Food Journeys: A cracking tale of eggs

Andrew Webb with Simon Elam from Hempstead at Saffron Walden Market. Simon has been in the egg busin

Andrew Webb with Simon Elam from Hempstead at Saffron Walden Market. Simon has been in the egg business for over 60 years. - Credit: Archant

‘Go to work on an egg’ went the old 1957 advert from the British Egg Marketing Board, and it’s as good advice now as it was then.

Despite, that is, the Broadcast Advertising Clearance Centre banning the repeating of the adverts on the 50th anniversary in 2007, which ruffled a few feathers.

It’s not just advertising guidelines that have changed since then, egg production has too.

One person who’s seen it all is 78-year-old egg distributor, Simon Elam, from Hempstead. He’s been in the egg business since he was 16.

“Back then, 40 per cent of UK eggs were white, produced from caged Leghorn birds,” Simon says. “You couldn’t have them free-range as they’ll fly off!”

Today, nearly all UK eggs have brown shells, produced from a French breed that doesn’t fly. What’s more free-range is fast becoming the norm. “All medium sized producers have switched to free-range now,” added Simon.

As an egg distributor, he buys his eggs from three producers in the area, grades them into medium, large or extra-large, and sells them in Humphry’s, Burton’s, and Elder Street Farm shop. He also supplies the Mocha cafe with eggs for their breakfasts as well as other businesses in the area.

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I ask if any of the extra-large eggs might contain a double yolker. “No, not at the moment, double yolkers only happen when birds are young and first beginning to lay,” Simon tells me.

He’s also got duck eggs for sale, which are superb to cook with. Having been on the market in Saffron Walden for nearly 40 years, the 78-year-old has seen a lot change in that time. “We used to sell 400 dozen in 1976, today, it’s more like 100 dozen,” he revealed.

And what can you make using the eggs Simon distributes? Have a go at my recipe (right) for some lovely ‘Brunch Baked Eggs’. You can even try it with duck eggs!

Follow Andrew Webb on Twitter @foodjournalist