Are Free-Range Eggs Better?

Are Free-Range Eggs Better?
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two eggs
The contenders: a popular “Best” egg versus an egg from Josh’s foraging fowls.

It seems that whenever we talk about ingredients, we mention that you should go out and find true free-range eggs, and, we claim that they taste better, it’s better for the chickens, and so on. We know that many of you hear: “Free-range, blah, blah, blah. Blah, blah, blah, chickens, blah.” We don’t blame you. It’s difficult to find true free-range eggs (really, you should look for pastured, since that means that the chickens were fed on a pasture, but we’ll use the term free-range), they’re more expensive, and eggs are eggs, right?

No. Eggs are not eggs. When we first switched to free-range eggs, we didn’t notice a difference. They looked like eggs, they tasted like eggs, nothing seemed different. So, the following week, we picked up a dozen eggs at the store. And, we happened to make an omelet. Only this omelet was different; it was tasteless. The light bulb came on: it was only after we tasted free-range eggs that we found out how poor-tasting ordinary eggs are. Now, unfortunately, we can’t invite everyone over to do a side-by-side taste test, because then it would be obvious, but we can do the following. A side-by-side visual test.

So, let’s compare two eggs, side by side. An Eggland’s Best, which is supposed to be a “superior egg that is the best in quality, taste, and freshness,” according to the company’s web site. And, an egg from Josh’s Foraging Fowls, where the hens are pasture raised “with the goodness of grass.” Now, we have no idea how Eggland raises its hens, but we can tell you that Josh’s hens scratch in the dirt, eat grasses and other leafy greens, munch down bugs, and are moved from one location to another on a regular basis. Basically, they are raised as hens. We know this because we’ve had the privilege to talk with Josh and meet his flock, and see everything in person. Using these two eggs, we made two batches of pasta dough, trying to keep everything the same between batches.

two eggs
The contenders: a popular “Best” egg versus an egg from Josh’s foraging fowls.

The eggs from Josh’s Foraging Fowls are unclassified, meaning they are not separated by size. Some are small, and some are large; this one is probably medium, while the Eggland’s Best egg is a large.

best egg
The yolk from the “best” egg.

We measured out 95 grams of all-purpose flour and 5 grams of oil, and added the egg yolk to make pasta dough (we don’t like super eggy pasta, so we have to add a small amount of water). Here, the Eggland’s best egg yolk looks nice and yellow. Let’s look at the egg yolk from Josh’s Foraging Fowls.

josh's egg
The yolk of an egg from Josh’s Foraging Fowls.

Maybe a bit more orange, don’t you think? Now, side-by-side in the pasta dough.

pasta dough
Side by side pasta dough. The “Best” egg makes pasty-colored pasta, while the foraging fowls’ version is a deeper yellow.

There you have it: the pasta dough on the right is from a foraging fowl, that on the left is made using the “best” egg that you can buy at the store. Now, we will fully admit that we didn’t compare nutrition, and that the color of egg yolks might not indicate which is the better egg, but we can definitely tell you which one tastes better, and you can see for yourself which makes a nicer-looking egg pasta dough.

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