Shopping for fresh produce is easy. You look, you smell, you taste (if you can), you buy. You find a reliable, reasonably-priced source—a certain market vendor, a farm stand, a well-stocked grocery—and you stick with it. By comparison, shopping for eggs is hard. Eggs all look the same, they shouldn’t smell, you can’t taste them till you get home, and their price varies wildly from source to source. (I take issue with any eggs—organic, free-range, omega-3 rich, or otherwise—that cost more per pound than an actual chicken.)

Ever since I moved to Cancale, I have been on a quest to find a reliable source for really fresh eggs—reliable being the operative word. If I’m lucky and if I’m early, I can beg a half-dozen just-laid eggs from one farmer I know at a nearby market, but she tends to sell out by 9 am—if she has them at all. There are any number of market vendors who also sell eggs, but they’re mostly resellers—even the guy who sells chickens gets his eggs from somewhere else! What I don’t like about buying from these resellers is that I can’t check the sell-by date on the eggs myself—and I doubt they’d take too kindly to my asking for it. (What? Are you implying my eggs aren’t FRESH??) Most of the time, I end up shopping for local, free-range eggs at grocery stores where I can check the dates on the cartons without fuss or insult, and choose accordingly.

The one brand I returned to again and again was “Tradition” from a nearby producer. But I was nagged by doubt, even when the sell-by date seemed OK. Were “Tradition” eggs really local? Really free-range? Really the best I could do?

Last Saturday, I went to a fall market in the town where “Tradition” eggs come from. I  saw a stand with those very same eggs, bright, kitschy label and all. “Finally!” I thought. “Some answers!”

local free range mont saint michel cherrueix eggs

I sidled up to the the vendor—who turned out to be the farm owner—and began chatting her up about her farm, her eggs, and her distribution practices. Turns out, she supplies most of the market vendors and farm stands in the area – even the chicken guy! And all her eggs are the same, whether they come in a brightly-labeled supermarket carton or a plain six-count market box. She added that they were working on getting organic certification (good sign), and then, she let me in on some fresh-egg inside information. “I deliver to all my customers in Cancale and Saint-Malo on Friday, so the eggs you find anywhere on Saturday were probably laid only a couple of days before,” she explained.

Bingo. No more guesswork. No more checking the sell-by dates of every egg brand in the aisle. All I have to do is shop for my eggs on Saturday…then, say, do a little quality control on Sunday with a soft-boiled egg breakfast. (I’ll still beg for those just-laid eggs when I can though!)

The takeaway lesson from this tale: Find out when your eggs are delivered to wherever you buy them! Even supermarket produce managers have this information. (And always, always check the sell-by date. Just because a store has gotten a fresh supply of eggs doesn’t mean it has taken the older ones off the shelves.) Eggs may still be edible a month or more after their laid, but just like any other perishable food, the fresher the egg, the better the taste.

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