There is a difference between brown and white eggs. It’s probably not what you think, and you can’t tell after you open the egg.
What’s the difference between brown and white eggs?
In a word, it’s the chicken. Different breeds of chickens lay different color eggs. The most common laying hen in the United States is the Single-Comb White Leghorn (or some cross of this breed). This type of chicken lays white eggs. Some other breeds of laying hens are the Rhode Island Red, the New Hampshire, and the Plymouth Rock (or some crosses of these breeds). These breeds of chickens lay brown eggs. There are even some breeds of chickens (like the Araucana) that lay blue eggs.
What about the yolk?
Some people think the yolks of brown eggs have a deeper yellow color than the yolks of white eggs. This might be the case, but it’s not because of the shell color or because of the chicken. It’s because of what the chicken eats!
Some plants contain high amounts of xanthophylls. This is a type of chlorophyll, and is a yellow-orange pigment that helps the plant create energy. While the plants might still have a green color (because the green of the chlorophyll overpowers the yellow of the xanthophyll), the xanthophyll pigment will be absorbed from the chicken’s diet. A diet high in xanthophyll-containing plants will result in an egg yolk with a deeper yellow color.
Most hens are fed a combination of yellow corn and alfalfa meal. These foods don’t have as much xanthophyll, so the egg yolks of chickens on this type of diet will not have as deep of a color. Chickens being fed wheat or barley will lay eggs with even lighter-colored yolks.
Because yolk color has become a big concern for grocery buyers, some farmers are adding natural yellow-orange substances (like marigold petals) to their chicken’s feed. These deep yellow pigments in the chicken’s diet help to make a yolk with a deeper yellow color. It is important to note that artificial color additives are not permitted in any chicken feed.
What about the cost?
Have you noticed that brown eggs tend to cost more than white eggs? There’s a simple reason for that. Hens that lay brown eggs (like the Rhode Island Red, New Hampshire, and Plymouth Rock breeds) tend to be bigger than hens that lay white eggs (like the Single-Comb White Leghorn). Bigger hens take up more space, and need to eat more food. This means that there is more cost to raising hens that lay brown eggs. And this means that the eggs are more expensive at the grocery store.
What about nutrition?
There’s a rumor going around that brown eggs are better for you than white eggs. That’s simply not true. One large egg has the same nutrition value as another large egg – no matter what the shell color. The egg yolk might be a bit of a different color, but that is primarily due to the pigments in the hen’s diet, and doesn’t affect the nutrition value of the egg. Here is the breakdown of the nutrition values of one large egg (brown or white):
What about the taste?
Some people prefer the taste of brown eggs over white eggs. Most people can’t tell the difference. Any difference in taste might be due to the chicken’s diet, and will be a personal preference.
So… in an eggshell, there really is no difference between brown and white eggs. Except the color of the shell, and the breed of chicken that laid them. Whether you choose to buy brown, white, or even blue eggs should be your own decision – based on your personal preferences for the look and taste of the eggs. And perhaps what your food budget will cover!
What other questions do you have about eggs? Leave your questions in the comments below, and I’ll address them in a future post!