Any special guidelines for farm-fresh eggs
March 31, 2011 10:50 AM   Subscribe

What's the 411 on home grown eggs? A guy at work has some chickens and is sharing the bounty.

Don't laugh, I was raised entirely on hamburger helper, microwaved chicken and green beans from a can. I am just venturing out into this strange world of 'fresh' food.

Is there any difference to store-bought eggs I should know? Are they ok in meringues, or easy-over? Or should I make sure they're thoroughly cooked?
posted by Caravantea to Food & Drink (41 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
What's the 411 on home grown eggs?

They are tasty.

And should be as safe in uncooked preparations as store bought eggs (i.e., not perfectly.)
posted by kestrel251 at 10:54 AM on March 31, 2011

Assuming he's not feeding the chickens a steady diet of Cheetoes and Monsanto Chicken Chow they're probably going to be better than any store bought eggs you've ever had. Much fresher, too.

Did you ever have a neighbor give you a home-grown tomato? Think of it that way.

This is good. You want this. More people should have access to home grown/raised food.
posted by bondcliff at 10:54 AM on March 31, 2011 [8 favorites]

Best answer: There is probably less risk from the home-grown eggs than the store bought ones. Don't wash them until right before you use them (they have sort of a protective coating) but then wash them well right before you use them because they almost certainly have some poop on them and you don't want that in your food.
posted by brainmouse at 10:55 AM on March 31, 2011 [8 favorites]

They're perfectly safe. Wash the shells off before cracking them open, if your coworker hasn't already done that. Otherwise use normally. Depending on the chickens' diet, they could be the best eggs you've ever had.
posted by jon1270 at 10:55 AM on March 31, 2011

Best answer: home-grown eggs are on the whole much, much, much safer than factory-farmed eggs. Salmonella tends to thrive and spread among closely-packed chickens. Depending on how he's keeping his hens, I would feel much more confident using them in raw or less-cooked applications than I would store-bought eggs (mayonnaise, salad dressing, sauces, etc.).

They'll probably be fresher, too, making them nicer for poached eggs and the like.
posted by peachfuzz at 10:55 AM on March 31, 2011

Best answer: The only difference is that they'll be fresher, the yolk might be a darker yellow, and the outsides of the eggs may not have been washed -- so treat them as you would any potentially-poop-touched thing. (I usually don't do anything but rinse and dry them, but it might be a good idea to wash them with a mild soap.) Enjoy!
posted by chowflap at 10:55 AM on March 31, 2011

Best answer: I've got chickens in my yard and honestly don't think they taste any different from store bought eggs. They're likely to be quite a bit fresher than store-bought eggs so they'll be way better for poached eggs (they hold together better) and much worse for hard boiled eggs (really difficult to peel).
posted by foodgeek at 10:56 AM on March 31, 2011 [3 favorites]

His hens are probably healthier than industrial hens. That's not a guarantee against salmonella but it can't hurt.

Depending on what the hens eat the eggs may be much richer and more brightly colored than store-bought— this can be surprising at first. I love 'em.

[On preview: Joining the chorus]
posted by hattifattener at 10:56 AM on March 31, 2011

(i.e., not perfectly.)

Okay, maybe not perfectly.
posted by jon1270 at 10:56 AM on March 31, 2011

Eggs from good small farming practices are the same as store bought eggs, except better in every way. They are especially good for less thoroughly cooked preparations like sunny side up or poached (assuming A Guy At Work farms well and keeps the eggs fresh/cold).

On preview, basically what everyone said.
posted by domnit at 10:57 AM on March 31, 2011

You have taken your first step into a larger world, my friend. Do not be shocked when you first see the color of the yolk.
posted by entropicamericana at 10:57 AM on March 31, 2011 [3 favorites]

If they're straight from the chicken, you can actually store them outside the fridge, as long as you have somewhere that's cool and relatively constant in temperature. Wash the shells before you use them.
posted by holgate at 11:03 AM on March 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: They may be somewhat smaller than what you're used to using, if you're in the habit of buying "Large" or even bigger eggs at the grocery store, but when I had chickens I rarely had any problems using my eggs to bake with--I specifically raised chickens that laid pretty big eggs for this reason, but a lot of popular backyard chickens do lay really small eggs.

