To some, this may seem like a silly question, but to those that don't raise chickens, it can be honestly confusing. When you go to the grocery store, the cheap eggs are always white and then the prices go up with the varying brown eggs (cage free, vegetarian fed, free range, pasture raised - we'll cover these differences in another blog post soon).
In our opinion, the main thing that changes the health of an egg is the ration of Omega 3s to Omega 6s as well as the other vitamin and nutrient levels. You can read more about that here.
Are they healthier?
It's a myth that brown eggs are healthier. You can definitely have white eggs that are healthier; it comes down to how the chickens are raised.
Okay, so what's the scoop? Well, it depends. How's that for muddying the already murky water? Let's dive into some of the specifics to try and clear things up.
Why are the cheap eggs white?
All the white eggs you find in the grocery store were laid by a White Leghorn chicken. The White Leghorn is the most efficient feed to egg converting chicken there is which is why the CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation) industry uses them exclusively. When you're raising over 100,000 birds in an enclosed building increasing your feed efficiency by a small amount equals cheaper eggs and more profit (of course also less healthy eggs and chickens living miserable lives).
So brown eggs are healthier then?
Not so fast, it depends. One of the most popular alternative eggs you see at the grocery store is the brown "cage free" egg. Well, these eggs are no healthier and the living conditions only slightly less miserable for the birds. They're still raised in huge numbers in a metal building with no access to the outdoors but they're all on the ground instead of in cages.
I give up. What is it?
The healthiest eggs are ones from chickens raised on pasture. You're looking for "Pasture Raised" eggs. Avoid the "free range" label as that is kind of blurry and a lot of the time is the same thing as cage free. Unfortunately there aren't strict definitions of these terms so different companies are using them as marketing more and more.
What about a white vs brown pasture raised egg?
This is where things get really interesting. So what makes a pasture raised egg more nutritious is the chicken eating grass, weeds, bugs and having access to sunlight and fresh air all day.
So the question we need to ask is will a Leghorn forage (eat bugs and grass) as well as a heritage breed chicken such as a Rhode Island Red?
We couldn't find any scientific studies on this so this is based off our own experiences. When our Leghorns are younger, they don't seem to forage as well as the other breeds but as they get older, they're out there just as much as the others eating worms, grasshoppers, dandelions and other delicious chicken treats.
So the conclusion?
A white pasture raised egg is 99.9% as healthy as a brown pasture raised egg. The heritage breeds might forage slightly better than the Leghorn but not enough for a noticeable difference in the health of the egg.
We raise mostly brown egg layers but you might occasionally find a white egg from our Leghorn Lollie.
If you're interested in the healthiest, pasture raised eggs in the Lawrence, Kansas City, or Topeka areas, sign up for our mailing list. We'll be in touch later this summer as our next batch of layers start producing awesome orange-yolked eggs packed with healthy fats and vitamins.