Brown VS white eggs – what’s the difference? Are brown eggs really healthier or is that just a myth?
When it comes to food, the golden rule is that brown is better. Brown bread, wheat pasta, whole wheat crackers, brown sugar – they’re all considerably healthier than their white counterparts. But, what about brown eggs? Some people believe brown eggs are healthier or more natural, while others feel that white eggs are cleaner or simply taste better.
When shopping for eggs, you might notice that the brown eggs almost always cost more than the white ones. Perhaps you buy white eggs because that’s what you grew up eating. Or maybe you’ve been told that brown eggs are better for you, so they’ve become your go-to.
White and brown eggs certainly look different, and there’s often a difference in price between the two, but do you know why?
Here’s what you should know about brown versus white eggs, and what else to look for when purchasing your dozen.
Why Eggs are Different in Color
Chicken eggs can come in different colors, and it’s common to find both brown and white eggs in the supermarket. However, many people don’t know what causes eggs to have different colors.
The answer is quite simple – egg color depends on the breed of the chicken. White eggs are laid by white-feathered chickens with white or light coloured earlobes while the brown ones are laid by brown-feathered chickens with red earlobes.
While earlobe color can be a predictor of egg color, it is not always the rule. For example, one breed of red-earlobed chickens, the Araucana breed, often lays blue eggs, but may also lay eggs that are green, pink, or even lavender.
The different eggshell colors come from pigments the hens produce. The main pigment in brown eggshells is called protoporphyrin IX. It is made from heme, the compound that gives blood its red color.
The main pigment found in blue eggshells is called biliverdin, which also comes from heme. It’s the same pigment that sometimes gives bruises a blue-green color.
But while genetics is the main factor that determines egg color, other factors can have an influence too. For example, as hens that lay brown eggs age, they tend to lay larger and lighter-colored eggs.
The hen’s environment, diet and level of stress may also affect shell color, to some extent. These factors can make the shade lighter or darker, but not necessarily change the color itself. The main factor determining color is still the breed.
Are Brown Eggs Healthier than White Eggs?
Often, people who prefer brown eggs do so because they believe brown eggs are more natural and healthy than white eggs. However, the truth is that all eggs are nutritionally very similar, regardless of size, grade or color.
Both brown and white eggs are healthy foods. Scientists have compared eggs with brown shells to those with white shells to see if there is any difference. Several studies have found that shell color has no significant effect on egg quality and composition. This means that the color of an egg’s shell doesn’t have much to do with how healthy it is. The only real difference is the pigment in the shell.
Some people also think that one color shell is harder than the other, or that there are different colored yolks. But in reality, these factors are due to the age and feed of the chicken.
Hens fed a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids produce eggs that contain much higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids than normal. The same effect has been found with vitamin D when chickens eat vitamin-D-enriched feed.
There are other factors that can affect the nutritional content of an egg. The hen’s environment can have a major impact. For example, eggs from hens that are allowed to roam in the sunshine contain 3–4 times the amount of vitamin D you’d find in eggs from a conventionally raised hen.
Do Brown Eggs Taste Better?
Some people swear that brown eggs taste better, while others prefer the taste of white eggs. But just as with nutritional content, there is no real difference between the taste of brown- and white-shelled eggs.
However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that all eggs taste the same. Even though shell color doesn’t make a difference, other factors such as type of feed, freshness and how an egg is cooked may affect the way it tastes.
The diet of a home-raised hen is not the same as that of a conventionally raised hen, which may also affect the flavor of the eggs.
Additionally, the longer the egg is stored, the more likely it is to develop an off flavor. Storing eggs at a stable, low temperature, like in the refrigerator, can help preserve their flavor for longer.
These reasons may be why some people believe that eggs from home-raised chickens taste better than those from conventionally raised chickens. Backyard eggs don’t go through processing and shipping like conventional ones do, so they may end up on your plate more quickly than eggs bought from the store. Because they’re fresher, they may taste better.
Why are Brown Eggs More Expensive?
Even though brown and white eggs seem to be the same by all measures other than color, brown eggs still tend to cost more at the store. This fact has led many people to believe that brown eggs are healthier or higher-quality than white ones. However, the cause of this price gap is quite different.
In truth, brown eggs cost more because in the past, brown-laying hens tended to be larger and lay fewer eggs than white-laying hens. Therefore, brown eggs needed to be sold at a higher price to make up for the extra costs.
Today, brown-laying hens have nearly the same production costs as white-laying hens. Nevertheless, their eggs still tend to come with a higher price tag. This may be because specialty eggs, such as free-range or organic, tend to be brown rather than white.
If Color Doesn’t Matter, What Does?
It’s clear that color isn’t an important factor. So what should you take into account when buying eggs? Here’s a quick look at the different types available and what their labels mean.
1. All Natural
The term “natural” is not regulated in the US because natural cannot be defined. Eggs labeled “naturally raised” or “all natural” are no different than any other egg.
Eggs that are certified as organic in the United States and European Union are from chickens given only organic and non-GMO feed.
They must also have year-round access to the outdoors. In addition, they have not been given antibiotics or hormones, though hormones are never permitted for laying hens.
Currently, there is no evidence that organic eggs are more nutritious than conventional eggs. Still, certified organic hens’ quality of life is probably better and greater access to sunshine probably increases the vitamin D in their eggs.
When the term “cage-free” is applied to eggs, it may be misleading.
While conventionally raised hens in the US are housed indoors in very small, individual cages, cage-free hens are housed in an open building or room. However, the conditions for cage-free hens are often still very crowded, with no access to the outdoors.
Cage-free living may be slightly better for the hen. However, in terms of nutrition, cage-free eggs are probably no healthier than conventional eggs.
The label “free-range” signifies eggs that come from hens housed with some form of continuous access to the outdoors. This ideally provides a better quality of life for the hens.
It may also increase the nutritional quality of the eggs, since hens that are exposed to sunlight produce eggs with much higher vitamin D levels.
5. Omega-3 Enriched
Omega-3 enriched eggs come from hens fed a diet enriched with healthy omega-3 fats. Therefore, the omega-3 content of the egg is much higher than normal.
Omega-3 enriched eggs provide an alternative source of omega-3 fats, which are traditionally very limited in the human diet. Choosing omega-3 enriched eggs may offer some health benefits.
6. Backyard and Local
Eggs that come from backyard flocks or those bought directly from small, local farmers are likely to be the freshest and usually come from hens that live in more natural environments with plenty of access to sunshine.
The diets of backyard hens may be different from conventionally raised hens and this may affect the nutrition content of the eggs, as well.
This is especially true if the hens have access to grass, since hens fed grass as well as conventional feed have been found to produce eggs that have higher levels of omega-3 fats and vitamin E.
However, backyard flocks are not subjected to the same hygiene regulations as commercial flocks, so be sure to buy local or backyard eggs only from sources that you know follow good care and hygiene practices.
Looking at all the options for eggs can be overwhelming. While there is no taste or nutritional differences between brown and white eggs, there can be differences in nutrition depending on what the hen is fed.
The most important thing is getting fresh eggs. While taste tests have shown that most people can’t taste the difference between a fresh egg or one that is slightly older, there is a texture difference. Fresh eggs will be fluffy and full when cooked, while older eggs fall flat.
To get the freshest egg possible skip all the fancy labels and look for the lowest cost eggs. Because consumers are price conscious, you’re going to get a fresher egg. With a lower price, eggs turn over every day. If you buy just ordinary eggs, you should get eggs that are less than 48 hours old.