In “The Power of A Twenty Dollar Bill,” our heroes show us how to get by healthily on a mere $20.
However, a commenter noted how much the pair were paying for a dozen eggs, as the two were buying a dozen brown eggs.
It completely slipped my mind, but let’s debunk this (and a few other myths along the way.) We’ll start with the transcript of a lovely interview from NPR’s All Things Considered:
DEBBIE ELLIOTT, host: From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I’m Debbie Elliott. This is the week of the egg. Passover has begun, where a roasted egg sits on the Seder plate as a symbol of the cycle of life or of mourning, depending on who you ask. And of course tomorrow is Easter where eggs, dyed or chocolate, celebrate the Resurrection.
We thought it was as good a week as any to find out the answer to a question that’s been nagging us. Why are some eggs white and some eggs brown? And who better to pose that question to than Marie Simmons, author of cookbook The Good Egg. Ms. Simmons, chime right in.
Ms. MARIE SIMMONS (Author, The Good Egg): Well, brown eggs come from chickens who have brown feathers. It’s as simple as that, and white eggs come from chickens that have white feathers. Brown eggs are totally equal in nutritional value. It’s just a matter of regional preferences.
ELLIOTT: So once you open the egg…
Ms. SIMMONS: They’re all the same in the inside. Of course, there are beautiful blue and pale green and tan-shelled eggs, and they come from a rare breed called the Araucana, but those are a mostly what we would maybe call boutique chickens, and they’re not the kind of eggs you’re going to find everywhere, but…
ELLIOTT: So you don’t necessarily have to dye your eggs to get those pretty colors. You just have to find a rare chicken.
Ms. SIMMONS: That’s right.
ELLIOTT: So why is it that white eggs are the ones that we tend to think of and see in the grocery store most often?
Ms. SIMMONS: Our supermarkets have both. We have white and brown eggs, but I think it’s the consumer demand for the white egg, or the preference, that is the reason that we are supplied most likely in supermarkets with white eggs.
Let’s follow that up with this from The Straight Dope:
According to the Egg Nutrition Board (and who should know better?), “White shelled eggs are produced by hens with white feathers and ear lobes. Brown shelled eggs are produced by hens with red feathers and red ear lobes. There is no difference in taste or nutrition between white and brown eggs.” The people at Crisco (who may know even more than the egg nutritionists) go further to say, “They simply come from two different breeds of chickens. Brown eggs, however, are more expensive because the chickens that lay them eat more than those that lay white eggs.” Among the breeds that lay brown eggs are the Rhode Island Red, the New Hampshire and the Plymouth Rock–all larger birds that require more food.But Bill Finch of the Mobile Register suggests that brown eggs may have tasted better at one time. He says, “For years, the chickens preferred by commercial growers happened to lay white eggs. A few smart cooks sought out brown eggs because most of the home-reared American flocks, which had access to flavor-enhancing weeds and bugs, happened to lay brown eggs. Commercial egg producers eventually got wise to this. They started raising chickens that laid brown eggs, and charged a premium for them at the store.
“But because the white AND brown grocery-store eggs are the result of the same bland commercial diet, their eggs taste exactly the same. Many people still apparently don’t realize they’ve been duped at their own game.”
- In general, consumers in the Northeast of the US prefer brown eggs, so most hens there are Rhode Island Reds, which produce brown eggs. Consumers in other parts of the country prefer white eggs, so most hens used elsewhere are White Leghorns, which produce white eggs.
- Brown eggs generally are more expensive because the Rhode Island Reds are bigger birds and eat more, which means it is more expensive to maintain them.
- Free-range eggs are produced by hens that are not kept in cages but live on an open floor, and not necessarily outside. These eggs are produced on a seasonal basis.
- The overall size and weight of an egg is an indicator of the health, breed, and maturity of the hen that laid it. Healthier, larger, and older hens produce larger eggs. Poor nutrition, stress, heat, and overcrowding can make hens produce smaller eggs.
- Similarly, the thickness of the egg’s shell is determined by the age of the hen and the hen’s nutrition. The healthier the hen, the thicker the shell. At the same time, older hens produce larger eggs. Larger eggs have a thinner shell, just because there’s more area to cover. If a larger egg has a thinner shell, that may have more to do with the age of the hen rather than its health.
- So if the eggshell is thicker, it’s not because it’s a brown egg. It’s most likely because the hen is healthier, or older, or living under better conditions. [source]
Eggshell color does not affect an egg’s nutritional value, quality, flavor, cooking characteristics, or shell thickness, says Emily Cooper, media spokesperson for the American Egg Board.
