Monday, February 25, 2013

The semi-myth of those stand up egg whites

The "kids" grow up so fast it seems.  Only 8 months ago, they were little egg-sized balls of fluff.  Now they are cackling and crowing young adults.  It's probably a good thing that we don't have any real close neighbors because when all the girls (and the two boys) get to "talking", the noise level in the chicken barn is quite loud.  So far this winter has been bearable.  We've had stretches when the ground is covered by snow, but we've also had several mid-winter thaws that have taken us back to green grass a time or two.  The chickens love being outside when the snow is gone.

But when the snow is on the ground, they excitedly run to the barn door when it is opened and promptly come to a screeching halt at the edge of the concrete.  Sometimes there is a major chicken pile up with the ones in the back plowing into the ones in front at the edge of the snow.  Except for a few brave older hens, most of my chickens will not step foot on snow.

Right now we have about half of our older hens laying as well as the majority of the 8 month old birds.  I even bought a few Americaunas for the first time and their green eggs are a big hit with the kids that show up at the farmers market with their parents.  And talk about a variety of size.  When chickens first start laying eggs, the eggs are small.  Gradually the eggs increase in size.  My older hens are laying a lot of extra large eggs right now while the younger hens eggs are more medium in size.

Now that the "youngsters" are laying regularly, I finally have the opportunity to write about the semi-myth of stand up egg whites and what that says about the age of an egg.  First you need to know there are actually four parts to the egg white.  Two of those parts are closely associated with the yolk.  The other two parts are the egg white that is seen when you crack an egg open on to a frying pan.  There is a thick gel-like part closer to the center and then a thin watery egg white that spreads to the outside.  As an egg sits in your refrigerator, it gets older and as an egg gets older, that thick gel-like part of the egg white gets thinner and flatter.  Therefore it is often written that if you crack open an egg and the egg white is watery and does not stand up tall then that egg is old.  This is true for store bought eggs that are graded when they leave the farm.  But there is a HUGE exception to this rule of thumb that is often seen in eggs that come from small backyard flocks.  These are the eggs that will often be for sale at farmers markets.

Several years back I had a customer complain that the eggs I was selling were old because the egg whites were very watery.  That is what he had been told and probably what he had experienced with his store bought eggs.  Well we sell out our eggs every week at the summer market so the absolutely oldest egg is seven days old.  I collect them, I wash and sanitize them and into the refrigerator they go.  So why would I be selling eggs with watery egg whites?  The answer is that I have hens in my flock that are much older than in commercial flocks.  As hens get older, egg whites have more and more of the thin watery part and less and less of the thick gel part.  Some hens have eggs that do this more than others.  When I look at my eggs in the egg basket, I can tell you which eggs will have thick stand up egg whites and which ones have thin watery egg whites.  Since there is no difference in flavor or nutritional value in eggs from older hens, I choose to keep my hens for an extra laying season compared to the big egg farms.  It is what I do.

And for a demonstration, I recently cracked open two eggs into a fry pan when I was making Sunday breakfast.  Both eggs were less than 24 hours old.  The egg on the upper left came from one of my old hens.  The egg on the lower right is from one of the young hens.

So there you have it.  If you buy eggs from someone who has a small flock of chickens and happen to get some eggs with watery egg whites, those eggs are more than likely not old eggs.  They are just eggs from old hens. Same farm fresh tasty goodness.

1 comment:

  1. Very nice to know! I always wondered why some eggs were "runnier" than others! Thank you!