Sunday, January 30, 2011

How can you tell if chicken eggs are truly healthy and flavorful?

Over the last 3 years we have learned a lot about chicken eggs. The most amazing fact we have learned so far is the simple fact that eggs are not all the same. In fact, there is a vast difference in eggs depending on breed, lifestyle, and food source. Unfortunately  the eggs sold in the grocery store rarely live up to the labels on the packaging. The terms used today are confusing, and few people realize how misleading the term is to how the chickens live.

First, you might want to browse or search this blog for a prior posting on the nutrition of eggs. The truth is that eggs change severly in nutritional value based on how the chicken is treated and fed,. Look for the blog post on this for a deeper discussion on this fact.

So the question is, since we now know that eggs change in nutritional value so easily, how do you know if the eggs you are buying are hte best? Well the obvious and acurate way is a lab test. But this isnt practical as a way to rate eggs for yourself. So.... here's some tips. The best egg can be described as:

Yolk Color - The yolk should be bright orange. Yellow yolks are lacking. In fact the more oragne the yolk is over yellow, the more nutritious it is.

Yolk density - The yolk should be thick, almost like a custard. Thin watery yolks are lacking. When you slow fry a good healthy egg, the yolk stays as a tight round ball while the whites cook. In fact the yolk should be difficult to break open, and when it does it should be thick.

White density - The white of hte egg should have two distinct parts to it. If you crack a good egg open on a plate you will see the yolk in the middle surrounded by a thick white that stands up around hte yolk, and that surrounded by the thinner egg white that spreads thin. If there is not two distinct layers to the whites this way, the egg is lacking.

Shell membrane - the soft membrane on the inside of  the shell should be thick and sturdy. When you crack the egg the membrane should be slightly difficult to pull apart. The membrane should hold the egg shell pieces together tightly after cracking agasint a flat surface. If the membrane seems to be nonexistant or is thin, the egg is lacking.

Shell hardness and thickness - The egg shell itself should be sturdy and thick. Cracking the egg should require some force. Shells that are thin and crack easily are lacking.

Apparently a common test by picky chefs for good eggs is the ability to play ball with the yolk. If you can toss the yolk around in a bowl without it breaking open, the egg is good. (this wording corrected thanks to comment below)

Another sign of good eggs is a variety of sizes, shapes, and colors (hues). In nature eggs of the same breed of chicken do not come out identical every time. There should be slight variations in each. If the eggs are totally consistent in shape, size, and color ou can be pretty sure that the chickens are the factory raised genetically bred chickens. Factory style practices strive to produce identical eggs for internal reasons. Nature produces variety.

So, go check your eggs. If they dont look like what is described above, I challenge you to try fome real farm fresh eggs that are truly pacture raised without a steady stream of commercial soy and corn chicken feed. You will be amazed at the diffrence! And remember, if your egg yolks  are yellow, be careful to follow dietary guidelines about not eating too many, they are dangerous to heatlh.


  1. This was a very informative article. Thanks for doing the homework for us!
    Much appreciated.

  2. This is a good list. I have one question: In one part it says the yolk should be difficult to break open, and later it says that if you can toss the yolk around in a bowl without it breaking open, the egg is lacking. Isn't this contradictory? I would also like to comment on using yolk colour as an indicator of egg quality: It is becoming common knowledge that healthy eggs usually have darker yolks. I know of at least one layer farm where the feed has colour added to make the yolks darker, and I would not be surprised if this is now a fairly common practice. The colour is natural, I believe, but deceptive nonetheless. The reason given for this is that consumers want darker yolks, and they want the yolks to be uniformly dark, so that's what they're given. We raise a few chickens on grass with our own feed mix, and the yolk colour varies from egg to egg depending on exactly what the chicken ate recently. Sometimes they're dark, sometimes not, but they're never as dark as the eggs with the colour added to the chicken feed. In fact, sometimes the whites turn a neon yellow/green colour if they've eaten a lot of grass (caused by Vitamin B2, from what I understand). Maybe that should be added to the list of what to look for in an egg- green whites. :)

  3. Wow, Good catch on that statement about the yolk not breaking. I stated it wrongly and never saw it! The yolk should NOT break in a bowl easily, nor when cooking. Tighter, denser, consistent yolks are best. Thank you for that heads up.

    On the color thing, I am constantly amazed at the deception used in the food industry. It is sad that people would go to such lengths to deceive the public depending on them for health. One answer to this is the same thing I preach again and again.. know your farmer and their ways. Food is not unlike medicine, and a farmer should be as carefully chosen as a doctor.