There’s a mini egg scandal happening in Britain. Farmers are forced to throw away millions of smaller pullet eggs each year because they don’t make the size-grade. Thankfully, there is a way to pick up pullet eggs direct from the farm and save them from their food-waste fate.
One of the greatest pleasures of local food is the increased likelihood of running into unusual ingredients that you won’t find elsewhere. So familiar are we with what industrially produced eggs have to offer, you won’t find small pullet eggs in a supermarket and instead medium, large and even extra-large are the order of the day.
Pullet eggs are not found in the supermarkets because they are too small to conform to the rules set by regulators. This shortsighted approach to selling fresh eggs has meant that millions of pullet eggs are not reaching tables but are destined for liquid eggs, or even worse, the bin. Which is a real shame, because they’re a delight.
What are pullet eggs?
A pullet is a hen that is under one year old and has only been laying eggs for only a few months. Pullet eggs are the first eggs laid by hens at about 18 weeks old. These young hens are just getting into their egg-laying groove, meaning these eggs will be noticeably smaller than the usual eggs you come across. And that’s where the beauty in them lies – quite simply, they are delicious.
Chefs can’t get enough of them because of their brightly coloured yolks and a unique richness that eggs from an older hen simply don’t have. Pullet eggs also hold together beautifully (like little mountains) in the pan, so are incredible for poaching and frying. The smaller size of pullet eggs only last about 4 weeks before they get bigger. They’re not around for long and that’s why they’re not available all year round.
Why is it so hard to find pullet eggs?
Outside of their incredible richness (we’ve definitely heard the words ‘avian caviar’), pullet eggs highlight economic and sustainability issues too. Up to 10% of every egg farmer’s stock is thrown away because the eggs are too small. By not selling these eggs, farmers are losing out. You may have seen us talking to Jamie Oliver about them on Jamie And Jimmy’s Friday Night Feast.
Jamie says: “They may be little but farmers say they’re the tastiest you can get. The great British public are missing out on a premium seasonal product and worse, farmers’ livelihoods are on the line.”
Third-generation poultry farmers Danny and Susie Macmillan of Mac’s Farm who featured on the show say they lose around £60,000 a year due to few people eating pullet eggs. The supermarkets may not want them, but the rise in public interest in our pullet eggs after the show aired showed us that you do. Which is fantastic news for our farmers Rowie at Purton House Organics and Andrew at Haresfield farm, who now have a home for pullets hens’ eggs.
How to cook a pullet egg
Our recipe developer and MasterChef semi-finalist Beth shares her tips for the perfect pullet:
You can cook a pullet egg in the same way you would a normal egg. However, using pullet eggs for poaching is much easier as they have a brilliant ability hold together more so than normal eggs. For soft boiled pullet eggs, cook for 3 to 4 minutes from a rolling boil and make sure you use eggs that are at room temperature.
To easily remove its shell, put the egg straight into iced water and leave to cool (for about 5 minutes). Gently roll the egg along a surface to get an even layer of cracks in its shell and you’ll feel it come away. Find a weak spot to get under the shell and gently pull it off.
Just how small is a pullet egg?
Got pullet eggs and can’t wait to get cracking? To help you use them in baking, here’s a quick size comparison guide based on EU weights:
Standard EU Egg Sizes
Extra-large (XL) 73g+
Large (L) 63g – 73g
Medium (M) 53g – 63g
Small (S) less than 53g
Average Pullet 35g – 40g
How do you use yours? Let us know in the comments below.
This article was originally published in May 2017.