Thursday, June 12, 2014

Brown or White Eggs? What's the Difference?

I've received a few questions lately regarding the difference between white eggs and brown eggs. Are brown more nutritious? Do white chickens lay white eggs and brown chickens lay brown eggs? What causes the difference in shell pigmentation? 

Firstly, there is absolutely no difference in the nutritional value of a brown egg vs. a white egg. The difference is nutritional value depends upon the hen's diet. Free-ranged birds eating bugs, seeds, and weeds will offer up the best eggs, followed by a hen only fed organic chicken feed, and lastly commercial hens who are kept in cages and only eat GMO by product-feed.

As to determining what color egg a hen will lay, look no further than.... her earlobe! Feather color has absolutely nothing to do with egg color, although breed does. A hen with a white earlobe will lay white eggs, and a chicken with red skinned earlobes will lay brown eggs. There are white hens who will lay brown eggs (such as a White Wyandotte)  and brown or red hens that will lay white eggs (such as a Red Leghorn).

Pigmentation is deposited on the egg while forming. Brown pigmentation is called ooporphyrin. In some cases, such as with our Ameraucana hens, there may even be a bluish to green to olive brown coloration. That pigmentation is known as oocyanin. There is no pigmentation deposited on white eggs.

As to why Americans generally associate brown eggs with small local farms and white eggs with factory outfits, I can only guess. In general, commercial outfits choose White Leghorns because they are compact, eat less, and are consistent producers of large white eggs. On the other hand, heritage breeds like Rhode Island Reds are hardy, cool weather tolerant, do not require much feed, and fairly steadily lay large to extra large brown eggs.

So, the next time you get that token white egg in your carton, don't feel slighted. There is absolutely no difference between them!