Quick question: what type of egg do you like? The white or the brown?
Do you prefer the off-white or milky colored yolk commonly found in white eggs or the bright orange yolks frequently found in brown eggs? These are important questions for those looking for information on nutritionally rich eggs.
Some folks have a penchant for the brown and others for the white. But, what’s the difference between the both of them, really? Is there any nutritional difference or is it an issue of taste?
These are some of the questions we’ll attempt to answer in this article. The goal is that by the end of this article, you would be able to accurately tell the difference between the two and determine which is better suited to your needs.
Chicken Breeds Often Determine the Color
The reality is the color of the egg is often dependent on the breed of the chicken. Eggs aren’t just restricted to the brown and white color spectrum.
There’s even a blue-green egg color that’s laid by the Easter Egger and the Andalusian chicken breeds, as well as a blue colored one laid by the Araucana and Ameraucana breeds.
The popular white colored eggs are usually laid by breeds like the Campine, the Sebright, and the Sicilian Buttercups to mention a few. While the browns –could be dark brown too- are more commonly laid by the Barnevelder, Black Australorp, Chantecler, Delaware and Domonique breeds.
You’ll also find a wide spectrum of egg colors. For a more comprehensive list of chicken breeds and their colors, go see this egg color chart. The point is all these egg colors are unique to different breeds and are predominantly, a genetics issue.
Most of the colors are as a result of a pigmentation that’s unique to each breed. For instance, brown egg shells are that way because of the presence of the protoporphyrin IX pigment that’s commonly found in a compound called heme.
This compound is responsible for both the red color of blood as well as the yellow color of bile. In the latter, it is responsible for the biliverdin pigment that gives the blue color found on the eggs of the Araucana and Ameraucana breeds.
However, please note that these colors can also be caused by other issues as well as environmental factors. For instance, age can affect the color of the eggs depending on the breeds.
The Black Australorp for example, tends to lay bigger, lighter colored eggs as it ages. Other factors such as diet, stress, illness and environment can also affect the hen’s egg size as well as its color.
But it will never affect its color so much that it completely chances color. For instance, depending on the factors at play, the Delaware will only lay eggs with lighter shades of brown, and will never lay a blue egg like the Araucana.
Which Eggs are Healthier? The White or the Brown?
This is a hot button issue and one that’s responsible for many discussions among chicken coop owners, farmers, enthusiasts, breeders, and consumers. As for the layman, it’s often an issue of belief and assumption.
For instance, many people believe the brown eggs to be nutritionally richer and a healthier option than the white, when in truth, there’s no difference between the two nutritionally. The reality is that barring any infections, all eggs provide the same nutritional benefits regardless of their colors.
Eggs are very rich sources of proteins, minerals, vitamins and have very low calorific content. To further prove this, researchers and scientists have carried out multiple studies to determine the nutritional differences and advantages that one egg color has over the other.
The result? No nutritional difference/edge whatsoever. All eggs are essentially the same nutrition wise and are the same quality. The only difference lies in the colors, caused by the pigments.
Nonetheless, there are some other factors that can affect the nutritional quality of eggs. One of these is a hen’s environment can determine the quality of her eggs. Hens that aren’t stressed, tend to produce more eggs.
A study carried out on hens that were optimally exposed to sunshine tended to produce eggs with significantly higher amounts of vitamin D in the eggs than those that aren’t exposed to the sun. Maybe this is why many people tend to prefer eggs produced by free range hens.
The same can be said for the hen’s feed. It makes sense that a hen’s eggs will contain some of the nutrients it consumes on a daily basis. For instance, one study showed that there is a correlation between the amount of omega-3 fatty acids consumed by hens and the amount present in their eggs. The same goes for those that fed on feed that was rich in vitamin D.
Is There Any Difference in Taste Between Both Colors?
It’s interesting to note that some people believe that some eggs taste better than others based on their shell color. The fact really is that there’s no difference whatsoever.
If a white and brown egg are exposed to similar conditions, prepared under the same circumstances, with the same ingredients or flavorings and served to you blind, chances are you wouldn’t be able to differentiate the taste because there would be none, really.
However, if you introduce one or more factors, for instance, the use of a different flavoring, different feeds for the hen, cooking methods as well as a difference in egg freshness, there might be a very slight difference in taste.
Some studies have tested this to determine if something as simple as varying feed nutrients can affect the taste of the eggs. The studies ultimately showed that regardless of the chicken breed, feed did play a role in flavor difference.
So, if you used feed A for one group of Delaware hens and feed B for another group, but leave all other factors constant, you would get a different favor for eggs produced by hens in the different groups.
In one of the studies, two groups of hens were fed both high and low fat feed. Those with the high fat feed produced eggs with more flavor than those given the low fat feed. Fish oil added to the feed has the tendency to affect the flavor.
