Are brown eggs tastier and more nutritious than white eggs?

Are brown eggs tastier and more nutritious than white eggs?

Cracking the code of America's favorite breakfast food

Published: March 2014

When it’s time to buy eggs, are you chicken? There are so many choices—cage-free, organic, omega-3, vegetarian-fed, Grade AA or A, brown or white—that you might be tempted just to grab a familiar type or brand. But think twice. The seven varieties our experts tried tasted pretty much the same, some cost twice as much as others, and certain carton claims might not mean eggxactly what you think.

Taste

We scrambled eggs from one carton of each type and served them in a randomized order. In each case, the cooked eggs were a typical yellow, with some slightly brighter than others, and all were firm. The main difference was in the balance of yolky flavor and sulfur flavor (from the white), and whether the sulfur flavor was clean or had a haylike or spinachy characteristic that comes from an older egg. America’s Choice regular supermarket eggs had a slightly better flavor balance than most others; Nature’s Yoke Omega 3 and Davidson’s Safest Choice Pasteurized had inconsistent quality between tastings. Freshness mattered. Though we tasted all eggs by their sell-by date, taste can diminish as eggs’ age reaches that deadline.

Nutrition

Large whole eggs have 70 calories, 4 to 5 grams of fat, 6 grams of protein, and about 185 milligrams of cholesterol. Vitamin and omega-3 content can vary with the hens’ diet. Of the eggs we tested, those from hens fed vegetarian diets tended to have more of certain vitamins and omega-3s than those from hens fed a conventional diet. Nature’s Yoke Omega 3 eggs listed the most omega-3s, 225 milligrams; a typical large egg has about 30 milligrams.

Bottom line

Our small sample showed little difference in taste, but read "Talk the Talk" for definitions of terms that might matter when you shop. Whatever eggs you choose, look for those with a carton date far away from the purchase date.

Talk the talk: Carton claims

Cage-free, free-range. Hens are uncaged and inside warehouses. They can walk around, nest, and spread their wings but generally don’t have access to the outdoors. As for free range, there are no standards for eggs.

Grade. Department of Agriculture grading is voluntary, and companies pay for it. Grades are AA, A, and B (like the kids in Lake Wobegon, all eggs are apparently above average). Grade depends on the quality of yolk and white and the shell’s condition. Within any grade, size can differ. All USDA-graded eggs must have been washed and sanitized.

Label date. Eggs with a USDA grade shield must bear the date the eggs were placed in the carton, though the code might be incomprehensible to consumers. Federal law doesn’t require an expiration or a sell-by date, but many cartons have them. Buy eggs before a listed date, and you can use them within three to five weeks from the day you refrigerate them even if the date has passed. Keep eggs in their protective carton and on an inside shelf in the fridge, not in the door.

Omega-3. Hens were given feed that included flax, marine algae, fish oils, and other ingredients to boost the level of ­omega-3 fatty acid in their eggs.

Organic. Eggs with a USDA organic seal come from a facility checked by accredited certifiers and from hens raised on feed grown without synthetic pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, or fertilizers. The hens are supposed to have outdoor access, but there’s some question as to whether that claim is adequately enforced. Most organic eggs cost more than conventional ones partly because of the price of feed, smaller flock size, and certification costs.

Pasteurized. To kill pathogens, eggs are heated until just below the temperature at which they coagulate. They can be used in recipes calling for raw eggs.

Pasture-raised. No official standards exist; egg sellers should reveal their own.

Vegetarian. The hens have eaten all-grain feed with no animal byproducts.

White vs. brown eggs. Different breeds of hens just lay different-colored eggs. Quality, flavor, and nutrition aren’t affected.

Hormone-free, antibiotic-free. Empty claims: No hormones or antibiotics are used in producing eggs for human consumption.

Editor's Note:

This article also appeared in the May 2014 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.



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