This picture shows 2 eggs from a local farmstand and 4 eggs from a carton of Trader Joe’s Organic Eggs that I bought at a Trader Joe’s store. Can you tell which ones are from the farmstand? (They are the darker colored ones, at approximately 12:00 and 3:00 positions). There is a difference in eggs. The color of the yolk reflects the food that the chicken ate. Chickens that eat weeds and other things that grow will provide greater nutrition and more intensely colored yolks than caged hens on factory farms that eat only grain or pellets. The term “organic,” when applied to eggs, simply means that the chickens ate organic feed. It does not mean that the chickens were allowed to roam freely on the farm. “Free Range,” when applied to eggs, means that the chickens were allowed to roam freely, but not necessarily in a large space, as you might envision. Michael Pollan’s book The Omnivore’s Dilemma describes how little space is actually required for a chicken to be labeled “free range.” If you know that the chickens laying your eggs live on a small farm or even in someone’s backyard with a few other chickens, you can imagine that they have plenty of time and space to roam around, eating grass, bugs, and whatever else they can find. These foods make the chicken healthier and their yolks a brighter yellow or orange, depending upon what exactly they are consuming. You are better off consuming these eggs than organic supermarket eggs or especially non-organic, non free-range, supermarket eggs. In Connecticut, we have a brand called “Farmer’s Cow,” which supplies eggs and milk (also half and half and ice cream). They sell only in Connecticut, New York and Southern New England. Their products are not labeled organic, but I think it is healthier to buy products from small local farms than from large organic farms, and it is certainly “greener” to buy from a small local farm than from an organic farm that is far away and requires significant resources for transportation to your kitchen. If you live in a different region of the country, you should investigate local brands that might be available to you that can supply you with eggs and other products from small farms where chickens live the way they do in children’s story books. If your grocery store doesn’t have local products, perhaps you can find a farmer’s market that has eggs for sale.
Another thing that I wanted to discuss today was the use of residual heat in cooking. Using residual heat, by turning off the stove or oven before you finish cooking something, and allowing the heat that is still there for some time to finish cooking your food, you save energy and reduce your carbon footprint. It is a small thing, but if you start thinking about doing this and make it a habit, you are taking one of many baby steps that will make a difference. Doing lots of small things, and thinking about the impact your actions have on the planet, will reduce the amount of fossil fuels that need to be extracted from the earth and the amount of carbon emissions that pollute the environment and cause climactic havoc.
As an example, you can use residual heat to boil eggs. I made hard-boiled eggs this morning, with some beautiful eggs given to me by a friend who raises chickens in her backyard. I put them in a pan with cold water, covered the pan and turned the stove on. As soon as the water started to boil, I turned off the stove and let them sit on the stove for about twenty minutes. You can probably do it in less time than that (maybe 10 minutes), but I got distracted. Then just peel and eat! Yum!