A couple of you asked that I put eggs to the test for this series, and I was only too happy to oblige. It’s actually turned out to be a particularly interesting experience. This taste test has been unique so far among all those that I’ve done: you can see why in my conclusions below.

Firstly though, an introduction. It’s basically my dream to own my own chickens (simple pleasures for simple minds and so on). The idea of having pets that actually produce beautiful, fresh eggs for us to eat is stupidly appealing. However, we don’t have a garden, so it’s a dream I have had to put on hold. Also, I’d need a lot of chickens. I go through a lot of eggs. I am a baker, so it comes with the territory.

I think a lot of people buy free range eggs nowadays, knowing vaguely that it’s a good thing. In the UK, 2% of eggs purchased are organic, 47% of them come from free range hens, 48% are from caged birds and the rest are from barn hens.

Sadly, though, ‘free range’ isn’t such a high welfare standard as it sounds. In the EU (sob, let’s not get into it right now), free range hens have constant daytime access to the outdoors. Standards also dictate a maximum stocking density of 9 hens per square metre of ‘usable’ space. There are a few other requirements, which you can check out on good old Wikipedia if you’re interested.

However, organic eggs must meet all the basic free range requirements, and then many more. Here’s a handy summary from the Soil Association (the whole article is very useful):

‘Organic chickens are raised to organic standards, which not only means free-range but a whole lot more. Organic standards cover not only the animals housing and the amount of space they have, but also the way they are treated, what they are fed and how they are transported and eventually slaughtered. They are not allowed to be fed on GM feed (which is common in free-range and non-organic hens). Chickens must not have their beaks trimmed to try and prevent feather pecking and are given plenty of opportunities to express their natural behaviours such as – foraging, bathing in the dust outside and pecking at insects and worms on grass fields.’

In summary: organic eggs come from happier chickens. With that in mind, I set out to taste test some of the happiest eggs I could find, to see if budget versions that conformed to high standards were any different from the fanciest of them all.

As before, I feel I need a rambling disclaimer: obviously, I am doing this in my kitchen and not in a lab and I am not a scientist. These are the opinions of one person – that said, one person who has been trained to taste for quality. Also, the products used in this series are just examples – obviously each supermarket has, say, eight or nine different types of eggs or whatever the product may be, and I’m not going to try every single one because what am I, made of money?

Finally, I should highlight that I tasted all the products blind, and at the time of tasting and making my notes I didn’t know which product came from which shop. I sat in one room while my glamorous assistant (er, my husband), prepared the samples in another. Any notes added regarding packaging and so on were only done after blind tasting, when I learned which supermarket had made A, B, C, D, or E.

The Blind Taste Test: Eggs

DSC_0147-1-1024x638

Eggs
£ (6 eggs/328g)*
General Info
Aldi – Merevale
1.39 (328)
Organic, RSPCA Assured, Lion, Class A
Lidl – Woodcote
1.39 (328)
Organic, RSPCA Assured, Lion, Class A
Sainsbury’s – TTD
1.85 (328g)
RSPCA Assured, Free Range, Lion, Class A
Tesco
1.80 (328g)
Organic, Free Range, Lion, Class A
Waitrose – Duchy
2.75 (6 large)
Organic, Free Range, Lion, Class A

DSC_0150-1-1024x647

Now, I haven’t done all of the usual nutritional information this week because they’re eggs and it doesn’t really work like that. I have, though, noted what the packaging states about the eggs’ standards. You’ll also see from the photos that the sizes of the eggs vary quite a bit. That’s because some of the half dozens I purchased were of mixed sizes and some were large. All had to meet a minimum weight of 328g though.

You’re also not getting any tasting notes this week. You know why? They all tasted like decent boiled eggs. Really, pretty much exactly the same – or so close to it that I couldn’t taste a difference.

A – Sainsbury’s – Taste the Difference

B – Lidl – Woodcote

C – Tesco

D – Aldi – Merevale

E – Waitrose – Duchy

I’m far from an expert, but here’s a very basic guide to the classifications.

  • Class A simply means the eggs meet the basic standards for retail in the UK – size, cleanliness, basic quality and so on.
  • The Lion mark is about food safety and legal requirements, not hen welfare.
  • RSPCA assured means the farms where the eggs were produced meet the RSPCA’s welfare standards. These are less stringent than organic standards, but still higher than basic free range (and the products are often cheaper than organic options).
  • Organic and/or a Soil Association mark represents the gold standard of welfare.

Conclusion

The conclusion this week is pretty simple. All the eggs taste pretty much the same, so if you’re going to buy high welfare eggs, you may as well buy the cheapest ones that meet the standards you are happy with. The Aldi and Lidl eggs were marked organic and thus met the welfare standard, but are almost less than half the price of the Waitrose eggs.

Although if I have to pick a winner, I pick Aldi. You can just about see in the picture above that the Aldi egg I tried (D) has a double yolk. I’m pretty sure that means I get to be lucky forever or something like that.

*Prices correct at time of writing.