About Me
I'm a Melbourne boy, hailing from St Kilda with one ex, one current wife and four kids. Love the outdoors and making new discoveries. I cook a lot at home (cheers from wife) and do some preserving, mostly jams, pickles and fruit liqueurs. This is the diary of a cooking journey.

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Friday, February 10, 2006
Happy Chickens
I've discovered that there is some research to be done to write a good post for The List, so be patient with me.

Don't you hate it when someone beats you to the punch with an idea for a post. MagicTofu at slurp & burp has written a post titled 'The egg test.' Which of course was the idea I had for a post, so you can check out what he had to say. That's not to say we have the exact same thoughts about it, nor were we the first to think of it. A couple of years ago Rick Stein did an egg test in his Food Heroes series, so I'm comfortable enough to have my say.

Several years ago, I kept hearing that Kangaroo Island free range eggs were fantastic, looked around and discovered the price was certainly fantastic, battery farm eggs were about $2 a dozen and Kangaroo Island eggs about $8 a dozen, this was enough to slow me down for a bit. But eventually my curiosity got the better of me and I purchased some. All foodies know what it's like, truffles $4000 Aust. a kilo (2.2 lbs), after the initial hesitation, your life can never be complete without a try, so you sigh and buy some.

We like our eggs cooked several different ways, but poaching and frying are at the most common method in our household. The thing that was most apparent when cooking with either method, was the Kangaroo Island eggs held together much better than supermarket battery eggs. The white was more gelatinous and disinclined to spread in the pan. Most people would be aware this is a sign of the freshness of the egg but there may be another issue at play.

On one of our regular trips to the Mornington Peninsula, we passed a battery egg farm. Needing some eggs we decided to call in. Chatting to the owner we discussed egg whites and he explained to us that in warmer weather egg whites had a greater tendency to spread. Now the eggs that we purchased were spanking fresh and the weather wasn't particularly hot, when we cooked the eggs they still spread. Why?

There is probably no one answer to this, but I believe it has something to do with diet and exercise and excuse me here, the happiness of the chickens. All of us are aware of stress and the effect it can have on our bodies, why would it be different for chickens? Locked up in small steel cages 24/7, standing on wire mesh, never seeing sunlight, your mate in the next cage trying to peck you all day long when your genes were designed for life in an Asian jungle, dodging the odd predator. I'm no PETA advocate, but I do believe in good animal husbandry and chickens are being short changed.

When we reached the end of our Kangaroo Island eggs there was one left, so I cooked it and a battery egg together, served the good egg to my Wife D., who after a single bite, asked rhetorically if hers was the free range egg. She knew it was and after one bite of my egg I knew there was no going back. Luckily we know some farmer friends who regularly commute to Melbourne, so we have a good supply of fresh free range eggs.

Free range eggs have a superior flavour, are easier to cook with as the white doesn't spread and the egg whites seem to whisk to a greater volume. Home made mayonnaise has a lovely yellow colour from the yolk and I have no fear of salmonella. I still pay more for these eggs, but I think we are buying tastier eggs.

For sure the chickens are happier.
  posted at 1:50 pm

At 9:58 am, Blogger Angela said...

Funny, I have never really thought about it before, but I have to say you are completely right! My grandparents have chickens at their little farm, and the eggs are always delicious.....except for a few days after my children leave. (guess getting chased by crazy children that want to hold the "chickies" causes stress?) But you're right.....happy chickens make happy eggs!!

At 6:19 am, Blogger MagicTofu said...

I am glad you were able to find better eggs. As you were able to read on my post, my quest didn't bring any interesting results yet.

My guess is that the 'organic' eggs available to us from chain grocery stores in this part of Canada are still produced mainly for people who change their shopping habits for environmental and animal rights reasons and not for the "gourmet" (Sorry, for some reason I hate that word... hence the "").

I was able to taste excellent eggs while in China 2 years ago and I am looking for a way to get my hands on similar eggs here since then... it turns out to be extremely difficult... I think I'll need to make friend with a local producer.

At 11:28 am, Blogger neil said...

Hi Angela, I guess because eggs are such an everyday item, we don't pay them much attention, believing that all eggs are the same. I was certainly like that until my first experience with true free range eggs.

Hi MagicTofu, you have touched on another problem, what is true free range and what is not. In Australia, the rules governing how eggs can be labeled, whether battery, barn or free range, seem to be like the rules for Paper Chef, very flexible. I can only say look out for eggs that name the farm they come from and research it a little. Also try different producers until you find one your happy with. It seems to me that the best eggs come from chickens that have access to outside (read sunlight) conditions and can roam freely around.

At 11:59 am, Blogger MagicTofu said...

Tankeduptaco, we also have laws on labelling here but sometimes I feel that producers do the very minimum to be certified and nothing more.

Also, in the province where I live (Quebec) a law was passed recently forcing poultry producers to raise all their birds inside. All that because of the bird flu scare.

At 4:23 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

KI eggs are the best. I'm a resident on the Island, they are NOT $8 a dozzen. More like $3, very reasonably priced

At 10:00 am, Blogger neil said...

Hi anon, I should think that you would get them cheaper on the island too. When I first bought them, they were $8 doz., when supermarket eggs were about $2 doz.. Since then Kangaroo Island egg production has increased and I did notice they were a bit cheaper. They were certainly marketed here in Victoria as exclusive and superior with a price to match. Good luck to you at $3 doz., I buy from a farm at $4 doz. for really good, free range organic eggs.


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