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?