Have you ever noticed the differences within eggs? White shells, brown shells, pale yellow yolk to a dark orange. What does all this mean? And are there differences in chicken health and nutrition composition of eggs?
To begin, let’s briefly talk about shell color. Generally speaking, white eggs come from white hens and brown eggs come from brown hens. Other breeds can also make light blue or green shells as well. Color of the shell has nothing to do with nutrition or the egg or how the bird was cared for, it’s purely breed based. (Although brown eggs sometimes fetch a higher price due to “natural” marketing!)
That’s another myth around white shelled eggs: Some believe they’re bleached white. This couldn’t be further from the truth! White eggs are from white hens, and in our country eggs are washed due to high safety standards, but it’s not with bleach.
If you’ve ever eaten a standard inexpensive egg from the grocery store and compared it to an egg from a small backyard free-range flock, you might notice a difference in egg yolk color. The paler yellow yolk of commercially grown is due to the fact that they have a very controlled diet, which consists primarily of crushed grain like corn or soy. Since these commodity feeds are lighter in color, they tends to contribute to a lighter yolk.
On the flip side, small scale backyard chicken eggs often roam free and eat whatever they can, including bugs. Or they get table scraps from their owners’ meals. This varied diet may create a deeper-hued yolk.
Wanna have fun with an experiment? Try adding ingredients like marigold pedals, paprika, cayenne, or other peppers, and watch the yolk color of your chickens change.
So this really is marketing the perfect egg. When you see a small, white egg with a pale yolk, you might not bat an eye because it’s standard and what the general public is used to. But try a big, brown egg with a deep orange or borderline red yolk and watch people’s faces light up as it’s something maybe a little unique or different!
Generally speaking, eggs are nutritionally equivalent. It’s true that diet of the hen can change the profile of the egg to have more omega 3’s, calcium, copper, manganese, or other nutrients or minerals; however the differences are not statistically meaningful.
Overall, eggs are an excellent dietary choice and are rich in protein, 13 essential vitamins and minerals and nutrients like choline, lutein, and and antioxidants that are good for the eyes, brain, muscles and bones.
Enjoy your eggs! Just know that color or housing system does not play a major role in healthfulness. As the old saying goes,
“The color of the shell depends on the breed.
The color of the yolk depends on the feed.
The size you should buy depends on your need.”
To learn more about what egg labels like free range, organic, etc mean, click here.
Michelle Miller, the Farm Babe, is an Iowa-based farmer, public speaker, and writer, who lives and works with her boyfriend on their farm, which consists of row crops, beef cattle, and sheep. She believes education is key in bridging the gap between farmers and consumers.