Published with permission by Poultry Times. Originally posted on November 9, 2016.
Written by Katie Keiger
Producers today are well aware of consumer’s desires to be healthy and eco-friendly. In the poultry industry, a potentially confusing topic is egg color.
Brown is associated with natural so it is easy for labels to boast brown eggs are healthier and that the chickens responsible for the eggs are raised in a more natural environment. That and the fact that more expensive items are normally considered more valuable can further jumble people’s opinions. Michigan State University Extension points out that egg colors can also be blue, white or green, but it typically just correlates with the chicken’s ear lobe not health.
“All eggs start out white in color, those that are laid in shades other than white have pigments deposited on them as the eggs travel through the hen’s oviduct,” Dorothy Munn of Michigan State University Extension said. “Ameraucana birds have the pigment oocyanin deposited on the egg…” The pigment makes Ameraucana birds have blue eggs. Chickens with brown eggs deposit the pigment protoporphyrin.
Whatever pigment is deposited in the chicken’s body onto the egg do not affect the inside of the egg. Yet those 26 hours the egg spends traveling through the mother hen determines in many people’s minds the price of the egg.
Consumer Reports hones in on the specific concerns of the public by putting white and brown eggs to a blind test. The nutrition of the eggs were not changed by the color, the diet of the chickens was what affected the eggs. If hens are given flax, marine algae and other ingredients that add omega-3 fatty acids to their eggs had five times or more omega-3 fatty acids than traditional eggs and vegetarian fed hens had more vitamins in their eggs.
The factors affecting taste was the same as that of the nutrition; the hen’s diet. Of course the older the egg the less tasteful the egg.
The Egg Nutrition Center agreed that color does not change chicken eggs in anyway, but they addressed some elements in eggs that do affect humans. Restricting egg consumption to egg whites limits the nutrition to a little more than half of that of a whole egg. The fat and cholesterol in the egg yolk will be lost, but the vitamins and other elements that absorb fats are also lost.
Egg yolk also contains carotenoid lutein and, consequently, stereoisomer zeaxanthin which in several studies have been proven to maintain eye health.
According to the Egg Nutrition Center, eggs contain high levels of vitamin D which is “essential for maintaining serum calcium and phosphate levels and in developing and maintaining healthy bones.”
Fitday.com advises that the overall condition of the egg is determined by the egg grading program ran by the USDA. Eggs labeled B are normally used in liquid eggs, not available whole to the public in supermarket. Grade A and AA eggs have firmer and thicker whites and yolks that are free of defects such as blood spots and meat spots.