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Egg Color Blindness

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Does the Shell Egg Color Make a Difference?

It has been said many times, in many places, but it bears repeating…the color of the egg shell does not indicate higher quality or better nutrition. Generally speaking, chickens with white feathers and ear lobes lay white eggs; breeds with red feathers and ear lobes lay brown eggs.

brown egg color in basket

Somehow brown color egg shells became associated with healthy, farm fresh eggs and white shells gained a negative reputation.

There are perfectly healthy, good-for-you eggs with white shells. The more important factor for me relates to how the chicken is raised.

The vast majority of chickens in North America are raised in some form of conventional hen house. Don’t be fooled by labels in organic and regular supermarkets today. So called free-range chickens will more than likely never see a blade of grass in their life.

Egg Related Terms And What They Really Mean:

“Free-range” — The term is meant to imply pasture raised, but it really means that the chickens have access to the out of doors. It can be a dirt lot at the end of a large organic confinement chicken house.

“Free-roaming” — The term means that the chickens are housed on the floor of a large confinement chicken house instead of in small wire cages. They most likely do not have access to the out of doors.

“Cage-free” — The term is basically the same as “Free-roaming”

The real benefits come from those chickens who are pasture raised.

What is the difference?

Pasture raised chickens spend the better part of their day outside, eating grass and insects and getting fresh air and sunshine. This requires larger amounts of open space. Additionally, the chickens need to be moved periodically. This is more costly and time consuming, which is why large distributors won’t do it.

pasture raised chicken

I can personally attest to one thing – chickens raised this way produce eggs of a superior taste! I have eaten pasture raised chicken eggs from a farm north of Washington, DC and at the home of our wine growing friends, Deb and John, in California. The egg taste compared to conventional methods is like the difference between garden fresh tomatoes and hot house ones. If you taste eggs from pasture raised chickens, you will not want to go back.

On top of the great taste, studies indicate these type of eggs possess a higher nutritional value. Various independent studies have shown that eggs produced by pasture raised chickens, fed a healthy grain diet, are higher in Omega-3 fatty acids and lower in saturated fats. This is one reason why you are now seeing companies feeding chickens special diets to boost their Omega-3s. Beware of contradictory studies funded by large self serving agribusiness.

Other Egg Misinformation:

Yolk color myth – indicates a healthier, better tasting egg. I used to think darker yolks were better and have since learned this is NOT true. Yolk color is determined by the diet of the chicken. If the hen gets plenty of yellow/orange plant pigments known as xanthophylls, you will see a darker more appealing yolk. Hens fed mash containing yellow corn and alfalfa meal will have eggs with medium yellow yolks. Those who eat wheat or barley will have lighter colored yolks. A diet of white cornmeal produces nearly colorless yolks. To enhance yolk color, natural yellow/orange elements like marigold petals can be added to light colored feeds to enhance yolk color. No one is allowed to use artificial additives to enhance yolk color. A darker yolk can affect the color of products made with them such as pasta. And finally, regardless of color, the yolk is where you find the nutrients and naturally occurring vitamin D. The egg white is mostly protein.

Egg freshness test – you cannot tell the freshness of an egg by placing it in salt water. The old adage is, if an egg floats in salted water, it is spoiled and unsafe to eat. In fact, eggs would unsafe to eat well before they would float in water. Interestingly, eggs older than one week are easier to peel, when boiled, than fresher eggs. However when poaching eggs, you will want the freshest egg possible. A fresh egg will hold its shape in the water better. Properly stored eggs will remain safe to use for several weeks. If you have any doubts about the freshness of the egg, do not use it.

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13 Responses to “Egg Color Blindness”

  1. Elizabet Fugate

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  4. Vasiliki Perrucci

    I don’t really agree with your post, but it’s possible to argue it both ways

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  6. Mort Modi

    Hello, I have browsed most of your posts. This page is probably where I got the most useful information. Thanks for posting.

  7. Sandra Lira

    Chickens have earlobes?
    My aunt gave me chickens from a kindergarten hatching when
    I was little. They became pets and roamed around outside, but their eggs were the best I’ve ever tasted. Some of the hens were an iridescent black (the way oil looks multicolored on the surface of a puddle) and laid large, greenish-grey eggs.

  8. Emmanuel Swedlund

    Heard about this site from my friend. He pointed me here and told me I’d find what I need. He was right! I got all the questions I had answered. Didn’t even take long to find it. Love the fact that you made it so easy for people like me. More power

  9. GasketBoy

    I was just talking with a friend about where legands are born, and how they get passed down from generation to generation. Eggs were one topic he brought up (he grew up on a farm), i was blown away to find out about some of the wives tails associated with eggs. So I’m doing my research and stumbled here, good stuff.

  10. candy

    Yolk color – indicates a healthier, better tasting egg.
    I thought so.

  11. kitchenboy

    My friend Deb reminded me that her black hen (Lina), a fine bird indeed, “lays off-white, or call them ecru, eggs…”, so the rule about feathers is not hard and fast, but the overall point of shell color being a result of breed remains true.

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