I love eggs. I eat them poached, coddled, fried, boiled, scrambled or as an omelette. Sometimes nothing hits the spot better than a simple egg salad sandwich on squishy white bread with crunchy lettuce. (Okay not healthy, but this is one of my guilty comforts!) When I order Chinese, I always have the Egg Foo Young, basically a Chinese frittata.
Eggs are personal. Some people just can’t eat eggs. On the other hand, I once cooked for an ova-lactate vegetarian who could eat eggs all day long. Then there are my vegan friends who don’t eat any animal products at all. Others eat only the whites, but I love the entire egg, especially the yolk. These are all personal choices and to be respected.
(Some of my vegans make the argument that they don’t eat eggs because all eggs are a potential life, a position that for me holds no water. Eggs are a byproduct of a hen. Whether there is a Rooster hanging around or not, that little lady is going to drop that egg no matter what. To my thinking, if the egg isn’t fertilized, it’s not really a potential life, is it?).
Before moving to Panama, I pretty much thought an egg was an egg was an egg. I couldn’t have been more wrong, but I only knew what was around me. Before Panama, I had switched to organic eggs after hearing the Buddhist monk, Thich That Hahn explain that “If you are going to eat an egg, eat a happy egg from a happy hen.” But I learned that “organic” doesn’t guarantee the hen is raised in a happy environment and these so-called organic eggs tasted and looked about the same to me with a very pale yellow yolk inside a runny liquid white.
It’s not all about taste for me. No, I’m not an activist vegan for several reasons, but I do respect their cause and their commitment. And, if you haven’t gone online to view how hens are treated at the big egg factories, please do. It is not pleasant. There is nothing remotely good, appetizing or humane about factory farming. It’s destructive and cruel. But it lines the pockets of the big companies and it does offer a less expensive product for people who need to shop economically. The latter point I understand and I have chosen, on my tight budget, to cut corners elsewhere so that I can pay for my happy eggs. My local supermarket, Publix, now offers at least three farm-raised egg options, indicating, at least anecdotally, that the mainstream demand for fresher eggs seems to be increasing. (Links to some of these companies are posted, below.) When I support a company selling “pasture-raised” eggs, I am supporting the local farmers who provide product for these labels.
It wasn’t until we moved to mountains of Panama where my neighbors had hens that I had my Come-To-Jesus moment. These eggs, even those from the supermarket, were delicious! They were rich, rich, rich! The yolks were a deep cadmium yellow, brighter than a school bus, nearly orange and at first I was actually startled by the intensity of color. These gorgeous yolks sat in a firm albumen that stood up on its own when you cracked it into a pan.
All Panama eggs have brown shells. I’ve never seen a white-shelled egg in Panama, but I think this speaks only to the breed of hen. In Mexico, eggs are white and often called “blanquillos” meaning whites. The only drawback to having brown eggs is that if you have little ones, it puts a damper on Easter Egg-dyeing fun … but my neighbor’s hens laid pastel colors eggs, shown in the featured picture for this post, and I was able to get some color on these.
Panama spoiled us forever. I could purchase eggs from my neighbor, Rumelia, for .15cents per. Further up the road, Grandma Gloria , who loved my cakes but who was reluctant to use her propane gas for baking, would share her pastel colored eggs in exchange for some of my oven treats. And at one point, we had a few hens of our own and Honey Bun, the prettiest, sweetest and cleanest hen ever, would come up onto my porch at 7 am, sit outside my kitchen, lay an egg and leave it for me under my table.
The flavor of an egg from a pasture-raised hen is so notably richer that my brother Nicholas, who lives lives in California where there’s a lot of conscious eating going on, exclaimed that the eggs he ate at my Panama house were the best tasting eggs he had ever had. Ever. And he’s traveled the world.
When we moved back to the USA, my son William, who had grown up on Panama eggs, declared that he simply could not eat the supermarket eggs sold in the USA. So I resolved to spend the big bucks! A dozen eggs from pasture-raised hens will cost me anywhere from $4.50 to $5.99 (occasionally more). They are not quite as good as our Panama eggs, but they are noticeably better than the factory raised eggs with their pasty yellow yolks and runny whites.
Note of caution: “Organic” does not mean cage-free. And “Cage-free” does not necessarily mean “Pasture-raised.” “Free-range” might mean that a hen has one square foot of space. So it’s best to get acquainted with the companies who are selling you your eggs. It’s not hard to do: A good company will have a website that answers all your questions under it’s FAQ section. Read on for links…
Here are links from two of the companies I purchase eggs from here in Florida.e Happy Eggs, Nellies. You will find good explanations of the differences between “free range,” “cage free,” and “pasture raised.”