Since they'll be much fresher than commercial eggs, you'll find them harder to peel if you hard-boil them. Older eggs peel more easily because the shells have allowed a bit of air to penetrate, but since homegrown eggshells are less porous, it takes even longer for the eggs to "age" to be ideal for hardcooking.

In general I noticed fluctuation in shell color and thickness and yolk color depending on the season (and the chickens' diet, which also somewhat depended on the season as my family eats pretty much in-season). So you may notice that the shells in a few months will be much thicker than they are right now, for example.
posted by padraigin at 11:17 AM on March 31, 2011

What? I've never washed an egg in my life, homegrown or storebought. And I eat a LOT of eggs. And I've never ever gotten sick from any of them—raw, boiled, what-have you. You guys are nuts!

And yes, provided the chickens are allowed to forage, their eggs will taste better than storebought factory eggs (though not necessarily better than storebought free-range, though they'll have a freshness advantage).
posted by bricoleur at 11:17 AM on March 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I have pet chickens. To sum up: you'll probably be sorry you tried these eggs, because they will ruin you for store-bought eggs.

You will probably be surprised by the bright color of the yolk. The bright color is due to carotenes which are super good for you, in addition to indicating the excellent health and nutrition of the hen.

When you crack it into a pan, note the way the yolk stands up high, and the white doesn't splutch out but keeps tight together. These are the signs of a really fresh egg. The older an egg is, the less structure it has, and the more watery it becomes.

You may find blood spots. These are just abnormalities in the egg's growth. They aren't "baby chickens" or anything. It's just a little thing. Pick it out if it really disturbs you, or just whip it on in. It's fine.

Grocery store eggs can be up to nine months old. I can guarantee you have probably never had an egg this fresh.

Pastured eggs from healthy hens fed a good diet have up to 30% less cholesterol than store-bought (factory farmed) eggs, and three times higher levels of the good kind of omega fatty acids.

The shells will probably be heavier than you're used to. That's because they come from hens bred to produce a normal amount of eggs, and fed a diet rich in calcium. The faster a hen has to produce an egg (in factory farmed conditions) the thinner the shell. I crack my eggs using the edge of a butter knife.

The only down side is that if you hard boil them, they will be notably harder to peel. As an egg ages, it gradually loses moisture. This moisture loss causes shrinkage, which is what separates the egg from the shell. That separation is what makes hard boiled eggs easier to peel. Standard advice among chicken owners is to keep the eggs in the fridge for an extra 1-2 weeks if you want to hard boil them.

Speaking of which, there's no rush. These eggs will be good for up to two months if kept refrigerated. But I'm willing to bet they won't last that long!
posted by ErikaB at 11:20 AM on March 31, 2011 [10 favorites]

Best answer: What? I've never washed an egg in my life, homegrown or storebought. And I eat a LOT of eggs. And I've never ever gotten sick from any of them—raw, boiled, what-have you. You guys are nuts!

Storebought eggs are already washed. Homegrown ones are often covered in poop. Regardless of it making me sick or not, poop tastes bad, and I do not want it in my food, so I wash it off before I crack the eggs. This is just common sense.
posted by brainmouse at 11:24 AM on March 31, 2011 [4 favorites]

I've seen homegrown eggs with little pin feathers stuck to the dried lubricant that allows the egg to slip from the chicken's cloaca. The poop comes from the same hole as well. So wash them and enjoy the way humans have done for millenia. Not a big deal.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 11:37 AM on March 31, 2011

bricoleur: "What? I've never washed an egg in my life, homegrown or storebought. And I eat a LOT of eggs. And I've never ever gotten sick from any of them..."

