How Are Brown And White Eggs Different?

It's no surprise that eggs are one of the most widely consumed foods in the world. Packed with nutrients and relatively inexpensive, they're a staple in many cultures. 

Eggs are not only a main dish but also an important ingredient, holding together everything from cakes to quiche. Naturally, people want to eat the healthiest eggs possible, especially since they eat so many of them. This has led to a debate over whether brown eggs or white eggs are better for you. Let's find out what the difference is between the two.

What gives them their color?

Despite all of the misconceptions surrounding brown eggs, they come from ordinary chickens just as white eggs do. The breed of the chicken that lays the egg determines what color the egg will be. 

"Egg color is determined by the genetics of the hens," according to Michigan State University Extension. As a general rule, the color of a chicken's ear lobes will tell you what color eggs they produce; chickens with white ear lobes typically lay white eggs while chickens with red ear lobes typically lay brown eggs. 

While white and brown are the two most common egg varieties sold in grocery stores, there are some rarer chicken breeds which produce different colors. The Ameraucana chicken lays blue eggs, and the Olive Egger (a cross between a brown egg laying and a blue egg laying breed) lays green eggs. 

A difference in cost

White eggs are more common in grocery stores, leading some people to think that brown eggs are rarer and therefore worth the higher price tag. There's a simple explanation for this, however. While it is true that there are more white eggs produced and sold, it all boils down to cost.

Chicken breeds that lay white eggs are smaller than their brown egg laying counterparts, making them cheaper to feed and house. Since it costs poultry farmers more money to raise brown egg laying chickens, the cost of brown eggs is higher. 

Which is easier to crack?

If you're like me and have a hard time cracking eggs, you can appreciate an egg that's easier to crack. I'd be willing to pay a little bit extra if it meant I didn't have to scoop shells out of my scrambled eggs!

Sadly, there's no way to determine how easy an egg will be to crack based on its color. Both brown and white eggshells have the same thickness, with thinner eggshells coming from older chickens and thicker eggshells coming from younger chickens.

But what about taste?

A lot of people think brown eggs taste better than white eggs. But do they? 

A taste test from Consumer Reports found that brown eggs and white eggs taste pretty much the same. The biggest thing that influences flavor in eggs is what the chickens laying them are fed. You're not going to taste much of a difference between a brown egg and a white egg if the chickens were fed the same diet.

If you find that brown eggs taste better, it's most likely because of how the chickens laying them were raised. Most commercial eggs are white, whereas chickens raised in private homes are more often of the brown egg laying variety. Eggs purchased at your local farmer's market will probably taste better than commercially produced eggs from a grocery store, but this holds true no matter what color the egg is. 

Which is healthier?

Brown eggs and white eggs have the same nutrients. Tro Bui, a visiting fellow at Cornell University's College of Agriculture and Life Science, told The New York Times that brown eggs might contain more omega-3 fatty acids than white eggs, but this difference is "tiny." 

An egg's color doesn't impact its nutritional value, but the diet of the chicken laying it does. A study conducted by Pennsylvania State University found that chickens "allowed to forage in pastures are higher in some beneficial nutrients."

According to Heather Karsten, the professor who led the study, "eggs from pastured hens eggs had twice as much vitamin E and long-chain omega-3 fats, more than double the total omega-3 fatty acids, and less than half the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids."

A healthier egg

If you really want a healthier egg, buy eggs from chickens that are fed better food.The best way to be sure of this is to read the labels on the egg carton; look for the words "certified organic" or "USDA organic." These eggs are regulated by the U.S. government and are required to be pesticide, cage, and antibiotic-free. In order to meet USDA guidelines, these chickens aren't restricted to cages and are only given organic food. 

Watch out for claims that aren't officially backed up by the USDA. Eggs that simply say "organic" or "pasture-free," are not always held to the same strict guidelines. Also look for the USDA grade on the carton: eggs given a grade of AA are the freshest.