Eggs are one of the most inspiring foods available, as there are so many ways they can vary and be used. Here is something I would love to share.
When I first started raising chickens, I was inspired by Martha Stewart's flock that laid beautiful blue eggs. And as a backyard chicken keeper who now raises a flock of chickens made up of many various breeds that lay all different colored eggs, one of the questions I am asked quite often is, “What’s the difference between brown and white eggs?” Or blue eggs, for that matter.
And the answer is quite simple. According to the USDA, there is no difference. They merely have a different color outer shell - and in fact, brown eggshells are even white on the inside!
This is because all eggs start out white and then depending on the breed of chicken that laid the egg, a colored pigment is applied to the outside of the shell, resulting in a tan, brown, blue or even green egg. Or in the case of white eggs, no pigment is applied.
So, the color of the eggshell is entirely dependent on the breed of chicken that laid the egg. The diet of the chicken or the nutritional value of the egg has no bearing on the shell color at all. And inside an egg, regardless of the color of the shell, the white and yolk look the same.
Interestingly, the color of the egg yolk IS dependent on the hen’s diet and can vary from hen to hen within the same breed depending on how much food containing the carotene and xanthophyll pigments she is eating - such as leafy greens, parsley, pumpkins, marigolds, carrots, and cantaloupe.
It used to be that all eggs commercially sold in grocery stores were white. The perception was that white eggs were somehow superior to the brown eggs that chickens were laying on most family farms.
But the plain truth is that the white egg-laying Leghorn breed that was supplying most of the commercial eggs was the most economical to feed due to its small size and egg-laying prowess. So commercial farms mostly raised Leghorns that laid white eggs.
Meanwhile, on family farms, chickens were generally used for a dual purpose: eggs and meat. So slightly larger, more meaty breeds like the Rhode Island Red, Australorp, Wyandotte, Dominique, Delaware, Sussex and Plymouth Rock were preferred. All of these breeds lay brown eggs. The roosters would become Sunday dinner and the hens would be raised for their eggs.
Over the years, the perception slowly changed and the shopper demand for what were considered fresher, better quality, local eggs started to grow. And brown eggs started appearing on supermarket shelves - usually at a premium because it cost the farms more in feed and time to collect a dozen brown eggs compared to a dozen white eggs.
Today, the grocery store shelves are full of cartons of not only white and brown eggs, but also sometimes blue eggs to inspire your next delicious egg recipe!
Ultimately, the nutritional value, taste and interior appearance of eggs of any color is identical. And the difference between brown and white eggs is merely superficial. Simply a different breed of chicken and a lack of any colored pigment on the white eggshells.
Lisa Steele is a 5th generation chicken keeper and the author of Fresh Eggs Daily: Raising Happy, Healthy Chickens Naturally as well as several other books devoted to raising backyard poultry flocks which have sold more than 150,000 copies. She lives on a small farm in Maine with her husband, their corgi, tuxedo cat and flock of chickens, ducks and geese. Lisa is currently hosting the award-winning show Welcome to my Farm on CreateTV. For more information visit www.lisasteele.com or connect with Lisa on Instagram.