Eggs: white or brown, does it matter?
In celebration of World Egg Day
October 13, 2023
By Marisa Romano
According to a survey by the International Egg Commission, eggshell-colour preference differs around the world, with brown or white eggs dominating the market in different countries. But does colour have anything to do with eggs’ nutritional value?
The egg yolk on my childhood table was a dazzling orange ball, a plump smiling face right in the middle of the sunny side. My great-grandmother proudly said that it was so because of what healthy chickens ate while pecking around the yard. The hue of the eggshell was not a topic for discussion; it was of different shades of brown, sometimes white.
Nowadays, supermarket eggs are selected by shell colour, and cartons of white and brown eggs are priced differently and stacked on different sides of the refrigerator. No discussion about the colour of the yolk, though; that is for the consumer to discover once the
egg is cracked open at home.
In search for the indulgent dark yolk of my childhood, I scavenged farmers markets around the city.
White or brown was not the point, but I became intrigued by the colour of the shell when I picked up eggs from la fermière folle. No question asked about it when I ordered them online, but the carton that was handed to me at the farm’s distribution table at the Main Street Farmers’ market contained a colourful surprise. Besides the familiar shades of brown were eggs with a light blue shell. Who knew!?
Different breeds of hens lay eggs with different shell colours. All eggshells are made of white calcium carbonate. The popular white Leghorn breed, for example, lays pure white eggs. Brown egg layers are breeds that produce a brown pigment that is deposited on top of the white shell during egg formation. The inside of brown eggshell is in fact lighter. Other less common breeds produce a blue pigment that is mixed with the calcium carbonate during the earlier stage of egg formation. The formed shell is blue outside and inside. Fancier yet, some breeds produce both brown and blue pigments. The combination of the two results in a green outer shell.
While egg-colour preference reflects consumer’s perception of healthiness, the hue of the shell has actually nothing to do with the nutritional value of its content. Brown and white eggs are nutritionally identical and packed with essential vitamins, minerals and high-quality protein. Hens that are raised with traditional feed supplemented with extra nutrients like vitamins or Omega-3s contain a little more of these nutrients than regular eggs.
Further, a CBC’s Market Place investigation on cheaper conventional and more expensive organic eggs available in our supermarkets concluded that on average, there is minimal nutritional difference between the two. On the other hand, eggs from small farms where hens roam around and have a more varied diet have more nutrients.
What hens eat affects also the colour of the yolk. Feed based on wheat gives a pale yellow yolk, corn or soy produces a bright yellow and a diet rich in carotenoids results in that deep orange yolk. My grandmother was right! But alas, as per the shell, the colour of the yolk has
nothing to do with quality, nutrition or freshness of the egg.
So, go ahead and celebrate World Egg Day this October 13. (www.internationalegg.com/our-work/world-egg-day/). No matter which egg you crack, you will always end up with a nutritious meal. Marisa Romano is a foodie and scientist with a sense of adventure who appreciates interesting and nutritious foods.
Jessica’s Quinoa Egg Salad
Makes 4-6 servings
Jessica Brick is a local dietitian with a passion for making flavourful, well-balanced, easy and affordable meals. She chose this recipe for a cooking activity with residents of Ottawa Community Housing.
2/3 cup quinoa
8 large eggs, hardboiled and cut in
4 medium carrots, grated
1 long English cucumber
1 large apple
2 cups parsley, fresh,
Additional ingredients ideas: cubed avocado, feta cheese, mozzarella, tomatoes, celery, pickles, olives, bell peppers, any other herb in place of parsley (rosemary, thyme, basil, oregano, mint etc.)
Juice of 1 large lemon
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
Add the ingredients to a jar; cover it and shake well to combine.
Rinse quinoa well. Add 1 1/3 cup water. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 15 minutes, or until all liquid is absorbed. Cube vegetables (and additional ingredients if using) in small pieces; add eggs and vegetables to cooled quinoa and toss with the dressing until well combined. Enjoy!
For a plethora of egg recipes check out www.eggs.ca
Marisa Romano is a foodie and scientist with a sense of adventure who appreciates interesting and nutritious foods.