What Are the Differences Between White and Brown Eggs?
Eggs are protein powerhouses and are one of the most versatile foods on the planet. But when it comes to their nutritional content, is one type more healthful than another? Why do their shells range in color from white to brown to blue? And what does the the shade of the shell mean for your omelet? There are many factors to consider when buying eggs, like size, price and label, but should the color of the shell be one of them? Let's break it down.
What Are the Differences Between Brown, White, and Blue Eggs?
We're not getting into that age-old question of which came first, the chicken or the egg, because in this case one thing is clear: the chicken came first. The color of an egg shell is almost entirely dependent on the genetics of the hen who laid it. Egg shell color is a result of a genetic pigmentation carried by certain breeds. For example, Martha's beloved Araucana chickens carry a specific gene that enables them to lay beautiful blue and green eggs. Alternatively, the Rhode Island Red breed of hen lays brown eggs due to a hereditary pigmentation.
Is One Better for You Than Another?
Aside from the appearance of the shells, there is no major nutritional difference between differently colored eggs. As long as hens of different breeds maintain similar diets and are fed appropriately, their eggs will have equivalent nutritional value. The color of the egg does not impact flavor or cooking characteristics either. When assessing quality, it's more important to look to the USDA grade on the packaging (AA, A, or B) rather than the color of the shell.
The Bottom Line
In short, a hen's breed and genetics are almost entirely the cause for differently colored egg shells. Although their appearance may vary, there is no impact on nutritional value from one egg color to the next, and egg color does not signal any difference in flavor or quality. When buying eggs, it's more important to consider which eggs are freshest, and the different labels they carry (pasture raised versus cage-free, for example).