The Difference Between Brown and White Eggs

When it comes to choosing which eggs to buy at the grocery store, we generally have a choice between two different colors, brown and white. Naturally, due to the fact that they are different colors and have different price points, with brown eggs always being more expensive, there is a common misconception that brown and white eggs are different. To take this further, many individuals believe that brown eggs are healthier because the golden rule states that brown is better. We choose to consume brown bread, whole wheat, and brown sugar because these are healthier choices then their white counterparts. However, when it comes to brown eggs, there is no nutritional difference between them and white eggs. With this said, let’s take a look at what the real difference is.

It Is All About The Chicken

The real difference between a brown and white egg is the chicken which laid it. In commercial chickens, there is a direct and clear correlation between the color of the feather, the color of the earlobe and the color of the egg. White-feathered chickens will always lay white eggs, whereas, red-feathered chickens will lay brown eggs. For instance, a White Leghorn will have white-shelled eggs, while Rhode Island Reds will have brown-shelled eggs. This guideline extends to other types of chicken breeds, which may lay blue, green, or even speckled eggs.

  • Brown-shelled eggs occur due to protoporphyrin IX, an organic compound that gives blood its red color.
  • Blue-shelled eggs have biliverdin, which is a green bile pigment created by heme catabolism. It is commonly seen when someone bruises.

What this comes down to is that the only difference between the eggs is that one is visibly a different color than the other due to the organic compounds present. Nutritionally, the content of these eggs remains the exact same in both composition and in quality.

The Environment Does Have an Impact on Egg Yolk Color and Taste

Although it may be easy to say that brown eggs taste better than white or vice versa, the reality of it is that it comes down to what the chicken has been fed and the environment it is kept in. For instance, a hen that has been allowed to roam in the sunshine during the day will have more vitamin D than those which are kept in indoor pens all day long. The same goes for hens that have been fed a diet that is rich in Omega-3 fatty acids or vitamin D, as their eggs will contain much higher levels of these components than those which are not fed these types of diets. If you want a more flavorful egg than you want eggs from hens that have been fed a diet rich in fat.

Beyond this, how the egg is cooked and stored will also affect the taste. The longer the egg is stored, the more likely it will have an off-tasting flavor. If you store the eggs in the refrigerator at a low and stable temperature, they will keep their fresh flavor, longer. If you scramble an egg that has been fed a diet rich in fish oil (for the omega-3s), it will taste the same as conventional eggs, however, if you boil them, they will taste off by comparison.

In Summary: What Matters is How The Chicken Is Raised

Generally, you want to pay attention to the labels on the egg carton. Backyard or local market eggs are going to be from hens that have lived as close to nature as possible and are almost always the freshest type of egg you can buy. If you buy eggs that are enriched with omega-3s, this means that the hen has been fed a diet that is rich in fish oil and is the main reason behind the hike in price that you see.  Free-range eggs mean that the hens have continuous access to the outdoors, whereas cage-free just means that the eggs are housed in an open building with little access to the outside. Finally, organic just means that the hens are not given any type of hormones or antibiotics unless absolutely medically necessary.