PODCAST | October 13, 2023

The Cracked Egg: Meg Tucker, Cook with Meg, Episode 8 Summary

Here is a summary of our chat with Meg Tucker, Owner and Operator of Cook with Meg.

EFA: Egg Farmers of Alberta

MT: Meg Tucker, Cook with Meg

Note: This conversation has been edited for clarity. 

EFA: Today is a special episode as we welcome Meg Tucker, founder of Cook with Meg, with us on the show here. Meg is one of our partners at Egg Farmers of Alberta. She has run amazing free virtual online cooking classes over the years and is a huge fan of everything eggs. Meg, thank you so much for joining us here today.

MT: Tate, thank you. I’m very excited and quite honored to be on The Cracked Egg!

EFA: Now, it’s also a very special day for those of us who are fans of eggs. Could you take a guess as to what that day is, Meg?

MT: Ooh, it’s a good one.

EFA: I’ll give you a hint. It’s a day known throughout the world, and it has to do with eggs!

MT: Today is officially World Egg Day! It’s a very special day around here!

EFA: It is! Could you please take just a few moments to give an overview of who you are and what it is that you offer to families?

MT: Absolutely! In addition to World Egg Day, we get very excited around here about eggs and I’m so excited to be a partner with Egg Farmers of Alberta. It’s been over 3 years, maybe 4 years, maybe 5 years that I’ve been working with EFA. I have to keep going back, probably all the way back to 2018 or 2019, but I was putting the social spotlight on really great brands in the food world and Egg Farmers of Alberta was certainly one of those. Then in 2020, we all remember when the world changed on March 13th, of course, I’m talking about the pandemic. About 9 days after the pandemic began, I did a career pivot and launched my company Cook with Meg. You can find me at cookwithmeg.com as well as through Egg Farmers of Alberta.

What I do is teach virtual cooking classes for families all over North America and beyond. We empower families and bring families together. You get to cook right from the comfort of your own kitchen, from your kitchen into mine. I teach kitchen confidence and it’s a perfect marriage, if you will, with Egg Farmers of Alberta. You are my longest-running partner in the world of Cook with Meg, and we offer with you a free Cook with Meg class every single month using our favorite ingredient eggs. Every month you can join us and can register at cookwithmeg.com to join us for a free class, and that’s where we learn to cook a super fun, delicious recipe using eggs in a nutshell, or in an eggshell! See what I did there!? That’s what we do.

EFA: In an eggshell, I like it. Such a unique and special business. Now prior to the show, we did ask our followers to send in their questions for either Egg Farmers of Alberta or Cook with Meg. How about we start with a Q&A focusing on you and then we can get to questions for Egg Farmers afterwards.

MT: I love it. Okay, hit me. What’s our first question?

EFA: The first one comes from Eleanor, and she asks, when did Cook with Meg start?

MT: So, Eleanor, just a recap that in an eggshell. Cook with Meg officially launched in March 2020. We are now in October 2023. We’ve taught, I say we, but it is me. I have taught over 5,000 families, but I’m sure it’s more than 4 countries now. Canada and the United States, but we’ve had families cooking from Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, Costa Rica, and Puerto Rico. The list continues to grow. We’ve had families from all over the world join us. I teach monthly free classes with Egg Farmers of Alberta, our friends at the Alberta Pulse Growers joined us and we do a free class with them as well, learning about pulses and incorporating them in recipes.

I get very proud because even when it’s a different partner joining us, eggs usually make an appearance as you know, eggs are so important in cooking and baking and we also teach themed classes. We’ve got parties. We’ve got a party coming up called the Halloween Hoopla. We have a big New Year’s Eve party and we do summer camps. They are all virtual and it’s all from your kitchen into mine. That’s essentially when we started, how many families we’ve taught, and where we’re going. Sky’s the limit!

EFA: That’s an incredible reach too. I mean, someone way in Australia, that’s crazy. So, Egg Farmers of Alberta has a question for you, and this could be a hard one, but what is your favorite way to use eggs?

MT: Oh, such a good question. I mean, I want to say that I will always default and say if you could feed me Eggs Benedict every day of my life for the rest of my life, that would be what I would do. I suppose using eggs in a great breakfast or brunch recipe would probably be my favorite way, but maybe that’s a double-edged question because part of me says that’s the way that’s my favorite way to eat the eggs. But my favorite way to use eggs, I really love when there’s a class or a recipe. Where we get to use both parts of the egg. So, maybe we are making an unbelievable lemon curd, using all the egg yolks. And then, once that gets built, we’re making a crunchy, delicious meringue that we can break up, and then put it all together to make one of my favorites, a pavlova. Using all parts of the egg is fun. You can make a cake where you whip the egg yolks first with sugar., then you’re really whipping those egg whites to aerate them and build in as much air as we can. And then we fold it all together. Maybe we’re making a great sponge cake because it’s got so much in it.

