Questioning the foundation of your illusions is not for the faint of heart. Take, for instance, why cheese, milk and eggs are often located near each other in grocery stores. Eggs clearly don’t come from sheep, goats or cows. Similarly, there is no milk (or cheese) coming from chickens. Why then the common association?
A word of warning: if you choose to read on, do so at your own risk. I was once like you – blissful in my illusions. Then, I asked why.
At first the common reply makes sense, “Eggs have similar care requirements as dairy.” If that works for you, stop reading here and go fry an egg. Seriously – they taste delicious and I love them atop Cherry Glen’s Monocacy Chipotle cheese with a slice of tomato on a toasted English muffin. If you are still reading, you may have conjured up some questions about eggs at a farmers market or those from your own (or a neighbor’s) hens. These are some of the best eggs going and are regularly not refrigerated. Should they not be?
I mean how is it that eggs are legal to sell at both ambient temperatures and simultaneously (by code) requiring refrigeration? While you ponder that, I will feed you the food service regulations that allows for receiving eggs at 45 degrees. By comparison, all other refrigerated product is to be received at temperatures under 40 degrees. Successful clucking and squawking by the egg lobby are listed as the common reasons associated with the regulatory anomaly.
Another oddity is the price spread of eggs. If you are lucky enough to have a neighbor with hens, you may be given eggs. Perhaps in a fanciful basket and be blessed to live a life where your eggs are collected, washed, candled and delivered for free. Next up on the egg ladder are Aldi and Safeway who have been dueling for the low price leader in recent weeks with eggs for sale as low as $.69 cents per dozen.
Move the same dozen eggs to the Culpeper Farmer’s market (get there early for your eggs as they sell out before 10 a.m.) and expect to pay $3.95 – $4.95 a dozen. Even more curious are Farmer’s Market quality eggs (refrigerated) in a market or specialty food store. A dozen eggs here are commonly priced up to $ $6.95/dozen. That’s a spread of $.06 cents per egg to $.58 cents per egg. Even so, there is still no outrage of price discrepancy.
It’s taken me years, but I think that I have reached the moment of enlightened thinking about the common placement of cheese and eggs. Like eggs, cheeses vary wildly in quality and price. The hens, their care and diet, are hallmarks of differentiation together with taste. This also sounds analogous to people’s growing awareness of cheese. Moreover, like the farmers market eggs, some cheeses (Parmesan – reggiano) are permitted in retail at higher (ambient) temperatures. In those regards cheese and eggs are alike.
Ultimately, the common denominator is that the value of the cheese (or egg) is on the buyer. We each have palates, preferences on animal welfare, their diets and our individual budgets to reconcile. As I see it, having cheese and eggs next to each other is a reminder that we are in charge of more than a meal, but the barnyard in how we choose to buy.
It’s either that, or the common placement of the two is a subliminal sales suggestion for us to make cheesy omelets.