Brown Eggs vs. White Eggs: What Are the Differences?
U.S. per capita egg consumption increased by 15% in the past 20 years, and the U.S. table egg production totaled nearly 97 billion in 2020. Egg consumption is rising because eggs are nutrient-dense, packed with protein, and low in calories.
If you like to eat eggs, you’ve probably noticed that at the store, you find both white and brown eggs available. Is there a difference between them?
Continue reading as we break down the brown eggs vs. white eggs debate to settle once and for all the differences.
The Main Difference, Explained
Not to disappoint, but the only real difference between brown and white eggs is the color! However, that doesn’t mean that all eggs are precisely the same. Sound confusing? Let us explain.
Both white and brown eggs have the same structure. Yet, different hens produce different colored eggs. For example, a white-feathered hen with white earlobes, like a Leghorn, will likely lay white eggs. Conversely, a brown hen with red earlobes, like a Hyline or Rhode Island Red, will probably lay brown eggs.
So although there is a color difference, it’s not because the egg structures are different. It’s because the chicken breed has a determining effect on the eggshell color.
Nutritional Value of Brown Eggs vs. White Eggs
There is a common belief that brown eggs are healthier than white eggs. But the nutritional value between the two is very similar regardless of their:
This is not to say that there can’t be some nutritional differences between eggs. It’s just not the color or pigment of the shell that changes the egg’s nutritional value.
It’s the hen’s diet and environment.
For example, pasture-raised hens can forage and often eat high-quality feed. This would make their eggs taste better and have a higher nutritional value. Additionally, hens that spend ample time in the sun lay eggs with three to four times more vitamin D than conventionally raised eggs.
Rather than using the color to determine the nutritional value, check the packaging to learn more about how the hens were raised.
What About the Cost Differences?
If there are no significant differences between the eggs, why are brown eggs more expensive than white eggs?
Most eggs in the U.S. are white eggs because many farmers have Leghorn chickens. Leghorn chickens produce many eggs but are smaller in size, so they cost less to raise. This is ideal for large-scale commercial operations and lowers the cost of white eggs.
With white eggs being cheaper to produce, the cost of brown eggs seems higher. But it still doesn’t fully explain why brown eggs are sometimes two or three times the cost of white eggs.
Since consumers believe that brown eggs have a higher nutritional value, producers can charge more for them. So why did consumers start thinking brown eggs were healthier?
Well, Leghorns are scrawny looking and aren’t as good for eating meat. But, on the other hand, many brown chickens are stocky.
Smaller farmers may raise larger, heavier chicken breeds that produce excellent meat and eggs, such as the Australorp. Local farmers can get more out of the hen by selling meat and eggs rather than only the eggs. It’s more labor and cost intensive but manageable for non-commercial farms.
This difference between the scrawny white hen and the stocky brown hen gave way to the idea that brown eggs were for the upper class and white eggs were “peasant” or commercial eggs for the masses.
Egg producers still use these ideas when marketing brown eggs to make consumers feel they are healthier. But just know that you aren’t necessarily getting a superior product when you buy brown eggs.
Going Beyond This Brown and White Eggs Guide
While brown and white eggs are most familiar, chickens can actually lay eggs of all different colors.
Naturally, a brown eggs guide will show you all the different shades of brown eggs you can find. The shades range from light brown to deep dark brown.
But the exciting part is that you can also find pinkish/cream, green, and even blue eggs! Olive Egger is an excellent example of a green egg that tastes delicious.
Other Buying Factors
When buying eggs, there are plenty of other important factors that don’t relate to color. You may see different labels on eggs, including:
- Backyard and local
Because the FDA doesn’t regulate the term “natural,” this term doesn’t mean an “all-natural” or “naturally raised” egg is different from any other egg.
Backyard and local eggs are typically fresher and come from hens that live in more natural environments. Thus, they will likely have better nutritional value and great taste.
However, you want to buy from someone you trust because backyard flocks aren’t subject to the same hygiene regulations as commercial flocks. This can affect the egg quality.
Cage-free refers to hens raised in large, indoor houses. They are often cramped and have no access to the outdoors. Although hens aren’t in individual cages, it’s still not a great environment.
Free-range eggs are for hens that have continuous access outside. The quality of life is better, so the nutritional value may be better. For example, grass-fed hens can have higher omega-3 fats and vitamin E levels.
Omega-3-enriched hens eat a special diet fortified with omega-3 fats. Omega-3-fats are essential but limited in our diet. So eating these eggs can have health benefits.
Organic eggs are from hens that eat only organic and non-GMO feed. They also have continuous access outside. These hens haven’t been given antibiotics (unless medically necessary) or hormones. The quality of life is similar to that of free-range eggs, but there isn’t data to suggest that they are more nutritious than other types of eggs.
The Only Difference Is the Color
As you can see, there isn’t much to debate when it comes to the brown eggs vs. white eggs debate! Aside from the shell color, there aren’t really any differences between them. What does matter when it comes to eating eggs is how the chickens were raised and treated.
If you enjoyed reading this article and learning more about eggs, check out the rest of the blog!