eggs are collected in an unethical manner, we just don’t eat them anymore. But Bubba will give us some of his occasionally, as he has extras (his flock are his veggie farm’s insect pest control, and well cared for). Since he doesn’t sell them, we treat them as they are — a delightful GIFT. They’re so precious, I’d never bake with them, but eat them scrambled (with eggplant…yum!), fried, or poached. They make my grandmother’s dill potato salad recipe divine. You are so right; they taste nothing like store-bought eggs.

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