Bacon and Eggs

When I moved to London from the USA, even the simplest of things were so different than what I was used to.  Even Bacon and Eggs. 

What? Bacon and Eggs? How could bacon and eggs be that different? Well, I'll tell you! And let's start with eggs.  

The first time I went to the grocery store here, I couldn't find eggs anywhere. I went home and told Jeff, "They don't have eggs in England." 

Determined to prove me wrong (as most husbands are apt to do), he made a trip. Nope, no eggs.  Seriously? So, I went back again, and asked the friendly folks at the M & S grocery for help. They kindly took me over to the bottom shelf of an aisle that had jelly, tea and toilet paper, and of course, there they were. Unrefrigerated!  

Here is a visual from a grocery store in Chelsea....

I have to be honest. The unrefrigerated part made me a bit nervous, having been warned since childhood of the perils of Salmonella, so I looked up the situation online.  

Turns out, in the UK, not only are eggs NOT refrigerated, but they aren't washed before they hit the shelves. Ugh, what?  Well, as I dug deeper, it appears that the UK might have the better procedure...and the better eggs.  Bear with me while I convert you.  

All eggs have an outer "cuticle" which naturally protects the egg from bacteria or other contamination. By washing the egg, the cuticle is removed and bacteria can get inside the egg. 
In the UK, eggs are not washed, so the cuticle stays intact. Because of this, you would think that the eggs would be dirty, or that you'd see a few feathers on them, but this rarely happens, because it's in the farmer's best interests to provide the cleanest eggs possible, or no one would buy them. so yep, eggs look clean here, even unwashed.

But, in the USA, the USDA is concerned that fecal matter might get into the egg, which is a porous object. So all USA eggs must be washed in water that is a minimum of 90°F ( 32°C), then sprayed with a chemical sanitizer and dried to remove any moisture. In the USA, the cleaning procedure for eggs must be followed closely, because if there is any moisture on the egg, there is a greater possibility for bacteria to enter the egg. And after washing, moisture can occur whenever there are temperature changes, like going from non-refrigerated to refrigerated. In the USA, eggs are always kept cool.  Which is the reverse of why the UK does not refrigerate their eggs--if eggs are always at room temperature, there is no risk. 

Finally, there is the concern about Salmonella. In the UK, there is no Salmonella, first, because the cuticle remains intact, and second because farmers have been vaccinating their hens against Salmonella since the 1990's. Vaccination eradicated the occurrence of Salmonella in the UK, but in the USA, the USDA has yet to approve this vaccine.  So now you know most of it. 

But that isn't the end of the differences between English and American eggs. First, the UK eggshells seem thicker, and I notice that they crack with more of a bang. I'm not sure why, maybe it has something to do with the cuticle remaining on the egg?

Second, the eggs in the UK are yellower, and often orange. And they taste different. It took me about a month to get used to the more intense flavor, but now I'm hooked and USA eggs taste a bit bland to me.

These differences could be because the hen battery cages that the USA uses (for 95% of egg production) have been banned in the UK since 2010. In the UK, the minimum requirement is that the birds live in colony cages, with 750cm² per bird, have a perching space, and a nesting box to lay eggs in, so that they can perform natural behaviors. Again, this is the minimum, and for 50% of UK egg production (barn, free range and organic) the chickens have an even better quality of life than this.

All I can say is that if I were a hen, I'd want to live in the UK. 

The first time I ordered bacon, I was very surprised to see a very fatty piece of ham on my plate. Turns out there are 3 types of bacon here: British Back Bacon, American style bacon and Canadian Bacon.

Canadian bacon is a circular loin section, American style bacon (Streaky Bacon) is made from the pork belly. But most often, if you order bacon here in the UK, what you will get is British Back Bacon, which includes both belly and loin in one slice. 

That may sound perfect--best of both worlds, but I like my bacon crispy, and crispy is not generally part of the bacon vocabulary here. 

For eating bacon in restaurants, the USA gets my vote. But enter pre-cooked bacon that you buy in the grocery. I may not be able to live without this product when I go back to the states.  Three for £7 at M &S (just £2.30, or $3) gets you 18 slices of American style streaky bacon pre-cooked to perfection. It is heaven. No oil splatters, burnt bacon or dishwashing required. Just heat it for 30 seconds in the microwave. 

Now, put those eggs and bacon together and what do you get? 
A Full English Breakfast. 

I recommend that everyone try a Full English Breakfast at least once. This breakfast is not something you could have on a daily basis, unless you are a sumo wrestler. It's delicious, but there are some serious calories in this breakfast, and you will soon see why.

In order to qualify as a Full English Breakfast,  it must include 2 eggs (which can be fried, poached or scrambled), grilled tomatoes, fried mushrooms, Black Beans, Potatoes, fried bread or buttered toast, bacon (back bacon)  and sausage (called "bangers"). Optional is black (blood) pudding. 

Breakfast in charming Rye, with my friend Alison!

Here is another example of a Full English Breakfast, photo courtesy of Honest Burgers.

Hmm.... come to think of it, a Full English Breakfast just may be the breakfast equivalent to a Thanksgiving Dinner!

Hope you enjoyed this closeup look at Bacon and Eggs in the UK!


  1. The same in Poland...not refirgereted and washed eggs in store! I put it to the fridge at home and wash it before use ;)...also very tasty and yellow...almost orange ;)


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