You just ate eggs with poop on them is all.
posted by dozo at 11:39 AM on March 31, 2011 [2 favorites]

Eat them quickly to take advantage of how incredibly fresh they are. You will taste the difference.
posted by BlahLaLa at 11:44 AM on March 31, 2011

I've never washed my friends' homegrown eggs either, but I will now. (I did cook them fully though, not from health concerns but because I like my eggs overhard.)
posted by joannemerriam at 11:54 AM on March 31, 2011

Best answer: Actually, just to be a party pooper, there is peer-reviewed research from Europe showing that free-range chickens have higher levels of persistent bioaccumulating chemicals (PCBs, dioxins) than "industrial farm" eggs - even when the chickens were raised in areas with no known soil contamination. That's because these chemicals love to be stored in fat (also the reason we worry about breastfeeding babies), are now ubiquitous on the planet, and get taken up when the chickens forage in dirt.

So, in fact, you might get higher levels of these toxic chemicals if the chickens are free-range. However, there are so many other benefits to local, home-grown eggs (freshness, fewer pathogens, greater nutritional density - to name just a few) that I would still recommend eating the local, non-industrial eggs. Unless I was worried his back yard used to be a transformer yard or something something similar.

If your friend largely keeps his hens in a hen house, none of the above applies. But either way, enjoy!
posted by ldthomps at 12:01 PM on March 31, 2011

They rule. A little white vinegar helps when washing the shells.
posted by matildaben at 12:03 PM on March 31, 2011

The yolk will seem like it's atomic orange compared to industrial eggs. If you like wet scrambled eggs, you are in for a real treat because that yolk contains so much NOM NOM NOM.
posted by WeekendJen at 12:07 PM on March 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: the chickens would eat them too if they knew how delicious they are

I wouldn't necessarily use them for meringues, though. First off, don't waste those tasty yolks, they are much better than yolks of mass-produced store-bought eggs. And, as a couple people above have noted, as eggs age the moisture content changes (I think the pH might also, just a little), and the home-produced eggs are probably fresher than mass-produced store-bought eggs- the whites might be a little stringy.
posted by Prince_of_Cups at 12:22 PM on March 31, 2011

Yeah, like ErikaB said, the only thing to worry about with homegrown chicken eggs is the fact that they'll ruin you for store-bought eggs. We got fresh eggs from a friend of ours for about a year and they were just awesome. Wash them off before using and all's well.

(The only reason we stopped eating them was that our own ducks started laying. The only risk there is that duck eggs will ruin you for chicken eggs!)
posted by usonian at 12:41 PM on March 31, 2011

Anecdotally, I've had a little bit of trouble with fresh-from-the-chicken eggs, in that I can never get the egg whites to beat properly. Might have something to do with what the chickens were eating, but they're much less forgiving than store-bought eggs if you're trying to make a meringue. The yolks are an awesome and intimidating shade of orange that you've never seen, and the whole eggs taste better than anything you'll buy in the store, but if you're going for whipped egg-whites, you might run into some trouble. (Throw the bowl you're going to use into the freezer for 10 minutes, and make sure your beaters are cold, and you can probably coax some results out of them, but just be aware that they'll be much less forgiving than you're used to. Or just use your awesome fresh eggs for other things.)
posted by Mayor West at 12:50 PM on March 31, 2011

You just ate eggs with poop on them is all.

Only if you ate the shells.

I wash them off if there is actual visible stuff on them, and once in a while there is, but mostly there isn't and my suspicion is that the poop that is on eggs is nearly always from the chickens poopy feet, not from the vent. Chickens are fun, and sweet, but not particularly smart when it comes to not stepping chicken poop.
posted by dirtdirt at 12:54 PM on March 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

If I'm cooking (or making drinks), the only eggs I'll eat (or drink) raw or undercooked are those from someone's backyard. When I kept chickens I made a lot of cocktails with egg whites.

(I won't pass up steak tartare at a good place, though.)

The salmonella you're thinking of when you think of raw eggs comes from an infection the hen already has, not anything that happens when eggs are stored or cooked improperly. In a factory-farmed egg that's got salmonella in it, it was there when the egg was formed, before it was laid. It is much, much less likely that a backyard chicken will have a chronic salmonella infection -- that's something that happens in high-density chicken operations. Chickens are pretty healthy critters in general until you shove them all together in a shed.
posted by fiercecupcake at 1:04 PM on March 31, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for the pointers/affirmation everyone. I know the eggs are a good thing. I'm totally geeked to be getting them. I'm just... well, I'm partly an auditor, so I tend to react to every new situation with 'where's my work instruction?'

