Brown vs. White Eggs: Here Are the Differences

Think you could tell the difference between a brown egg and a white egg if you haven't seen the shells?

If you’ve ever flipped a few egg carton lids open at the grocery store and wondered about the virtues of brown eggs vs. white eggs, you aren’t alone. The differences and similarities feel like a complete mystery to many consumers—though some people say they have a preference for one over the other. But would they even know which they were eating if they hadn’t seen the shell?

Here’s the truth about eggshell colors.

What is the difference between brown and white eggs?

Different breeds of chickens produce differently colored eggs. “Shell color comes from pigments in the outer layer of the shell and, in eggs from various commercial egg-laying chicken breeds, may range from white to deep brown,” explains Marc Dresner, director of integrated communications for the American Egg Board.

In fact, all brown eggs start out as white eggs, and the hen applies a brown pigment just before it lays the egg.

Generally speaking, you can tell what color egg the hen will lay from its feathers—hens with white feathers tend to lay white eggs, while brown or red hens tend to lay brown eggs. But Dresner says the most accurate way to predict what color egg the hen will lay is to look at the hen’s earlobes: Hens with white earlobes lay white eggs, while hens with red earlobes lay brown eggs.

Are brown eggs healthier than white eggs?

Nope. “Contrary to popular misconception, the color of the eggshell has nothing to do with the egg’s nutritional value, quality, flavor, cooking characteristics or shell thickness,” confirms Dresner. All eggs—no matter what color the shell is or how the hen was raised—have almost identical nutritional content.

The only exception is when the carton says they are nutritionally enhanced. Some, for example, are omega 3-enriched eggs, which Dresner says is done by adding special nutrients to chicken feed.

No matter the egg’s color, one large egg contains 6 grams of high-quality protein and all nine essential amino acids for just 70 calories. All eggs also provide critical nutrients beyond protein, including choline, riboflavin (B2), vitamin B12, biotin (B7) pantothenic acid (B5), iodine and selenium, which are valuable for supporting muscle and bone health, brain development and more.

Do brown eggs taste different than white eggs?

No, they don’t. Even if you blindfolded the most impressive supertaster in the world and asked them to take a bite to determine an egg’s color, there would be no way they could accurately respond. (However, they’d occasionally guess correctly!)

Why are brown eggs more expensive than white eggs?

As with everything in life, it comes down to the cost of the entire supply chain. “Brown-egg layers tend to be slightly larger and are more costly to raise since they require more food, so brown eggs tend to be sold at a higher price than white eggs,” says Dresner, noting that the type of housing environment in which the hen is raised can also play a role in the price.

If the eggs are labeled cage-free or free range, or pasture raised or organic, they will also be sold at a higher price because they cost more for the farmer to produce. No matter which eggs you purchase, protect your investment by learning how to store eggs the right way.

Molly Allen
Molly Allen is a previous bakery owner and former event planner. Now, a freelance writer and editor focused on food and beverage, lifestyle, travel and parties, she brings her years of experience and industry knowledge to readers across a variety of platforms.