Shell color can influence people’s choice of eggs, and some people believe that brown eggs are superior or healthier. However, there is no significant difference in nutrients between brown and white eggs.
This article explains what causes the color of an egg and whether this impacts the taste, cost, and health benefits of eggs. Additionally, it gives tips for choosing eggs and explores factors to consider when doing so.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) explains that the breed of the hen determines the color of its eggs.
The USDA notes that chickens such as the Leghorn, White Rock, and Cornish lay white eggs. Rhode Island Red, New Hampshire, and Plymouth Rock chickens lay brown eggs.
Araucana chickens, from South America, lay eggs that are blue or green.
According to a
- age and strain of the hen
- how producers house the hens
- if the hen has certain diseases such as infectious bronchitis
- hen stress factors such as fear and being frequently disturbed, particularly when laying eggs
According to the USDA, nutrient levels are not significantly different in white and brown shell eggs.
Some people claim that blue or green eggs from Araucana chickens contain less cholesterol than other eggs, but the USDA states that research hasn’t proven this claim.
The size of an egg does affect its nutrition, regardless of its color. The USDA notes in its Certified Egg Facts that “jumbo” eggs contain 90 calories and 8 grams (g) of protein, while medium eggs contain 60 calories and 6 g of protein.
Another factor that can affect the nutrition and health benefits of eggs is what the hens eat. For example, producers may enrich their chickens’ feed with omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, or other nutrients.
No evidence suggests that either white or brown eggs taste better overall. One study suggested that brown eggs are heavier than white eggs and have more shell and albumen (egg white). The research also indicates that brown eggs may also have less yolk.
Because of these factors, an individual might decide they have a personal preference for brown or white eggs.
Brown eggs tend to cost more. The USDA says this is because the hens that lay brown eggs are larger and eat more food.
This extra food cost is reflected in the price producers set for consumers.
People should consider freshness and quality when choosing eggs in retail stores.
The USDA advises people to consider the following points when buying eggs:
- only purchase eggs that the retailer is refrigerating
- choose eggs with clean, uncracked shells
- don’t buy out-of-date eggs
- look for the USDA grade shield or mark for quality and size
- choose the most useful and economical size for your purposes
- refrigerate as soon as possible after purchase
In the United States, an inspection of eggs for wholesomeness is mandatory. However, grading for quality is voluntary. Companies choose to pay for the USDA to grade their eggs and authorize a grade shield on the carton.
In the U.S., there are three consumer grades for eggs – AA, A, and B. However, retail stores seldom sell grade B eggs because manufacturers usually use them for making frozen, liquid, and dried egg products.
According to the USDA, the quality of grade AA and grade A eggs is as follows:
U.S. grade AA eggs: Thick and firm whites and yolks that are round and high and practically free from defects. Clean, unbroken shells.
U.S. grade A eggs: Characteristics of grade AA eggs except that whites are “reasonably” firm. Grade A eggs are the type that stores sell most often.
There are additional factors that people may consider when choosing eggs. The following labels are in use, according to the USDA Certified Egg Facts:
- Organic: A term that the USDA strictly regulates. Certified organic eggs are from uncaged hens that are allowed free range of their houses and have access to outdoor space. Additionally, the hens consume an organic diet.
- Cage-free: Cage-free eggs carry the USDA shield. Hens must have access to unlimited food and water and have the freedom to roam their area during the laying cycle. The USDA does not require cage-free hens to have access to the outdoors. Cage-free hens do not produce more nutritious eggs.
- Free-range: Free-range eggs carry the USDA shield. Hens must be in a cage-free environment and have access to the outdoors during their laying cycle.
- Antibiotic-free: Producers raised hens without antibiotics of any type.
- Vitamin enhanced: Hens’ diets may include components that make the eggs richer in vitamins and other nutrients.
- Omega-3 enriched: Hens diets may include flaxseed, algae, or fish oils to increase the omega-3 fatty acids in their eggs.
Brown and white eggs have similar nutrients, and their health benefits are not dependent on their shell color. Other factors such as the hen’s diet can influence egg nutrition. Some producers enrich their hens’ diet with vitamins, omega-3, and other nutrients, which can lead to more nutrient-rich eggs.
People should always choose fresh eggs that retailers store in a refrigerator. A person can identify different standards, such as organic and free-range, by looking for the USDA shield.
Farming conditions and production methods can affect the overall color of the eggshell. People may want to choose eggs from hens that have less stress and more freedom to roam.