I can't wait to go home and try these. They look awesome. Thanks everyone!
posted by Caravantea at 1:10 PM on March 31, 2011

A coworker brings me homegrown eggs. You are blessed!!!!
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 1:29 PM on March 31, 2011

Just to second what everyone else said, my sister used to supply us with lots of eggs (FROM HER HENS) and they are absolutely amazing, I was gobsmacked when I realised just how amazingly tasty they are.

As for washing them, I've never been too concerned with it. Any semi-skilled egg cracker can slip them straight into the pan/poacher without the contents ever touching the container.
posted by hnnrs at 2:06 PM on March 31, 2011

A co-worker used to bring in the eggs from his chickens until some predatory animal broke into his henhouse and killed them all. Being a Philistine when it comes to the taste (to me no difference, old vs. new) the freshness wasn't so much of an issue, but I really appreciated his dozen for a dollar price (but note he required including an empty egg-crate with the payment, a practice you might adopt as well).
posted by Rash at 2:12 PM on March 31, 2011

You just ate eggs with poop on them is all.

Nah, I just ate the insides. Mostly. Once in a while a little shell gets in the pan but hey, I don't run screaming from every little germ.

And if you've ever watched chickens forage, you know that you've eaten eggs with poop in them unless you've only ever eaten factory eggs. But that's an important flavor component in your free-range egg.
posted by bricoleur at 2:30 PM on March 31, 2011 [2 favorites]

Oh my! I wish you could memail me some. Eat up and enjoy!
posted by cool breeze at 2:58 PM on March 31, 2011

I took a walk through an adjoining neighborhood a few weeks ago, and as I passed a house, something squawked at me! I thought about going up to the door and offering the owner five bucks for some extremely fresh eggs but lacked the nerve. Enjoy the homegrown eggs!
posted by pinky at 3:55 PM on March 31, 2011

that yolk contains so much NOM NOM NOM.

Agreed and quoted for TRUTH!

I just bought 2 dozen free-range brown eggs from our street market on Tuesday night. They are probably the biggest eggs I've ever bought - they have a notably brighter yolk and a silly amount of fresh NOMNOMNOM that is absent in store bought eggs.
FWIW, this morning's were poached and featured a double yolk - so an extra NOM was enjoyed.

I wash mine on the advice of a family member who spent her summers on a farm.

Enjoy your eggs!
posted by Cookbooks and Chaos at 4:57 PM on March 31, 2011

make cheesecake with them!! oh my god I'm so jealous. enjoy.
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:47 PM on March 31, 2011

Pastured eggs have much better nutrition - more vitamins, minerals, omega-3 fats, and less omega-6 fats. They are an excellent food! Don't worry about dietary cholesterol, the liver makes more than you eat anyways and there's no good reason to believe that it's harmful.
posted by Earl the Polliwog at 8:48 PM on March 31, 2011

We should have got our chooks years before we did. That is all.
posted by flabdablet at 12:21 AM on April 1, 2011

My free-range happy hens produced way more eggs than we could eat, but for some reason our friends and family were oddly squeamish about taking them after we described the hens' favorite hunting method (grabbing a cricket in their beaks and bashing it against the ground until it died)--and, of course, revealing the fact that the little buggers ate insects. They were great for all kinds of things, like bug hunting in the garden--but man! The egg pile-up!

They were great eggs, but I never did manage to peel a hard-boiled egg from our hens, no matter how long I aged them. Months sometimes. Happy healthy chickies apparently put down a heckuva lot more shell.
posted by galadriel at 9:03 PM on April 1, 2011

The bugs are where the chickens get the omega-3s and vitamins! Factory-raised, grain-fed chickens have eggs full of inflammatory omega-6 fats. It's not as bad as vegetable oil, but hens that eat bugs lay the best eggs.
posted by Earl the Polliwog at 9:42 PM on April 1, 2011

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