April has been a great month for local pastured eggs. Earlier in the year, there seemed to be a shortage at farmers markets and there were days when if you didn't show up early you missed out. Now there is an abundance, from tiny blue-green eggs to jumbo eggs the color of cafe latte. I've noticed more signs on back roads, too. "Eggs!" they announce, pointing down a country lane.
Prices range on the low end from about $4 a dozen to $7.50 or $8 on the high end, about the same as prices have been for the last few years, even as the cost of chicken feed, especially organic chicken feed, has risen.
I frequently laugh when I see these signs because I am reminded of a comment I heard on a public radio show several months ago. One of the national "experts" on the urgency of eating local foods was being interviewed about eggs and I was astonished when I heard him say that it was an act of faith, more of a cerebral commitment than anything else, to commit to paying a higher price for local eggs from happy hens who are allowed to roam and lay on their own time, rather than on false factory time powered by 24-hour light and overfeeding.
"There's no difference in taste and no difference in nutrients," he said rather smugly, "and so you just have to be really committed to do this."
Either this guy doesn't have a very good palate, I thought at the time, or he simply has never tried true pastured eggs.
The difference in taste is profound. If you are a sensitive eater, if you actually pay attention to the flavors of the food you eat, it is almost impossible to be satisfied with factory eggs after tasting pastured eggs. If you tend to smother, say, scrambled eggs with a massive amount of ketchup or use an omelet simply as a folder for an enormous jumble of other foods, you may not notice a big difference. But if you like eggs for eggs, if you enjoy them poached, soft-cooked, hard-cooked, scrambled neat, fried or made into a classic French omelet with nothing but butter, salt and pepper, there's no missing the difference. A pastured egg is earthy, light, delicate and utterly delicious.
And now, in the middle of spring, is a wonderful time to enjoy them. They are perfect for breakfast, lunch and dinner, especially with spring vegetables — asparagus, favas, artichokes, radishes, arugula and such — alongside.