What’s Egg Color Got to Do With It?
Are brown-shelled eggs better than white-shelled ones? Supermarkets sell all sorts of eggs. Brown or white shell. Free range or not. Organic. Vegan. Prices per dozen vary greatly. How is a consumer supposed to buy the freshest and tastiest egg?
We’ve been raising chickens for decades and have kept hens that lay white, brown, and even blue and green-shelled eggs. All are laid by birds of the very same species. The nutritional value of an egg is the same no matter what its shell color. Taste varies depending on how fresh the egg is and what the hen ate. It is independent of shell color.
Brown Eggs: Most supermarket brown eggs are laid by hybrid hens, often called ISA Browns. These were developed from the somewhat large Rhode Island Red breed. They may be raised in cages in enormous factory farms or come from a smaller free-range flock. Brown-shelled eggs may be free-range or organic……or not.
White Eggs: Almost all supermarket white eggs are laid by White Leghorn hybrids. They are smaller-bodied hens than brown egg layers and are commonly raised in cages in enormous chicken factory farms.
Blue or Green Eggs: Rarely seen in supermarkets, these beautiful eggs are laid by the Araucana breed or hybrids developed from them. These hens are common in backyard flocks.
Organic: If labeled organic the hens are supposed to have been fed feed raised according to organic standards. Eggs marked vegan or natural may or may not be organic. Be wary of vegan eggs, as hens are omnivores. If they encounter insects, worms or meat scraps they’ll readily devour them.
Cage Free: The hens that laid these eggs normally are crammed into a large building but are not confined to the tight space of a cage. They may, or may not, have access to the outdoors.
Free Range: This is tricky. Supposedly free-range hens have ready access to the outdoors, but there may be only a tiny outdoor run for thousands of hens to enjoy.
How To Tell If Eggs Are Fresh
Nearly all egg cartons claim that the eggs inside are fresh, but what does that mean? They could have been laid six weeks earlier. To tell if an egg is fresh, fill a deep bowl with water and gently put an egg on the surface. If it sinks it’s reasonably fresh. If it floats it’s old. The reason is, a fresh egg has a small air cell. As it ages, moisture leaves through the porous shell and the air cell grows, making the egg buoyant.
The white, or albumen, of a fresh egg, will be relatively deep when cracked into the frying pan. It will spread out widely and be flat in an old egg.
How to Tell if Hens are Truly Pastured Raised
Most commercial eggs come from hens fed a specially prepared diet that provides all the nutrients they need but little else. The eggs will have pale yolks. In contrast eggs laid by hens with ready access to green vegetation will lay eggs with deep orange or yellow yolks. Some premium chicken feeds include marigold petals that impart deep color to the yolks.
Choosing the Highest Quality Eggs
It may take buying several dozen differently marketed eggs to find the freshest, tastiest, and most attractive eggs. Although the least expensive eggs usually come from factory farms, the best eggs aren’t always the most expensive. The very best will be fresh and have a boldly colored yolk.