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What’s the Difference Between White and Brown Eggs?

by Rootstock Editor

May 1, 2019

by Rootstock Editor

Why are chicken eggshells different colors? Seriously, this question should be a 1,000-pointer on Jeopardy!

The color of a chicken’s egg entirely depends on the breed of chicken. That’s right. Like so much in life, it all comes down to genetics.

The biggest misconception out there is that “all eggshells are naturally brown, and white eggs were bleached.” BUZZ! Incorrect. While it is true that eggs are cleaned before being packaged and sent to your grocery store, they are not bleached.

In fact, all eggs start out white, but different breeds are genetically coded to release different colored pigments as the egg passes through the hen’s oviduct. Voilà! You have different colored eggs. Just like when you dye Easter eggs, the pigment doesn’t penetrate the shell. Inside, eggs all look more or less the same (although you may see lighter or darker yolks depending on what the chickens are eating at that time of year).

This Bovan Brown chicken on the Toews’ Organic Valley egg farm lays brown eggs.

This cheeky Bovan Brown hen above (pictured on the Toews’ Organic Valley egg farm) lays the brown eggs you see in Organic Valley cartons. Sometimes you might come across a speckled egg for a bit of variety.

Have you ever heard someone say “brown eggs are organic and white eggs aren’t”? This isn’t necessarily true. Remember, “organic” refers to how the chickens are raised and how the eggs are handled -- whether an egg is organic or not has nothing to do with its color.

You might also hear “white eggs come from white chickens and brown eggs come from brown chickens,” but that’s an oversimplification. For example, some heritage breeds like Araucana chickens lay robin’s-egg-blue eggs and Olive Eggers lay green eggs, but these chickens don’t have blue or green feathers!

The eggs laid by the hens at the Welsh Family Farm in Iowa are shades of brown and tan, with a speckled one here and there.

Why don’t we have multi-colored eggs in Organic Valley cartons? Again, it’s a matter of breed. Organic Valley farmers choose breeds that are highly reliable and consistent egg-layers, like Bovan Browns, Highline Browns and Lohmann Browns, which all happen to lay brown eggs. These breeds also happen to have calm, non-aggressive personalities (which also makes them fun to photograph!).

Some of our farmers may raise wacky breeds of chickens on the side just for fun or for their own family’s consumption, like this fun crested chicken seen during a photo shoot with the DeKam family, one of our Organic Valley dairy farmers in Michigan.

One wacky looking specialty bird on the DeKam farm.

No matter whether your Organic Valley eggs are dark brown or light tan, we bet they’ll taste delicious! Try them poached on top of avocado toast and sprinkled with a little lemon juice, salt and pepper, or fried up for a good ol’ fashioned bacon and egg sandwich on hearty wheat bread. Get more eggy recipes here!


Want to know more about Organic Valley chickens and eggs?

This is one in a series about Organic Valley eggs and how we care for our chickens. Read more in these other stories.

What Do Organic Valley Free-Range Hens Eat?

Egg Bake Recipes for a Classic Brunch (or Anytime!)

What Does an Egg’s Yolk Color Mean?

Check back soon for more in this series!