I think it’s when we get to use all parts of the egg in different ways. Maybe that’s my favorite way to use eggs.

EFA:I had a feeling that it was going to be hard. There wasn’t just one way, so…

MT: There isn’t! There isn’t! Because you can use eggs so many different ways.

EFA: Our next question comes from Melanie and she asks, what is the easiest egg hack or tip that you could share with us?

MT: Thank you Melanie! One of the easiest things I always suggest is because you can use eggs for so many things, i.e., boiled eggs, like if we’re talking about just eating eggs, boiled eggs, poached eggs, scrambled eggs, fried eggs, figuring out the, I want to say like the shelf life of your eggs is something that I like to keep organized in my own mind. If you’re making boiled eggs, you want to use eggs that have hung out in your fridge for a little while. Not the freshest eggs from the grocery store. With boiled eggs, I always say to keep those toward the back of your egg carton, but toward the front of your carton.

For scrambled, omelets, fried, or poached you want your absolute freshest eggs. Let’s say you do a big grocery shop, and you need eggs, but that weekend you want to make a special, beautiful brunch, use your freshest eggs. Or maybe you’re making a neat Halloween recipe with some deviled eggs. Or you want to make egg salad sandwiches. Use your eggs that have been in the fridge for a couple of weeks.

EFA: That’s a great tip. Now David with the next question asks, what’s been your top achievement since starting Cook with Meg?

MT: Oh, David, now I’m going to cry! Honestly, I do get emotional when I talk about where we were and where we are. I would say that this has never been for me to have the most followers on social media or be on TV the most with this business or anything like that.

Those are all things that are important and are a part of my business. But as far as what I am most proud of, my top achievement, I would say it was when Cook with Meg was awarded small business of the year for 2021. I operate my business virtually, and it can go anywhere in the world, but I live in Red Deer, Alberta. To be recognized and awarded Small Business of the Year, at the time it was a business with 1 to 10 employees. And again, I’m the only one. That was cool and then to get to go to the award ceremony and to be singled out as top business was pretty special. I was also a nominee for the entire province for small business. That kind of recognition, I feel, stopped me in my tracks. When you work at a business or you own a business and you are a small business, you just have your head down most of the day, every day, day in and day out. You’re just trying to create a really great product. And in my case, make great connections and teach families. To be recognized on the business side of things for other businesses that might be brick and mortar and who may have been there for 20 or 30 plus years and here I was in a year or 2 of my business being recognized. I would say that for sure was one of the greatest achievements and it made me so proud because I wouldn’t be here without Egg Farmers of Alberta. I would not be here without all of our amazing families who register for classes.

EFA: That is quite an accomplishment Meg, and one to be proud of. Now Sarah asks, I think you sort of touched on this, but can you explain what led you to want to do virtual free cooking classes?

MT: Doing classes, in general, was a solution, it was a pivot. I make videos and create social assets for these great companies. Egg Farmers of Alberta is one organization, but what could I offer? Where do all of the skills that I have in my past, and my other careers. How could I pull all of those things together and create something that great. I still work with and strategize with a dear friend. Her name is Julie Noel and she works as a consultant and we were chatting about how can my business make a shift because the world had literally closed and where do I go? What do I do? So, we sat down to figure out where was my skill set. I’ve always loved to cook. When the pandemic started, I went to culinary school, so I really dove headfirst in. Even though I love to cook, and I’ve been cooking forever, I had a kid’s cooking show that I created called Just One Bite, shot locally here in Red Deer, it’s on YouTube, but it was with Shaw TV.

I had been on MasterChef Canada. I really had a love and a passion for cooking. I also had a teaching background, not formally, not professionally, but I was doing a lot of online space, and workshops on finding your confidence, on creating that connection online. Call it foreshadowing before the pandemic hit and then when I lived in several different cities, I was in Calgary for a bit. I was in Toronto for about 10 years, where I worked for a marketing company. I had kind of a business arm that I already had worked at for many years. I had a performance background, so I guess to answer your question in a very long-winded way, I put it all together and thought I’ve got performance experience, acting, and comedy. I’ve made a kid’s cooking show, love cooking with kids. I love to cook, and I’ve got the business part of it. Why can’t I run my own business where I am in front of the camera teaching? We honestly started by putting it out on Facebook and I think the first week we had about 27 families. We did charge a very small amount in the beginning, but I didn’t have a website and I didn’t have a way to really accept payment. We were just going for it, and it was just a few months in that I realized, why don’t we also offer a free class because I want to always make my classes accessible to everybody, no matter where you are, no matter where you live. That’s when Egg Farmers of Alberta said let’s do it. Let’s go for it. So that’s how the free class angle got started with Cook with Meg. We’re not stopping. We’re always going to offer something free. So, that’s what led to it.

