While English food typically gets a bad rap, there are certain things that the English do really well when it comes to eating and drinking. They invented the Scotch Egg, they eat a lot of pie and they've made drinking outside part of their daily routine. London is home to some of the best restaurants in the world, other countries -- especially our own -- are imitating the English gastropub at every turn, and hearty, simple fare à la the English Sunday Roast is more fashionable than ever. More and more, the reputation of bad English food is unfair and outdated.
One basic, important food that the English do right is eggs. English eggs look and taste very different from American ones. The yolks are more orange and they taste slightly richer. They also taste fresher and more flavorful than your average American factory farm egg. (We're not talking free range, organic eggs, but the kind that come from chickens stacked in tiny cages.) English eggs are so different than American ones that American eggs would actually be illegal in the UK -- or anywhere in the EU -- and vice versa.
The first distinction is that in the U.S., eggs must be washed in order to be sold commercially. In the UK, however, Grade A eggs -- the kind sold in supermarkets -- must not be cleaned. This is why you might purchase eggs with a little bit of grit and even an occasional feather when you're in the UK. The idea behind the no-wash mandate is that it will encourage good cultivation on farms. "It’s in the farmers’ best interests then to produce the cleanest eggs possible, as no one is going to buy their eggs if they’re dirty,” Mark Williams, Chief Executive of the British Egg Industry Council told Forbes.
The USDA doesn't see it that way. They're concerned with the potential of fecal matter making it from the farm onto the egg, which, being a porous object, could transfer micro-organisms inside the egg. Eggs in the United States must be washed in water a minimum of 90°F. They must then be sprayed with a chemical sanitizer and dried to remove residual moisture that might enable bacteria to penetrate the egg shell. If any moisture is left on the egg, the potential for bacteria is much higher. The U.S. cleaning methods must be followed closely in order for them to work. With such a high risk of bacteria if cleaned improperly, the UK believes cleaning is more trouble than it's worth, Forbes explains. Careless cleaning would be worse than no cleaning.
There is also a thin layer called the cuticle that naturally protects the egg, and the EU egg marketing regulations prohibit cleaning eggs in order to keep the cuticle intact. The cuticle protects from contamination and should be left on, they say.
Due to the different washing philosophies, the U.S. and UK also have different storage procedures. If you've ever bought eggs in Europe, you might have noticed that eggs are not refrigerated in the supermarket. In the U.S., however, eggs are always kept in the refrigerated section of the grocery store. The different methods stem from the different washing methods, and more specifically, the potential for moisture on the egg. In the UK, there is the worry that refrigerating eggs before consumers take them home will lead to a change of temperature drastic enough during transportation to cause moisture to collect. If eggs sweat when moved from a cold fridge to a warm car, for example, unnecessary bacteria could form.
Finally, there is the concern of salmonella -- in the U.S., we are instructed to keep eggs in temperatures lower than 40°F because it decreases the risk of salmonella from spreading. In the UK, salmonella isn't a widespread concern because British farmers have been vaccinating their hens against salmonella since the 1990s. While the "drop in salmonella infections in Britain was stunning," according to the New York Times, the FDA has not yet mandated vaccination here in the U.S. Vaccination isn't required by law by in UK either, but necessary if farmers want the red stamp of approval denoting their hens have been vaccinated.
The different washing and storing methods must affect the taste of the eggs, because if you've ever eaten an egg in England, it tastes pretty different! Have you ever had eggs from the UK? Could you taste the difference? Let us know!