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Rural Living for April 08, 2010

Farm fresh eggs

by Carol Dunn

HUERFANO– One of the benefits of living in a rural area is being able to buy farm fresh eggs.  While the eggs you buy in the grocery store can be up to two months old under USDA regulations, the farm fresh eggs you buy are usually only days old.  Most people who have had fresh eggs agree that they taste far better than store-bought eggs.

    Farm fresh eggs may also be fertile, although one cooperative extension website and numerous poultry blogs emphasize that there is no scientific evidence that fertile eggs are nutritionally superior to infertile ones.  And don’t even think about finding a baby chick in a fertile egg.  The embryo will not begin to develop in a fertile egg until it is incubated at 99 degrees.

    Although you may have heard people talk about the superiority of brown eggs, the shell color of an egg simply depends on the type of hen that laid it.  If hens are fed the same type of food, their eggs will be nutritionally equivalent regardless of shell color.  A hen’s diet greatly affects the taste of the eggs she lays.  Many small flock owners allow their hens to free range, where they will consume plants, seeds and insects.  They may also supplement their grain rations with table scraps.  On the other hand, feed mixes for commercial layers can contain medications and additives to increase production. 

    Eggs can retain their quality for about a week without refrigeration, but most people refrigerate them so they will keep longer.  In our dry climate, refrigeration is a good idea, since the eggshell is slightly porous.  When refrigerated, a farm fresh egg is usable for 13 weeks under USDA guidelines.

    Trying to peel hard boiled fresh eggs can be a frustrating experience.  If you want to hard boil your farm fresh eggs, refrigerate them for about two weeks.  Granted, they won’t be as fresh, but they need to lose some carbon dioxide before they will peel easily after hard boiling.

    If an egg white is cloudy, this is just another sign of a fresh egg.  The cloudiness is caused by the naturally occurring carbon dioxide, which dissipates the longer you store the egg.  Blood spots occur in less than one percent of eggs.  Although they bother some people, they are perfectly safe.  Since blood spots fade over time, a bright spot is a sign that the egg is fresh.  Although they may be difficult to remove from an uncooked egg, this can be accomplished if it’s important to the cook.

    Farm fresh eggs are usually more expensive than store-bought eggs because they are much more expensive to produce.  Small producers usually do not have the benefit of buying feed in bulk.  They will also lose more birds to predators, and since most do not use chemicals or antibiotics, they can lose birds now and then to viruses or disease.  It can be pricey to maintain a small laying flock.  Being willing to pay more for farm fresh eggs honors the time and financial commitments of the small flock owner.