The Difference between White Eggs and Brown Eggs

Chicken eggs come in many different colors: pastel shades of pink, cream, or blue, or “standard” colors such as white or brown. So, other than the difference in color, what is the difference between white eggs and brown eggs?

Perhaps one of the first questions that people ask about different colored chicken eggs is: are brown eggs healthier than white eggs? The answer to this isn’t simple, because the quality of the egg, no matter the egg’s color, depends on how the hen was raised.

Genetics play the largest part in determining egg color. For example, according to the Boise Food Guild and, some chickens that genetically and historically come from Asia, such as the Cochin breed, lay brown eggs, while the popular true Araucana or Ameraucana breeds that come from South America lay robin’s blue colored eggs.

If two breeds that lay different colored eggs are crossed, such as a Marans with an Ameraucana, the resulting hybrid could lay an olive colored egg. This means that a hen’s egg color will depend on her parentage.

The most well-known white egg laying breed is the Leghorn. A Leghorn is usually slender and lays consistently, so it’s a good breed for commercial production. Perhaps this is why many Americans were familiar with white eggs – they used to be much more available than their brown counterparts.

Rhode Island Reds and an off-shoot hybrid, called Red Stars, are heavy producers of brown eggs. It is believed that the color of a hen’s earlobes reveals the color of that hen’s eggs. However, the Araucana has no earlobes and the hens lay blue eggs. Similarly, the Ameraucana has red earlobes but the hens do not lay red eggs. They lay blue eggs as well. The difference between white eggs and brown eggs is primarily the genetics of the chickens that lay them.

In terms of health, brown eggs are no better for you than white ones. How the hen is raised, what she is fed, and generally how healthy the hen is will all help to determine how nutritious her egg is. Chickens need plenty of protein to produce healthy eggs. It is a myth to believe that chickens are vegetarians and should be fed vegetarian diets consisting of corn and soy. Chickens also love to eat bugs, yogurt and meat, and these high-protein meals contribute to the overall goodness of an egg, whether it is white or brown.

In some cases, brown eggs are more expensive than white eggs. One reason for this might be the largely-held sentiment that brown eggs are healthier, or that they are somehow special. Customers then end up paying for the color of the eggs rather than for the nutritiousness that the eggs should have.

No difference other than color exists between white and brown eggs. If you want to determine which eggs are best for you in terms of quality and health, look at how the company raises and feeds their hens. You may find more nutritious brown eggs, or you might find similarly high-quality white eggs.

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