One of my favorite things to buy at the farmers’ market is eggs. Why? Because I can find an assortment of beautiful colors that aren’t available at my local grocery store. It’s like having Easter eggs in my house year-round.
Does an Egg’s Color Affect Its Flavor?
I’ve always thought brown eggs taste the best. But do they really? We know that yolk color does not mean a better-tasting egg, but what about the shell? Does it affect flavor? We talked to two experts to find out.
(One quick note about terminology: This article refers to both chickens and hens. Hens are just female chickens.)
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Does an egg’s color affect its flavor?
The short answer? No. Not at all.
Chris Lesley, founder of Chickens and More, an online destination for backyard chicken enthusiasts, confirmed that all eggs taste the same and have the same nutritional value, no matter the color.
“This is a pretty common question, and it’s not hard to see why,” Lesley said. “Intuitively, we expect things that look so different to taste different too.”
Those brown eggs I thought were tastier? It was all in my mind. Despite the simple answer, I found that there were fascinating things to learn about the wide world of eggshell color.
What colors can chicken eggs be?
There’s a wide variety of eggshell colors beyond the white and brown ones you find in the grocery store.
“Easter Egger chickens get their name from their beautiful pastel eggs, which can be blue, green, pink, or yellow,” Lesley said. “Olive Eggers, similarly, are named for the deep-green color of their eggs. There are also several breeds that are known for laying blue; cream; or dark-brown, copper-colored eggs.”
Fun fact: You can tell what color eggs a chicken will lay based on the breed. But another good indicator is the color of the chicken’s earlobes. (Yes, chickens have earlobes.)
How do chicken eggshells get their color?
It’s all genetic. A common misconception is that the shell color is impacted by the chicken’s diet, which isn’t the case. “If you’ve ever raised your own hens, this will make sense, as their egg color doesn’t change over their lifetimes even if their diet does,” Lesley said.
In fact, all eggs start out white inside the chicken. The shells change color over the course of the egg-making process.
“[Chickens that lay] blue eggs produce a pigment called oocyanin, which is added to the shell early in the egg-making process,” Lesley said. “[Chickens that lay] brown eggs produce a pigment called protoporphyrin, which is added at the very end. How much brown pigment is added will determine if the eggs are pink, cream, regular brown, or a dark-copper shade. If you crossbreed a brown-laying breed with a blue-laying breed, their offspring will produce both pigments, and the layering of the brown over the blue produces rich olive-green eggs.”
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Why are most supermarket eggs white?
According to Dianna Bourassa, assistant professor of poultry science at Auburn University’s College of Agriculture, the types of chickens most commonly used for commercial egg production are the types that lay white eggs (remember, it’s all about the breed). The eggs are not bleached or altered in any way.
“These hens tend to lay more eggs using less feed than the hens that lay brown eggs,” Bourassa said. “They also cost the least to purchase, both in the grocery store and for food service.”
Those supermarket-breed chickens really put in the work. Leghorns are a common variety, typically laying more than 200 eggs per year!
“The hens are good at what they do,” Bourassa added.
Photo credit (pastel eggs): MirageC via Getty Images
Photo credit (naked neck Silkie chicken): JZHunt via Getty Images