If brown rice is better for you than white rice, and brown bread is better than white bread, then it correlates that brown eggs are better than white eggs, right?
“The simple, short answer is no,” says Marc Dresner, manager of marketing communications at the American Egg Board. “There’s no discernible difference in the taste; they’re about the same size; really the only difference is the shell color.”
A hen’s breed determines the shell color of the eggs it lays, which can range from perfect white to cream to brown to olive and even blue. A fun chicken rule of thumb: You can generally determine the color of the egg a hen will lay by looking at its earlobes. White earlobes mean white eggs; brown or red earlobes mean brown eggs; etc.
That’s it. It’s all aesthetics: There’s no health or flavor difference based on the eggshell’s color.
“Nutritionally they’re the same and taste is usually the same unless certain hens are given a different diet or feed,” says Katie Nola, director of consumer affairs for the Iowa Egg Council.
If consumers actually want to know more about the nutrients in their eggs, they’ll have to look at more than just its shell, says Rachel Khong, a former editor at Lucky Peach and author of the book All About Eggs.
“While there can absolutely be differences in the ‘healthiness’ of eggs—the levels of vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids, for example—this has nothing at all to do with the color of the egg and has everything to do with what the chicken is fed,” Khong says. “A chicken in a battery cage might not get a diet varied enough to lay the healthiest egg, whereas a chicken that’s allowed pasture would get to feast on bugs that would make its eggs healthier.”
But one can’t just look at an eggs color and know how its hen was farmed. So why are brown and white eggs even labelled separately?
“I wonder if people think brown eggs are healthier because they’re thinking of paper and how white printer paper feels corporate and brown paper feels homespun,” Khong says. “Or maybe they’re thinking of rice: Brown rice indeed is healthier than white rice. Who knows? People can be suckers.”