Good Eggs: Some Eggcellent Advice From Two of Chicago’s Eggsperts
With Easter right around the corner, I thought it was appropriate to revisit the age old question, what makes a good egg? I couldn’t find any of Batman’s nemesis, Egghead’s tear gas eggs laid by chickens fed on a diet of onions. But I did go to two people I think of as Egg-sperts in the Egg world here in Chicago, Ina Pinckney of Ina’s and Stanley Rutledge of Stop Foodborne Ilness. The ones above in the center, seeming to exude Easter pinks without any touchup to the photograph, are from Kinnikinnick Farm at the Green City Market. Having worked for Farmer David Cleverdon last Fall, I saw first hand how sought after his eggs are. We would be sold out, sometimes as soon as two hours after the market opened. Dave’s chickens are raised completely organically, no antibiotics given to the hens or arsenic in the feed and the eggs in the picture above just exude life, energy, health, good food!! One thing I did learn from Dave, speaking to him at the market last week, he has to wash his eggs in order to legally be able to sell them. But he recommended if you ever have the chance of farm fresh eggs, not to wash them, the hen puts a protective coating on the eggs. With the coating on it, the eggs will last much longer.
I still wondered what makes a good egg? Why all the worry over Salmonella in eggs and I decided to go to one of the top egg-sperts in Chicago that I know of, Ina, the Breakfast Queen, who is celebrating the 12th anniversary this year of her eponymous restaurant. I asked Ina, what makes a good egg? “Freshness is what I seek in any egg preparation I make. When I’m home on Mondays, I ALWAYS have the same breakfast which is 2 eggs up, toast and coffee. I adore sunny side up eggs but can never eat them at work since I like to eat them immediately and that ain’t never gonna happen at work!”
With the fear of Salmonella out there, what should customers be asking when they go into a restaurant, “Because we switched to pasteurized eggs years ago, my customers never need to ask if they can have soft poached or eggs up. Customers might ask if the eggs are organic, but that doesn’t mean safe. Only pasteurized eggs are safe.” For anyone concerned about eggs, Salmonella and what they are eating. Ina, has done the due diligence for you with her eggs!!!
Stanley at Foodborne Illness points out, “Chickens carry the bacteria in their own bodies, and pass Salmonella along to the yolk and white while the egg is forming in the ovaries. Chickens can pass bacteria to the eggshell and through the shell pores into the inner egg, when the egg is laid. Chickens can harbor Salmonella without being sick themselves.
I asked Stanley, “what do you consider a good egg?”
“A good egg is one that has an intact shell, has been stored under refrigeration conditions (40 ℉) and has been fully cooked before consumption(pasteurized) to kill any Salmonella that may be present.
Raw, shell-on egg should be cooked(or items containing them) to 145 ℉ and held at that temperature until consumption, or alternatively cooled to room temperature 70 ℉ within two hours and to refrigeration temperature 40 ℉ within six hours of preparation.
Alternatively, some companies have started to sell shell-on pasteurized eggs. Pasteurization is a process that kills bacteria, which allows the eggs to be consumed raw without the risk of contracting Salmonella. Pasteurization does not guarantee that the chicken has been raised organically without antibiotics or arsenic.
No matter the source, even from a small organic farm, it is important to safely store and cook your eggs before consumption. Organic eggs are free of the antibiotics and arsenic that are used in conventional egg production. As Saveantibiotics.org, Moms for Antibiotic Awareness attest, the antibiotics in eggs present another whole host of issues. Yet again, it boils down to know your farmer, who knows his livestock and really cares about the product he/she is bringing to the markets.
If you ask any buyer of Kinnikinnick or Meadowhaven eggs from the Green City Market, fresh, organic eggs just taste better in an indescribable, yum factor way. The yolks are bigger of an organic egg. I challenge you to do an experiment and crack open a store bought egg and a farmers market egg and just look at the difference! Although organic eggs do not guarantee they will be salmonella free, although, you stand a much greater possibility of that being the case, your stomach and your family’s stomachs will notice the difference. Go out and do the egg test yourself, become an egg-spert!!
The issue of good versus bad eggs is not egg-zactly clear. It still comes down to know your food source, take time to learn how the food you are eating was cooked and where it came from. For further information on specifics about eggs, storage of eggs, Salmonella and anything else you wondere about egg safety, you can go to: Stop Foodborne Illness, their helpful sheet on good eggs is accessed here which has its own links to further resources : SaveAntibiotics.org , official guidelines for eggstore , information on salmonella from the CDC website, tips on eggs and egg products from the USDA , playing it safe with eggs from the FDA, all you needed to know about eggs from farm to table published by the USDA, all you need to know about eggs but were afraid to ask, the Safest Choice pasteurized eggs website
A huge thanks to Stanley Rutledge, Program Director at Stop Foodborne Illness and Sarah Starke his intern for their guidance on eggs and well as Ina Pinckney for serving delicious breakfasts using good eggs!