EFA: Wonderful. Now, Isabel asks, what was it like to be a top finalist on MasterChef Canada?

MT: Isabel, let’s go way back to 2013. I was on season two, was it 2013? 2014. I don’t know. I was on season two. It was a wild experience! I’ve always been a big fan of cooking shows. I was not a professional cook at the time, I was a home cook. I often think, how would I do now if I went back? Oh boy, I’d kick butt now! But I sent in an application. It was just a matter of writing my heart out and telling them my story and they often look for a good story and I guess I had one. I made the Top 100. I had to go to Calgary with a dish, a signature dish that I created. And OMG, Tate, I don’t even think you know this, but the dish that got me on the show was a quiche! It was a bacon gruyere leek quiche with homemade crust. Home house-cured bacon. Like I literally made my own bacon out of pork belly. It took a week and then beautiful eggs, Alberta eggs, and I whipped up that quiche, put it in the car, drove from Red Deer to Calgary, waited all day to be judged, and they loved the quiche, apparently, because it was almost a month later, I got a phone call that said I had made the Top 50, and I would be going to Toronto, so I flew to Toronto and I was there for a couple of weeks.

I won’t go into all the details, but I cooked, I wheeled the cart through those big double doors. I used eggs because I made pasta, it was ravioli. It was a ricotta pumpkin ravioli with sage, brown butter and hazelnuts. I got my white apron. They put me through, and I made the Top 25 and then I was just getting ready to cook to be a part of the Top 18 or 16. I think at the time and I woke up that day very sick. They noticed I wasn’t well, and I was pulled. I had to pull myself. I ended up in the hospital that day, so I was okay. I flew home to Alberta. Everything was fine. But unfortunately, my journey ended before I got to show my skills, but I did earn the white apron. So, I can proudly say that I was in the Top 25 of Masterchef Canada, which is pretty cool.

EFA: What a story. I’m sure it was quite a fun and nerve-wracking experience.

MT: Yes. I would say the ladder, but it was cool!

EFA: All right. Now Ryan has the last question for you here. And he asks, will you be continuing virtual classes next year?

MT: Oh, I love that question, Ryan and I am super excited to share. Can I share, Tate? Can I share? Yes, we are absolutely going to be offering free classes all through 2024. So, if you head to cookwithmeg.com you can also head to eggs.ab.ca because right on your website, you always point people back to how to register. You can follow us on social media as well because we always put links up to register, but every single month there will be a free Egg Farmers of Alberta class. Get ready for some yummy recipes to come! It is exciting.

Okay. Are you ready? Tate? We’re going to flip the stage and now I get to ask some questions, um, for the egg farmers of Alberta. Are you ready?

EFA: I think I am yep!

MT: Okay you’re the expert. So here we go. Question number 1. Is there, oh, I like this one. Is there a real difference between brown and white eggs?

EFA: You know, Meg, that’s one of the most common questions that we get. When I was younger and wasn’t working with Egg Farmers of Alberta, I was always under the impression that brown eggs were healthier than white eggs. I think the mindset for me was that brown bread is healthier than white bread so it must be the same for eggs. But what I’ve learned since with EFA is that that’s not the case and what the answer is, is it’s really about the genetics of the hen. In most cases, a hen with white feathers will lay white eggs, and a hen with brown feathers, brown eggs. Another way you can tell, and you could see this if you were at the Stampede this year, is by looking at the earlobe of the hen. That will dictate and show what the color of the egg will be. And the second part that we always get to is genetics aside. What about the nutrition and white or brown? All eggs have the same nutritional value unless you are buying specialty eggs at the grocery store, like Omega-3 eggs where they’ve added flaxseed to the feed.

MT: It does get asked all the time and I get so excited in our monthly free cooking classes because we do give a lot of fun facts and the kids love being able to now be the ones to share that they know all these answers too.

Question #2. Oh, this is a good one. Who sets the price of eggs at the grocery store? Who determines that?

EFA: That’s another great question. I’m sure it’s one that people are thinking about lately, based on inflation over the last few months here and people may think it’s the farmers who are setting the prices, but that’s not the case. It’s actually the independent retailers who set the price of eggs at grocery stores.

