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Eggs!

My mother was a country girl who grew up on a small farm in the southwestern region of South Korea near Mokpo. My grandfather repaired bicycles and raised white sweet potatoes on the rich red soil. My mother and her friends often collected the abundant eggs scattered all over the fields from the chickens everyone in the neighborhood raised. She said that all the chickens, no matter how far they went, no matter how much they mingled with other chickens, came home at night to their own coops and families. No chicken got lost or confused or ran away to join the circus.

I’m an American city girl, but I don’t live in a big city. The downside of a not-big city is that the best of country life and the best of city life both elude you. I’m surrounded by farms, yet Chicagoans have better access to grass-fed beef. I’m surrounded by restaurants, but I can’t find dim sum. This is my way of explaining why it wasn’t until today that I finally got my hands on the kind of eggs my mother might have eaten.

Frightened Pastured Chickens In Danger eggs

Another wrinkle of a not-big city is that farmers who come here have just enough knowledge to know what sells but not quite enough knowledge to market perfectly to obsessive food-blog readers like me. My egg lady knew that putting up a sign that said “Free Range Eggs” would get attention. What she didn’t know was that a food nerd would cross-examine her. Legally, a free range chicken can be raised indoors as long as it has access to the outdoors, access that most free range chickens never use because they’re too busy with their Wii or whatever it is chickens do. So this was our conversation.

Me: Are your chickens pastured?
Egg lady: Muh? They’re free range.
Me: I mean do they, uh…run around outside ‘n stuff? [Wiggle forefinger and middle finger back and forth to emphasize my running point. Atticus Finch I am not.]
Egg lady: Oh yes. Well except at night, when they go in their coop. [Lowers voice.] See, I live near the woods.

Well that sealed it. If natural pastured chickens are great, pastured chickens in danger from woodland predators are downright awesome. How much more natural can you get than imminent death by fangs? Even my mom never ate eggs from frightened chickens. Her chickens had it good. A dozen brown Frightened Pastured Chickens In Danger eggs cost me only three dollars, a staggeringly good price for pastured eggs, especially in light of recent price hikes, not to mention the Danger.

The eggs are charming. They differ in size and shape. Some are evenly tan, some are freckled, some have spots. A few have bits of grass stuck to them or a misty white coating. I cradled one in my hand and realized that for the first time ever, I was holding an egg that had not been sanitized in a manner required by the United States Department of Agriculture, an egg that had not been transported at temperatures no higher than 45 degree Fahrenheit, an egg that had not been rinsed to remove the protective cuticle that keeps the natural pores in the eggs closed and allows for unrefrigerated storage outside the U.S. where this rinsing isn’t required, and egg that had gone through almost no processing, an egg that that had, I began to understand, come to me with little intervention, i.e., an egg that was fresh from the chicken’s butt.

Or wherever the egg comes out, I don’t know. I don’t want to know. You think it hurts?

Explore posts in the same categories: Animals, Photos, Tales

10 Comments on “Eggs!”

  1. Carolyn T at tastingspoons.com Says:

    Loved your story about the eggs! You had me in stitches. When I was a young child and I’d visit my grandparents, I’d sometimes visit my cousin’s house nearby and they had a chicken (for eggs) ranch. They’d pay me something (am sure it wasn’t much) if I’d go along the rows and collect the eggs. And then they taught me how to sort the sizes and check for embryos. Those that didn’t make the right size, weight or color were eaten by the family, so I certainly had plenty of the eggs that were oddball (like funny blue dots on the shell) or things like that. I do appreciate your desire, though, for the pure, unadulterated eggs. The eggs I collected weren’t from free range – this was back in the 1940’s or early 50’s, so nobody knew anything about free range vs. caged. Anyway, I always enjoy your blog. And thanks for the cute story!

  2. Trig Says:

    Welcome back. Lol!

  3. Emily Says:

    Great post. You really hit on something we at Animal Welfare Approved have been working to fix: many times, the farmers producing the best food don’t get credit for it! In order to remedy this, we have launched the “Animal Welfare Approved” seal, which farmers meeting our standards can use for free. This goes beyond “free range”; “cage free”; and even “pastured”; because it includes all of these claims and is actually verified through a third-party audit. We have the most stringent animal welfare standards of any third party certifier (according to the World Society for the Protection of Animals), and our laying hen standards were recently called chicken “utopia” by the New York Times. If the farmer you bought your eggs from doesn’t know about our program, please spread the word! Certification is free, and its a great way to show customers how the animals were raised–when they see the Animal Welfare Approved seal, they know the birds were raised on pasture in small flocks and actually lived like chickens. To read our complete standards or to find a farm near you, visit (www.AnimalWelfareApproved.org).

    p.s. I think it would be, “fresh from the chicken’s cloaca.” :)

  4. protected static Says:

    p.s. I think it would be, “fresh from the chicken’s cloaca.” :)

    Yup. Multi-purpose plumbing.

    Sometimes, not even returning to the coop is good enough… My parents had a batch of hens that never got the concept of roosting – they would just nest on the floor of the coop. They did this until a raccoon got into the coop one night and wrought bloody havoc on a couple of them. Needless to say, the survivors roosted from then on.

    My folks called it “Learning by the ‘Oh, sh!t!’ method.”

  5. emiglia Says:

    What I want to know is… were they tasty? Hope you’ll be back to posting recipes shortly! I can’t wait to see what you did with your frightened eggs…

  6. Annie Says:

    Carolyn: Loved hearing your egg story. I think my mom didn’t check for embryos because there was no rooster, so she had it easier.

    Trig: Thanks!

    Emily: That’s a fascinating and much-needed program, I’ll definitely look into it. And thanks for teaching me a new word. I will work it into as many conversations as possible from now on. :p

    protected static: Ha! Who know frightened chickens would be smarter chickens?

    emiglia: I didn’t notice a difference in taste. What I did notice was that the yolk was thicker and wouldn’t run when I popped it in the pan. Generally the yolk runs all over. That’s impressive freshness.

  7. Kavita Favelle Says:

    Ha, this is great. I have your blog bookmarked in my foodie blogs folder but seldom have time to sit and enjoy the many wonderful blogs I have found over the years. I visited today for the first time in a while and just loved your egg post! Infact, I’m going to share the link to it with a few friends! :)
    THANK YOU!

  8. Bon Appegeek « Food(,) I Notice Says:

    […] a blog called Bon Appegeek, with supremely interesting recipes like nurungji, commentaries on eggs, and images like […]

  9. parsnips aplenty Says:

    How crazy to think that this was the first time you’d ever had an egg uncoated with USDA mineral oil. I remember reading once about a chef in Switzerland who apologized to an unassuming American diner that the eggs were not going to be bright orange as usual since it was winter and the grasses weren’t as plentiful.

    I grew up eating eggs right out of a chicken’s butt, but I remember the day I realized that eggs taste different in different places, due to different diets. It blew my mind a little bit.

  10. Annie Says:

    Kavita: You’re very welcome! And thanks!

    parsnips aplenty: It’s fascinating. My yolk wasn’t that orange but it was definitely the densest I’ve seen–it barely oozed when I popped it. Quite surprising.