Also, there are those who believe that the eggs of hens raised in conventional pen tend to taste different from that of hens raised in homes. Then, there’s the issue of storage.
Eggs stored in humid conditions and for longer may end up giving off a slightly more putrid smell and a different flavor. The best way to store eggs and preserve their flavor is in low temperature -like in the fridge.
If Color Doesn’t Mean Anything, Why Are Brown Eggs Often Costlier?
It’s interesting that white eggs are often cheaper than brown ones for some reason, even though they are essentially the same thing except for the color of their shells.
This is probably why many people just assume that brown eggs are a better quality, more nutritious and probably tastes better. In truth, this price difference is driven by a simple reason: in the past, hens that laid brown eggs were often bigger, and laid fewer larger sized eggs than the white egg-laying hens.
As a result, vendors and poultry farmers had to mark up the costs to break even and profit on their eggs. These days however, things have changed. Hens that lay brown eggs match the white ones egg for egg, so there’s really no basis for the price difference.
What Other Factors Should You Take Into Consideration When Buying Eggs?
Buying eggs used to be really simple. All you had to do was walk into the store or the farm, tell them how many eggs you needed and that’s it. These days, however, that’s an entirely different thing. You need to understand and know what the different egg types are, as well as their quality.
This is particularly important if you’re the health conscious individual who doesn’t want to dump even more toxic compounds in your body. The following are some labels to take note of whenever you’re in the market for eggs.
All Natural Eggs
As if there are synthetic eggs ;-). However, you would always see these labels on the cases of some of the eggs. Please understand that all eggs are natural. Those you should pay attention to are the “organic” labels.
All certified organic eggs are usually produced by chickens that have only been fed with organic, non-genetically modified feed. These are chickens are often raised on farms where they are frequently allowed to roam the outdoor –within a confined space, of course.
This also means that they get lots of vitamin D from roaming in the sun, as a result, their eggs just might contain significantly higher amounts of vitamin D than those of chickens that are confined to the indoors.
There’s also the possibility of non-exposure to hormones and high levels of antibiotics. Know this: all chickens are given small amounts of antibiotics to stay healthy and alive. Otherwise, the farmers would be running their poultries at a loss.
However, organic eggs aren’t necessarily more nutritious than traditional, regular eggs.
Eggs Laid by Cage-Free Chickens
To most people, the term “laid by cage-free chickens”, implies that the eggs were laid by chickens that are roaming free and getting lots of vitamin D. This is not necessarily true.
Some chicken breeders and poultry farmers house their chickens in small, individual cages. Then, there are those who just house them indoors in an open space that doesn’t necessarily include exposure to the sun.
These conditions are usually overcrowded too. Bottom line, the reality that eggs laid by cage-free chickens may not necessarily be any different nutritionally than the conventional eggs.
Eggs Laid by Free Range Chickens
You’ve probably seen this label on egg cases, and wondered what it meant. Well, this often means that the eggs were laid by chickens that are allowed to roam the outdoors within certain boundaries.
It is assumed that this access to the outdoors creates a less crowded and less stressed environment for the chicken, resulting in better quality of life, rapid production of eggs and higher amounts of vitamin D in the eggs. So, if you are particular about getting decent amounts of vitamin D from your eggs, these are the ones to look for.
These eggs are usually produced by chickens that often consume flaxseed-rich feeds. Flaxseed is a naturally rich source of omega-3, so the daily and frequent consumption of these feeds means the eggs will have significantly higher levels of omega-3 in them.
Why would you want to take more omega-3 enriched eggs? Well, one study showed that eating omega-3 enriched eggs every day for about a month can lower your bad cholesterol levels and blood pressure.
While another one showed that breastfeeding mothers who ate two omega-3 enriched eggs daily for one and half months, had more omega-3 fat in their breast milk.
So, if you’re looking to get more omega-3 into your body and that of your loved ones, you should seriously consider these eggs.
Eggs from Backyard Raised Chickens
These are also considered locally produced eggs. These are great for those who want very fresh eggs no older than 2-3 days. Many of them are even same day eggs. They are usually supplied by your average next door, small scale farmer that allows their hens roam freely.
While there’s no concrete evidence to show that these eggs are nutritionally better, it is assumed that the free range provides the birds with access to grass as well as regular feed. This can often translate into more nutritionally enriched eggs.
In the final analysis, what you need to know is that these are largely advertising labels, meant to create some form of distinction as well as exclusivity, and more importantly provide reasons to mark up the price of the eggs.
As long as the eggs are properly stored and aren’t older than a week, you’re good with whichever eggs you choose seeing as they are all nutritionally the same, regardless of their colors.