Chicken eggs come in many colors, but there are two that we typically encounter at the grocery store: brown and white. Though brown eggs are often more expensive, the shade of an eggshell says nothing about the quality of what’s inside it. According to The Kitchn, the only difference between brown eggs and white eggs lies in the breed of the chicken that laid them.
You may have heard the myth that white-feathered chickens always lay white eggs and brown chickens lay brown eggs. While it’s true that a chicken’s coloring can say something about its eggs, you shouldn’t be looking at the feathers exclusively. The color of a hen’s earlobes is actually the best indicator of what color its eggs will be.
Look at the flap of skin on a chicken’s head beneath where an external ear would be: If it’s white, the chicken’s eggs will likely be white, and if it’s darker, they will likely be brown. This trick even works for Araucana chickens, which have green-blue earlobes and lay matching eggs.
This should be used as just a rule of thumb, however, as there are exceptions to the pattern.
Another misconception is that brown eggs are better for you or more “natural” than the white kind. This may have come from the fact that more expensive organic eggs tend to be brown, and brown foods (like whole grain items) are usually healthier than the processed white versions. But an eggshell’s pigmentation has nothing to do with its nutritional value.
Any discrepancy in labels and pricing on egg cartons comes down to the breed of the chicken. White leghorns—which lay white eggs—produce more eggs on cheaper diets, so they are favored by factory farms. Breeds that lay brown eggs, like Rhode Island reds, require higher quality food and more of it, which promotes higher quality eggs. Many brown egg-laying hens are also backyard breeds.
That’s why you often see brown eggs at your local farmers market. But given the right care and food, white egg-laying chickens can just as easily lay more nutritious eggs as the brown egg varieties.
Though they’re a staple of kitchens around the world, eggs are widely misunderstood. From the difference between eggs and baby chickens to the real meaning of “cage free,” here’s the truth behind seven common egg myths.