The difference is that they are more expensive. At CHOW’s local Safeway, one dozen Grade AA, extra-large white eggs from Lucerne sell for $3.19. Their brown counterparts, same size and grade, go for $3.98 per dozen. So why the higher price?
Hens that produce brown eggs are larger than white-egg-producing hens, and require more feed and care; that extra expense is passed on to the consumer. Although it might be cheaper to raise white-egg-producing hens, brown eggs continue to sell well, so they’re still a smart business choice for farmers. [source]
Can we now lay the brown egg vs white egg game to rest? And furthermore, can we stop spnding all of our hard earned pennies on an unnecessary expense?
Brown eggs look better in my white refridgerator 🙂
Thank you for the article! I think sometimes we all get duped by the commercials and the same psychological manipulation is worked on in the grocery store. More expensive usually translates to “healthier” and we all know what that is really about.
I sweat I was just thinking account this yesterday when I was picking up eggs from the grocery store. Another marketing ploy
I buy brown cage free or organic eggs. Regardless of what anyone says I’ll still buy them. When I crack one of them open the yolk is orange. That is what I go for. Healthy looking yolks. I hate eggs that have pale yellow yolks. I also hate cooking with them, especially if I am making a vanilla sauce or ice cream base. Personally I don’t view it as an unnecessary expense but that’s just me.
I buy the organic browns for the same reason – the rich colored and flavored yolk which is indicative of a chicken which has been raised on grasses and / or corn versus the wheat-based diet of those chickens which produce yolks that are lighter in color. There are companies that produce white eggs from chickens that have been fed the alternate diet, but the brown ones I purchase are actually less expensive.
Nutritionally speaking, the two eggs may be similar, but the darker yolk appears “richer” in the dishes that you utilize them in… since a lot of how we experience food is wrapped in the senses of sight, smell, and taste, the eggs from the chickens fed the alternative diet provide a sensory boost and I would say that they taste ever so slightly different as well, but then I would say you can tell the difference in milk from cows from different dairies because the feed is slightly different and it comes through in the milk. Maybe that is just psychological or maybe it came from time spent growing up on a farm and tasting things firsthand where the feed changes seemed dramatic to me.
I like brown eggs because they are brown! Fight the power! just kidding, but seriously there is no difference i’ve known for awhile lol.
Now the color of the egg doesn’t matter a bit, but the difference between cage free and non-cage free is HUGE. Most chickens we eat and who lay our eggs are stacked 10+ overcrowded cages high. Not only is this practice cruel, but eggs are porous. So when all those chickens sh** and it falls down each level and lands on your future breakfast, at least some of that chicken waste can be absorbed into your non-cage free eggs.
In this case, it is better for your health, the treatment of animals, and the world to spend more money on the organic cage free type. Or better yet, find a local farmer, or raise your own chickens!
The best eggs I’ve found are pastured eggs, where the chickens are actually out in the yard, pecking and nibbling and being regular old chickens.
I cracked one of them open next to one of the cage-free, organic, Omega-3 eggs that we had been getting–and the difference between the yolks was like night and day.
The brand we get, Vital Farms, is pricey in comparison to conventional eggs($6/dozen), but, if you can swing it, they’re pretty darned good.
Another thing to keep in mind is that, depending on where you live, you can keep chickens (even in urban areas). The ultimate fresh egg!
Actually, the chickens in “battery cages” stacked 10+ high are also housed on slanted floors so eggs roll down the floor and into a little chute that rolls them to the end of the row for collecting and machine handling. This prevent fecal contamination. In most large egg production facilities the eggs are not touched by human hands until they reach the grocery store. They do this so they know that if their is something wrong with the eggs(like Salmonella), it came directly from the chickens, not from human handlers.
As for the brown shell v. white shell controversy, well brown shell eggs result in more environmental degradation and pollution because the meat type chickens that produce brown shell eggs eat, drink, and crap more than a white leghorn or white shell egg laying bird. A dark yellow or orange egg yoke means the hen who produced it ate more animal protein or wee (and sometimes large) animals like baby rats, mice, small shakes or even road kill.
Also I hardly think that chicken sh** falling on a hen’s egg is anything for you to be concerned about.
Katy, the eggs laid by every hen on Earth are produced in their entirety inside a hens’ A** . Considering where the eggs are produced, whether a little chicken manure comes into contact with the shell after the egg is laid is of no concern. The use of “Natural” fertilizers on “Organic” vegies is a much bigger and real health problem. Anyway hens’ eggs all have porous external shells suitable for a cute fuzzy little baby chick to breath through while it develops and before it pips. If you were half as smart as you think, I would not need to correct your chicken sh** understanding of mother nature or the noble hen.
Interesting! So essentially, the key is the chickens’ diet.
