Dec 2 2013
“Our milk tastes better.”
For years that’s been my mantra. I’ve touted the local dairy’s milk, which is delivered in glass bottles to our house. It’s better than store-bought milk — creamier and pure in taste. If nothing else, grocery store milk is condemned by the plastic jug that taints smell and taste.
But I think that there’s more to it. I think the local stuff is smooth and silky. (If you’re wondering, it’s not a pasteurization issue.) And the local milk seems thicker when the kids spill it; it spreads slower than grocery store milk. (Unfortunately, opportunities to observe spill rates abound…)
Yet, while I’ve trumpeted the superiority of local cows and their output, I’ve wondered if there’s truth to what I say.
Like everyone I like the idea of local products. Local means fresh, wholesome… fewer chemicals, hormones and other sketchy stuff. So it’s better tasting, right?
Last week I decided to test my theory, with milk and farm-fresh eggs.
I needed volunteers for my study. As luck would have it, Cayden and Hadley were psyched to assist. But like any participants, they were biased: local is good, store-bought is bad… Go local milk!
This would have to be a blind test.
For my study, I chose 2% milk. I thought it would be tougher to discern between local and mass-produced.
And this would be just a taste test; I wasn’t ready to spill milk and measure spread, in the interest of science.
So I poured same-sized samples of each product into identical glasses. Then I summoned my volunteers.
Cayden and Hadley slugged back their glasses.
Immediately, they correctly identified the local milk and store-bought products. When I retested them — secretly swapping the glasses and altering the order in which they tasted them –
– they answered correctly.
In typical kid fashion, they couldn’t describe the differences. But they were emphatic in their views.
“This one tastes better,” Cayden said, gesturing to one glass, “and that one,” he said with disdain, “that one, is store-bought.”
So they nailed the milk taste test.
But I didn’t expect the same results with the eggs.
Certainly, local eggs look fluffier when they are cooked. And the visual difference is a no-brainer: farm-fresh egg yolks are rich in color. More orange than yellow.
But I’ve read articles and internet reports which suggest that the flavor difference between farm-fresh and grocery-store eggs is negligible.
So I didn’t expect much. A day after the milk test, we held the egg showdown.
To avoid skewing results, I scrambled the eggs in two separate frying pans. I even used separate spatulas. (This was scientific, dammit.)
I scrambled each egg sample at the same heat level, for the same amount of time. This required serious ambidexterity.
For this taste test, the kids closed their eyes… to guarantee impartiality.
As they sampled the eggs, I read their expressions.
They were uncertain.
“Um… this one?” Hadley asked, after chewing. “Is this the store-bought egg?”
They both guessed incorrectly.
Cayden and Had were disappointed when I delivered the results. And there wasn’t much point in repeating the test. It was purely a guessing game.
When they left the table, I sampled the two plates, knowing full well the origin of each egg. It was hard to tell them apart, especially after chewing a few times. But there was a vague, discernible difference in the grocery store egg. A mild distaste… the faint smack that reminded me of a heap of scrambled mound, scooped from a buffet breakfast at a middling chain hotel.
… and maybe I just wanted it to taste that way.