Taste Test



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.



The good stuff


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.



The farm-fresh egg, 5 seconds in the pan




The grocery store egg, at the same moment.


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.






Every couple of days, a drug deal goes down.

That’s what it feels like. With eggs.

It starts with a text message to my neighbor, Liz.

Me: Hey egglady… got some?

Her reply: this afternoon, 2 cartons.

Then neighbor Liz heads over to another neighbor’s place (neighbors with chickens, also of yak cow fame). Liz fetches the goods and deposits them in her barn fridge. Then I drive over and pick them up. 

I know, it’s convoluted — and you’re probably wondering, “Why don’t you drive to the yak cow farm and get your own eggs?”

Because, that’s not how the system works, okay??




Anyway, last week I went to retrieve an 18-pack from the fridge and noticed two cartons stacked on the shelf. I figured they contained the typical variety: a multi-cultural melting pot — eggs from white to dark brown, big to little, some with paper-thin shells and others, hard as rocks.

I grabbed the top carton and opened it to check the goods. I froze.

The eggs were dirty, flecked with barn debris. Bits of hay, dirt, poop and tiny feathers clung to the shells.

Yikes, I thought.

To be honest — as farmy as I try to sound — most of our food comes from a grocery store. And I’m accustomed to processed, sanitized products. Quite stupidly, I assumed that eggs are porcelain-white from coop to frying pan…. ignoring the fact that chickens (basically) poop them out.

My pristine egg dream was shattered.

Grossed out, I closed the lid and fished the second carton from the fridge. That batch was clean. I tucked the second carton under my arm and returned the first to the fridge. Then I hesitated, with a pang of guilt…

…but I got over it.

I took the clean eggs and left the dirty ones for Liz.

Fast forward a week and there wasn’t an option. The fridge held stacks of farm-fresh eggs, and the farm still speckled their shells. (I gotta talk with my supplier, I thought).

At home I peered at the dirty pack. How do you wash these things? I wondered.



I already felt like a dummy for thinking that eggs are perpetually clean. Might as well continue down the stupid road. I googled “how to clean farm eggs.” It felt like such a dim-witted query. Like looking up, “how to boil water.”

But when I read the results, I felt a little better.

Cleaning farm eggs is a topic of great debate, and chicken people love blogging about it. Instantly, I unearthed oodles of egg cleansing directions, followed by snarky criticism and debate. Wash eggs in hot water; only wash eggs in lukewarm water; be sure to boil them; boil them with bleach; what?? don’t boil them; never use bleach!

And then there was a chorus of egg experts who decried washing at all. (Why? Because eggs are porous and washing them weakens the “bloom,” the protective membrane, thereby letting bacteria intrude.) Never use hot water — it removes the bloom faster; don’t use cold water, it draws bacteria in faster; only use a sponge or sandpaper to rub off the poop; don’t do anything, just crack them open!

Ug, I thought. Life was easier when Liz did the dirty work.

In the end, I washed the eggs with warm water and a little dish soap (just before cooking, thereby thwarting bacterium intrusion). 

I asked Liz about her cleaning technique. She knows that washing is wrong, but she does it anyway, like me. In her mudroom, she bathes them in a plastic bowl filled with warm water and dish soap.

Whatever you do, she texted, don’t drop those slippery &#%! on the floor between the washer and dryer… 


Ready to crack; anti-washers, look away…