Thanks for the info. I always bought brown eggs because as a child I thought the brown chickens were like the “black folks” of chicken. Lol! I guess I could stop wasting my money.
The brown eggs really aren’t more expensive, for me. There’s a farmer’s market in my neighborhood, and I prefer getting cage-free eggs…the browns and the whites are the exact same price. Brown is just a default preference because my grand-dad prefers them ( and they probably did taste differently when he was a young man), and hey, I’m brown, LOL
In our grocery stores brown cage free eggs come cheaper than the white ones. But that might speak to that regional preference thing. I live in the south so perhaps the preference for white eggs makes them more expensive once you go cage free. So I buy the brown ones.
I only buy organic eggs, especially after the situation with eggs last year and the salmonella outbreak. I noticed that none of the organic eggs were touched. I’m not saying they are infallible, but for years, I’ve been eating organic for the last two years and those eggs are brown. If I can find organic white eggs, I’ll eat them. They just need to be organic.
Organic eggs are helpful because the hens that eat them eat a healthy, natural, normal diet. That in turn adds much needed nutrients to the egg, like omega-3s (naturally) and other nutrients that gets passed on to us, minus all the other crap. And with cage-free eggs, that’s not always good because many times that’s a lie or the hens are still treated terribly and given chemicals.
I buy cage free eggs straight from the farm for only $2.75. They are brown, white and pale blue/green and they are huge. Sometimes too big to close the carton. The yolks are beautiful and I know for a fact they taste better.
Commercial eggs are also washed because of USDA regulations. The eggs I buy are unwashed and I wash them right before using. Leaving the shell membrane or “bloom” prevents bacteria from entering and slows aging so that the eggs will last unrefrigerated for up to two weeks.
Oh my lord. Look at how incorrect so much of the above information is in some of these comments!! The general idea that brown and white eggs are the same is completely correct. But I’d like to inform some about why they are the same VS different.
Commercial eggs, be it brown or white, are all the same. They are all fed the same feed, and the brown eggs that can be found in stores are NOT from Rhode Island Reds, but one of the hybrid Rhode Island Reds that have made their way out into the world. The two most popular are the Production Red and the ISA Brown- a cross between a Rhode Island Red and a Rhode Island White.
Something important to note is that if the package says “CAGE FREE” that simply means that they are not shoved into individual cages, but generally means they are all trapped within a large barn and never see the outside. Many companies now have the word Pasture on the carton as if to make you think all these birds are out on a lovely grass hillside, eating whatever they see fit. Many times, they are allowed out into a small caged in run that is just dirt and mud.Unless you get your eggs from some form of a farm where you see the chickens running around free, you are most likely just being fooled into wasting money. The White Leghorn, the favorite for commerical companies, is a light weight breed that eats little and lays a ton. Brown eggs are generally more just because they are all heavy breeds, and thus tend to eat more.
There is a misconception that only white chickens lay white eggs and red/brown chickens lay brown eggs. But you did point out the earlobe, which was accurate. Feather color has nothing to do with egg color. The brown Leghorn lays white eggs, and they’re brown. The reds, blacks, whites, blues… they lay brown eggs. It’s all about the breed. Both the araucana and ameraucana lay blue eggs. Easter Eggers, mutt versions of either of the previous breeds, could lay the blue eggs, but may lay any variety of the brown eggs either. People have also been expirimenting with breeding the Black Copper Marans, which lay the darkest chocolate colored eggs, with a pea comb araucana or ameraucana, to create green eggs.
The only thing that matters with eggs is the yolk. And even then, you never know by color alone. Deep orange and red yolks are dyed from something the hens eat while they’re free ranging, and the same is with yellow. In the past few years, commerical companies have been trying to make their pale egg yolks brighter by mixing yellow marigold petals into their feed. The yellow dyes the yolk, making them look “bright, sunny, and healthy.” This is simply a way to cover the poor health that could be found in egg yolks by just looking at them. You know you have a good egg when the yolk is thick, and you won’t be able to tell unless you crack a store bought egg next to it. The taste of a healthy yolk is much different than one from the store. It’s richer, and much healthier for you.
I have raised chickens for years, and currently have a flock of 15 hens and a single guinea hen. When I let them free roam in my backyard, which is only bested by complete free ranging (which I lack the land for) their eggs are delicious. When I have to keep them penned up in their coop and enclosed run, their eggs become more like the store bought eggs that are fed layer feed and lack a certain taste to them.
I LOVE this comment.
People are SO attached to easy identifiers of better vs worse… and its just not always that easy. I never had the wherewithal to do digging on egg farming, so I’m glad that you shared a starting point for research. You rock. 🙂
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