Cracking the egg code

White, brown, green or black - which egg is right for you?

April 28, 2010|By TIFFANY ARNOLD
  • There's more to eggs than white.
Photo illustration,

Teal, brown and deep green - these aren't the colors of Easter eggs.

These are the eggs of chickens, ostriches and emus.

Perhaps it's time to think outside the shell.

"You can eat any kind of egg," said Jennifer R. Timmons, a poultry specialist for the University of Maryland Extension.

But which ones we choose have more to do with social norms and commercial availability. Timmons, farmers and other poultry experts agreed to help The Herald-Mail decode the egg.

Brown vs. white

Nutritionists consider eggs to be a good source of protein. A large, hard-boiled egg contains 6 grams of protein, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's nutrient database. But egg yolks also contain cholesterol - 212 milligrams in an egg, according to the USDA - the reason some diet-conscious diners eat only egg whites.

Many people think brown eggs are more healthful than white eggs, but Timmons said that was a misconception.


"There is no nutritional difference between brown and white eggs," said Timmons, who's based at the Lower Eastern Shore Research and Education Center.

Danny Rohrer, of Rohrer's Meats in Boonsboro, said some of that perception comes from perceived differences in whether the hens were raised free-range or caged.

"If they were fed the same thing, the nutritional quality should be equal," Rohrer said.

Rohrer said he's raising hundreds of free-range chickens on his farm, which he sells at farmer's markets in Shepherdstown, W.Va., and in Frederick, Md.

"I just open the doors and let them run wherever they like," he said.

The eggs of some free-range birds tend to be more yellowish than that of caged birds because of the carotene found in the grass the birds eat.

Timmons said which egg - white or brown - is more nutritious has more to do with perception and preference than fact. She said Europeans tend to prefer brown eggs while Americans are used to white ones.

Timmons said most chickens lay brown, white or yellowish eggs.

Egg shells are made of calcium carbonate, whose default color is white. Timmons said white indicates the shell is free of pigment.

Brown eggs, Timmons said, contain porphyrin, a compound found in most animal and plant cells that helps bind metals in the body. As an example, Timmons said to think of it as the glue that binds together iron and oxygen to create the hemoglobin in our blood.

Green eggs exist?

Those green eggs Dr. Seuss wrote about really exist, in a sense. Timmons said the araucana bird lays bluish green eggs.

Rohrer said he used to sell the teal eggs of the araucana bird, which he said don't lay as many eggs as his brown egg-laying free-range hens do.

While brown and white eggs are far more common at regional farmer's markets, Rohrer said araucana eggs can be found at the West Frederick Farmers Market on Saturdays, starting May 1, through Thanksgiving.

The egg colors don't stop at green.

The dark green egg of the emu can look nearly black. Emus are fast-running Australian birds that resemble ostriches. Their eggs are large, round and creamy-beige in color.

Other birds and eggs

Timmons said any type of egg is consumable. The reason you don't see much else other than chicken eggs in the grocery aisle has more to do with social norms, preference and commercial availability.

According to the USDA's nutrition database includes nutritional values for duck, goose, quail and turkey eggs.

The Maryland chapter of the American Emu Association lists places to get emu products such as meat, eggs and oils on its website

"There's not much demand for emu eggs," said Diane Brown, owner of Carlhaven Emu Farm in Westminster, Md.

Brown said there were only four or five farms in Maryland who were members of the state chapter - the nearest to Hagerstown was a farm in Frederick County, Md., though the farm, she said, did not sell emu eggs for food.

The reason there aren't more emu farmers, Brown said, is partly due to cost and lack of demand. The farm's website lists the eggs' cost between $15 and $20.

The volume of one dark green emu-egg is the equivalent to 10 chicken eggs, Brown said.

Comparatively, Rohrer said a dozen of his brown eggs sell for around $3.50 at regional farmers markets.

But just because you can eat any egg doesn't mean you should, said Mike Myers, a director with the Pennsylvania Avicultural Society.

For years, Myers has kept flocks of rare birds at his home in Mercersburg, Pa.

He said eating the eggs of certain birds was unfathomable because of they were too beautiful and rare.

"They're exotic," Myers said.

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