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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Great Big Egg-tasting Test

In a recent blog post by Lorenzo the Llama about Chickens and Eggs, the various differences between free range, organic and caged eggs were discussed. In some of the ensuing comments it was asserted that there is a taste difference between these sources. Now, the choice of whether to buy eggs from free range hens or eggs from caged hens is essentially a moral one and remains a personal judgement. However, on the matter of taste we are able to make a scientific exploration of the phenomenon by devising a taste-trial experiment.

In this case, three eggs of known origin were cooked and supplied "blind" (i.e. she did not know which egg was which before tasting) to Lorenzo for breakfast this morning. It was pointed out that a negative result (that is, failure to correctly identify any of the eggs) would really defy any notion that taste is a useful basis for selection.

On the other hand, with a sample of only three eggs in a single trial, correct assignment could be expected in about 1 in 6 trials simply by guessing. You would need to reduce this to about 1 in 20 before the result could be regarded as "significant" and so more trials would be necessary. For example, you would not market a drug that had a 1 in 6 chance of killing you.

However, a first time correct assignment would be an extremely suggestive result that would undoubtedly justify the award of a research grant for further study.

Lorenzo was offered a choice of cooking method, and accepted my suggestion that boiling would eliminate another variable in so much as all three eggs could be put into the water at exactly the same time and boiled for exactly the same duration.

Lorenzo the Llama ponders her choice

She was told that the three eggs represented: (a) "Farm Fresh" free range egg; (b) "barn egg", i.e. from hens that had been allowed to move about in the barn; (c) egg from a caged "battery" hen.

I did NOT tell her that the "caged" egg was in fact over a week older than its "sell by" date, and nearly two weeks older than its "display date. Lorenzo said she would make her choice on the basis of taste and colour preference.

Using clues from yolk colour - that was no yolk!

Here are the results.

Egg A: Actual: Barn egg.
Lorenzo's judgement: Her second choice

Egg B: Actual: Caged egg.
Lorenzo's judgement: Her FIRST choice

Egg C: Free range egg.
Lorenzo's judgement: Her THIRD choice

Whilst this simple test cannot be said to "prove" anything, there is clearly no evidence whatsoever emerging from this trial to suggest that free-range eggs taste any "better" than caged eggs. Indeed, it is fascinating that her favourite was the "mature" caged egg. But then taste is a matter of personal value judgement.

Maybe the Chinese have something after all by letting their eggs mature ofr 100 years.


Maalie in Lapland

Maalie is about to depart for Lapland. His aim is to be north of the Arcticle Circle about the time of the Autumn Equinox in order that appropriate seasonal rituals may be undertaken. He looks forward to seeing you again in mid-September.


Blogger lorenzothellama said...

I hope you notice how colour
co-ordinated the table cloth and my jimjams are.

10:55 am  
Blogger Raelha said...

Lorenzo, Yes, I was just about to comment on that and you beat me to it.

Was your main consideration in the test yolk colour? They do use nasty stuff in caged chicken feed to make the yolks more orangey than they would otherwise be. I should ship over some fresh eggs from our neighbour - there's no mistaking them as they're huge, tasty and have a lovely natural orange yolk which is very firm and will only break after much beating.

11:13 am  
Blogger lorenzothellama said...

I know Raelha. He did admit that battery hens were given supplements. E102 and E110 I suggested darkly. To be honest, there wasn't any difference at all in taste but then I did mess the cooking up! I didn't time them and took them out too early the the white runny and translucent. Ughhhh. I popped them back and then forgot them, so when I finally got round to tasting them they were rock hard and my toast soldiers were cold. That's my excuse anyway. I would NEVER knowlingly buy caged hens' eggs. Poor little things.
Lorenzo the Ashamed Llama

11:27 am  
Anonymous May said...

Bye bye, Maalie, have a great time!
You're very lucky to have the chance to take such an exciting trip when most people have to sit in their offices.

11:33 am  
Anonymous May said...

I forgot: interesting experiment although you should repeat it with more people and more trials.

11:34 am  
Blogger Kiwi Nomad 2006 said...

I have never been to the Arcticle Circle... but I was once north of the Arctic Circle for midsummer, in Fauske, in Norway. I didn't do any rituals though. I was using my three months Eurailpass and had this urge to go north of the Arctic Circle. The timing was purely accidental. The hardest thing was the light all night, so that I slept badly. And the most surprising amazing thing for me was to see how green it all was then. 'Cos I had assumed it would be all white and ice and rock like in the Antarctic. I was wrong wasn't I!!

11:54 am  
Blogger lorenzothellama said...

Gosh Kiwi, you don't half get around! Come to Britain and you can stay here.

12:25 pm  
Blogger TCA said...

I think 'boiling' is probably the least favourable method of cooking if one is observing differences in quality. It is very aggresive and cooks the eggs fast and thoroughly.

I would suggest that fried or poached, where a greater proportion of the total volume remains undercooked is the better test.

However, the ultimate test of an egg is in cooking where interactions with other ingredients occur before the cooking process. From my experience meringues, sauces and (in particular) swiss rolls seem of a distinctly better quality (although, as mentioned freshness is also a critical factor).

In addition to 'taste' and 'ethics' there is also the matter of unknown chemical and biological moieties (e.g. hormones, antibiotics etc) that may be allowed in certain production regimes. You fail to address the choice of other farming techniques such as 'soil association' or 'organic' which guarantee the absence of such techniques.

Finally, I am also sceptical that participants in this test have a sufficiently refined palate to detect the subtle differences required to assess the products on offer, particularly after an evening of heavy alcohol consumption! ;-)


12:36 pm  
Blogger Tina said...

interesting results indeed!! I think I may have to try this sometime. I had heard the organic free range ones taste better too. I can testify that grass fed beef does taste better than grain fed.
Look forward to hearing about your trip when you return!

12:42 pm  
Blogger lorenzothellama said...

TCA: What do you mean I haven't got a refined palate? Anyone who actually enjoys quorn must have an exceedingly refined palate!
Lorenzo the Refined Llama.

1:55 pm  
Blogger Kiwi Nomad 2006 said...

lorenzo... I am too scared to come via Britain... chances seem high that they will lose my luggage at Heathrow these days ;-)

8:40 pm  
Blogger simon said...

Mmmnnn... great!

12:56 am  
Blogger Martin Stickland said...

Ha ha!!! At last we see a photo of the one they call lorenzybum!!!

Which one is she? A, B or C?

1:08 pm  
Anonymous Ellee said...

I live such a dull life in comparison, I hope you are having a great time/

I enjoyed reading the egg test too, I love these consumer tests.

6:59 pm  
Blogger simon said...

I just got a text message from Maalie! he claims he is in a tent and a sleeping bag or somthing

11:23 pm  
Blogger lorenzothellama said...

I had a text message too! He has seen a Siberian Jay and Reindeer!

8:35 am  
Blogger Thesaurus Rex said...

Daft opening question you may have answered before it's asked. Is the bird on your title page a fulmar?

1:02 pm  
Blogger Merisi said...

you sure he didn't text an SOS? Needing help to get out of the sleeping bag, perchance? Have you faxed him the instructions? ;-)

9:52 pm  
Blogger lorenzothellama said...

Maalie is safe and sound in Santa's Grotto in Lapland. Had a postcard today, complete with elves and reindeer.

10:41 am  
Blogger lorenzothellama said...

Oh, and by the way, I've tagged you.

today's word is yapsey

9:13 pm  
Anonymous Ellee said...

Look forward to reading all about this soon, hope you had a great trip.

Where to next?

4:21 pm  

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