MT: Oh, okay. That’s very interesting. I did not know that. Okay. Next question, why do most eggs that you buy in Alberta have a pale yolk color? A little more pale.

EFA: That’s a very interesting question and it’s a good one too. I know when we have people from across the country and the world at the Calgary Stampede visiting our booth, they do ask us this question because a lot of times their yolks will be more orange and be darker.

The color of the yolk doesn’t dictate the freshness of the egg, but it’s the type of feed that’s given to the hen. In Alberta, most of our farms feed a wheat-based diet, which does produce that lighter yolk, whereas if it’s a farm that has a corn-based diet, the yolk there would be darker. There are some farms in Alberta that do have those dark yolks.

MT: I love this question so much because I grew up on the East Coast, so I definitely was used to seeing a darker, almost orange yolk and when I got to Alberta long before any of this happened I was puzzled by the color of it, but it totally makes sense there our hens here eat wheat so it’s lighter, whereas if you’re like Ontario and east of that you’re probably getting more into the corn territory. Is it true that some farmers also feed their hens marigold? I’ve heard that some marigold petals sometimes, which marigolds are that beautiful orangey, deep, deep color, and sometimes that can naturally sort of help darken the yolks.

EFA: Interesting. You know, that’s a question that I would have to check with the real egg experts and get back to you on that.

MT: I just remember hearing that thinking that is interesting. I mean it just goes to show that what the hens do eat can have a bit of an impact on what they produce, which makes sense.

Speaking of production, how many eggs does one hand produce per day? Do you know that?

EFA: Yes, and I bet if we were to throw this question at people, we would get a whole range of answers. It can vary from hen to hen. But what we say is on average, a hen will lay one egg about every 25 to 30 hours.

MT: She’s busy, busy, busy. So imagine one egg per day and then thousands and thousands of hens in the barn. That’s a lot of eggs in a day being produced!

EFA: It sure is.

MT: She’s busy, busy, busy. So imagine one egg per day and then thousands and thousands of hens in the barn. That’s a lot of eggs in a day being produced.

EFA: Ah, yes. I figured that question would come up and do know that they are still fresh. It takes about 7 days from the time the egg is laid to when it arrives at the grocery store. That’s because here in Canada, all eggs are required to make a stop at a certified CFIA (which is a Canadian Food Inspection Agency) grading station. It’s at the grading station where the eggs are cleaned first, and then they’re inspected and handled to make sure there are no irregularities with the egg. Then it’s weighed and then packaged.

MT: That makes good sense. I had a chance to tour a couple of egg farms with EFA and it was so fascinating to see the process. It was just immaculate like they are so well cared for by these farms, the whole system. I mean, you would have thought that we were head to toe suited up in protective gear before we went in, and it was just amazing, they were telling us that sometimes, depending on the day of the week and the day that they have to get to the grading station, your eggs in the grocery store might even be less than 7 days. Like, they may be only a couple of days or 3 or 4. So, yeah, they’re super fresh at the grocery store for sure.

I have one more question for you, and this is I don’t know if you have the stat on this one, but I’m curious to know how many eggs were produced in 2022? I mean, that’s sort of like a big question, but in all of Alberta, is that fair to ask?

EFA: Oh, totally fair! In Alberta, we have 168 egg farms. And if you think about it, the average egg farm has 16,200 birds.

MT: Whoa, each laying one egg per day.

EFA: Yep, so we’re looking at last year we had over 78 million dozen eggs!!

MT: Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait. How many dozen eggs were produced in 2022? You’re telling me, wait, what’s that number again? 70 what?

EFA: 78 million dozen eggs!

MT: Oh, that’s insanity!

EFA: If you look at just by eggs, that would be over 936 million eggs!

MT: 936 million!? That’s almost a billion eggs. Wow! That is a lot of Eggs Benedict for all of us. That is amazing.

EFA: Thanks so much, Meg, and thanks for tuning in to this special episode. If you want to learn more about Cook with Meg or sign up for any of her classes, visit cookwithmeg.com. And to all of you out there, Happy World Egg Day! 

MT: Happy World Egg Day! I say that we all need to, today, tomorrow, and every day, but certainly today on World Egg Day, let’s all figure out a super fun eggy recipe. In fact, go to eggs.ab.ca. You can click on the cooking tab. You can grab any one of those delicious recipes and whip up some super fun eggs for you and your whole family today on World Egg Day. Tate and David and the entire crew at the Egg Farmers of Alberta, thank you so very much for being the foundation of Cook with Meg and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Thank you for making all of this possible.

EFA: Thank you so much, Meg.