As we have all seen, farm production is becoming a hot topic on television. And as we all know — similar to information on the Internet, you cannot believe everything you see on TV.
I was watching one of my favorite daytime cooking shows in which the chef visits the farm from which the eggs will originate for the dish they are making. They discussed how the brown shell, the organic farm status and deep orange color meant that they were fresh.
Wait a minute! None of those things are true indicators of freshness in eggs.
Contrary to popular belief, shell color has absolutely nothing to do with egg freshness. Characteristics of the shell — such as breaking strength, cracks and other defects — can affect how long an egg will be wholesome and edible; however, the eggshell color is completely predetermined by the bird and is based on their breed. Eggshell colors can range in several shades of blue, green, white, brown and can even be speckled in chickens. In other species of birds, such as quail, eggs have specialized speckling patterns that are specific to each individual bird and there is almost always the same speckled pattern for each egg laid by the bird.
Yolk color is an indicator of beta-carotene content and can be easily manipulated by the feed given to the bird. Throughout the world, some cultures prefer a darker yolk. One way this can be achieved is through feeding beta-carotene-containing products, such as marigold flowers. Still, this is a simple preference for the yolk color. This does not mean a darker yolk is a fresher yolk than a light-yellow yolk. These color preferences can also be seen at manufacturing levels, such as requirements from noodle manufacturers. Some may require egg yolks to be a certain shade of yellow/orange, which will translate into darker noodles for marketing purposes.
Niche markets will always capitalize on different ways to market their product and gain a premium price point. For instance, the United States is one of the few countries that refrigerates its eggs. Knowing the preferences based on the geographical demographics to which you’re marketing can make or break your sales. Some of my favorite misquoted information on the Internet is that if an egg looks old, don’t eat it. Yet, how do we know if an egg is fresh without cracking it open?
The easiest would be to look at the date code. Another super easy way, especially if you are buying locally sourced eggs from a farmer, is to place the egg in a bowl with enough water to cover the egg. If it sinks, the egg is fresh. If one end floats, it means that the egg is beginning to get older. Now, if the egg floats, this does not mean that you cannot eat it. The opposite is true. This is a good indicator this egg would be a good candidate for boiling and will be easier to peel than an egg that sinks. So why does the egg float? The floating is an indicator of the increasing size of the air space located inside the egg. As the egg ages, the inner membranes that keep the albumin and yolk in place separate, which increases the size of the air space. This air space allows the egg to float.
Egg freshness can be very important when eggs are used as ingredients; however, consumers appear to be looking at the wrong attributes to gauge egg freshness. Consumer education could be the answer. Finding ways to influence consumer media members would be a great start — creating a more reliable source for millions of consumers. NP