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Brown Eggs vs White Eggs- Which One Is Healthier?

Are brown eggs healthier than white eggs? A significant segment of the population believes this to be the case. Certainly, the brown egg may have a more rustic feel and some find it more visually appealing than the ubiquitous and startlingly uniform white eggs sold by the dozen. But is there any factual basis behind this belief? Or are there other factors that are far more important to consider when selecting the healthiest egg? Authority Nutrition recently dove into this classic debate.

The question is not if the chicken or the egg came first. The question that needs to be asked is if the chicken was raised in a sustainable manner. This has much more influence on the nutritional value than shell color. In fact, it is fair to say that the differences between white and brown eggs run only shell deep.

The actual color of the egg is largely determined by the breed of chicken — and breed alone does not indicate if the bird was raised in a sustainable manner or in the deplorable conditions of a concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO).  Some experts argue that that if you took a brown-egg-laying hen and raised it on the diet of a white-egg-laying chicken, their eggs would be indistinguishable apart from the color of the shell. If the diets are the same, the yolks will even be the same color.

Over 50 billion eggs are produced annually in the U.S. About 70 percent of the eggs produced are sold as is, while the rest have their shells removed for processing and conversion.  Most CAFO-raised chickens, whether they lay brown or white eggs, are all being fed a similar diet. If you've ever tasted eggs laid by a pasture-raised chicken you already know there can be a big difference in taste between nourishing healthy eggs and pathetic CAFO eggs with their sickly pale yolks.

So why are white eggs so much more common? The primary reason is that the breeds of chickens that lay white eggs generally cost less to raise. That makes their eggs less expensive and inflates the sales of white eggs. Unfortunately, these eggs typically come from CAFOs.

Eggs from CAFO chickens are not particularly healthy. The chickens are housed in unsanitary conditions, and in some cases are packed so tightly that their feet barely touch the ground. This creates a breeding ground for disease. To make matters worse, they are often fed genetically engineered corn and soybeans instead of their natural diet of green plants, seeds, insects and worms. 

So how do you know if you have found a good egg? Interestingly, shell color can still be a rough indicator. Not because brown eggs are naturally more nutritious, but because white egg-laying chickens are more likely to have been raised commercially. The best indicator is the color of the yolk. Hens allowed to forage in the pasture produce eggs with bright orange yolks. Small, pale yellow yolks are a dead giveaway your eggs are from caged hens that were not allowed to forage for their natural and nourishing diet.
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