Participating in the U of A Heritage Chicken Program

My husband and I first read about the University of Alberta (U of A) Heritage Chicken Program in The Tomato's All about the Egg issue. The idea is based similar to that of a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) where customers pay money at the beginning of a period to help a farm with seed capital and receive their investment in produce. 

The U of A - Poultry Research Centre, is interested in preserving five heritage chicken breeds in order to be a living genetic bank and for researchers to compare Heritage chicken productivity to modern chickens. Keeping Heritage chickens are expensive and thus, came into being a program where Edmontonians can "adopt" a chicken and in return get farm fresh eggs.

We adopted a Barred Plymouth Rock and named her "Peppa". Every two weeks for the next 5 months we get a dozen eggs from Peppa and the rest of the girls. Below is a picture of the different eggs we received.

Here are the various eggs that we received (Picture from Heritage Chicken Program)
What are the differences?

Like most of you, we had various questions and thoughts about the differences of a Heritage Chicken egg in taste, texture, visual presentation and the feel of the egg in comparison to the generic supermarket brand. I suppose the difference could also be between farm fresh eggs vs. the regular supermarket brand.

At first glance, there is certainly a visual size difference between the supermarket 'medium' brand and all of the Heritage Chicken eggs (the latter being slightly smaller). So, will the size of the chicken egg make a difference in better taste and overall quality?

In this picture we have the Barred Plymouth Rock
and the Light Sussex versus regular supermarket eggs. 
What does it look and taste like?
To do a taste comparison we prepared the Barred Plymouth Rock egg and the supermarket egg in a sunny-side egg fashion. Right away you can see that the egg yolk for the Barred Plymouth is a dark golden yellow, whereas the other yolk is a pale daffodil colour. 

Sunny Side Eggs: Barred Plymouth Rock vs. Supermarket Brand

Cutting into the egg yolk, we first tried the supermarket brand. The egg yolk had a watery texture, and there didn't seem to be much flavour. In comparison, the Barred Plymouth's egg yolk was creamy; almost buttery. There was a nice smoothness to the yolk as well. It also had a smoky flavour to it as well; but this may have been due to the cooking process. 

Now for the egg white. Was there a difference in taste for the egg white? I was surprised how much of a difference there was! The supermarket brand didn't seem to have much flavour and the egg white quickly fell apart as you chewed it. On the other hand, the egg white on the Barred Plymouth was firm and fleshy. There was also more body to the egg white. 

We also had both eggs on a piece of toast to see if there was a difference.
Here the yolk on the Barred Plymouth appears to be thicker in comparison to
the runny texture of the supermarket egg yolk. 

We also did a comparison test of the Light Sussex and the Supermarket brand with scrambled eggs. 

Scrambled eggs: Light sussex vs. Supermarket brand
Overall, there is a significant difference between the Heritage Chicken eggs in comparison to the supermarket brand in taste, egg white texture, the darkness of the egg yolk and even in the feel of the egg itself. The supermarket egg shell seems slightly thinner. The Heritage eggs appeared to crack more cleanly in comparison.

The cost to participate is $75 for five months, this works out to be $15 / month for approximately 2 dozen eggs or $7.50 / dozen. This is expensive for eggs, however, the point of the program is to preserve the genetic diversity of chickens and the eggs you receive are a by-product. If you wanted farm fresh eggs you could always check out the farmer's market which run about $4 a dozen from various vendors.

We have enjoyed participating in this pilot program and look forward to more uses of our Heritage eggs. The program is currently in full swing with their initial 200 participants. If you are interested in the program for the Fall, you can visit the Heritage Chickens website for more details.

Here are a few links about the program:


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