An eggspert weighs in.

Meghan Overdeep
February 28, 2018

 

Brown vs. white; cage-free vs. free-range; jumbo vs. extra-large; cheap vs. expensive—for something so simple, these days shopping for eggs can feel like an overwhelming task.

The fact of the matter (and most Southerners can you tell you this) is that not all eggs are created equal. And like most things in life, you get what you pay for.

So why is it that brown eggs cost so much more than white eggs? Do they taste better? Are the healthier? Recently, HuffPost set out to answer these questions and more.

According to some of the nation’s top eggsperts, a shell’s appearance has more to do with the hen than the egg itself—and we’re not talking about feather color.

“Feather color does not necessarily denote eggshell color, because we have some white-feathered chickens that lay white-shell eggs, but we also have some that absolutely look like they walked through a bottle of bleach that lay brown-shell eggs,” Deana Jones, a research food technologist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, explained to HuffPost.

All eggs start out white. The brown color on an egg is deposited in the uterus, also known as the “shell gland pouch,” later in the process. This is where, after approximately four hours in the oviduct tube forming albumen (egg white) and developing its shell membrane, the egg spends nearly an entire day getting its hard shell and the “paint job” that goes with it.

“That’s where the egg spends the longest amount of time,” Jones explained. “It puts down layer upon layer of shell as the egg sits in the shell gland, and it’s in there for at least 20 hours on average to form the shell. At the very end of the shell-making process, the pigment gets added, almost like you’re painting a house.”

Eggs that end up white, Jones added, simply skip their stop at the paint station.

“A white egg goes through the exact same process,” said Jones, but “there’s no pigment added at the end because [a white shell-laying hen] is just not genetically programmed to do that.”

And this is where the extra moola comes in: “The brown egg layers need to have more nutrients and energy in their body to produce an egg than the white shell layers,” Jones noted. “It takes more feed for a brown-shell egg layer to accommodate production of the egg.”

So there you have it! Chickens that produce brown eggs require more food, which in turn, makes their eggs more expensive.