9

votes

Does the color of egg yolks mean anything nutritionally?

Answered on September 12, 2014
Created May 22, 2011 at 5:25 PM

I have two sources for pastured eggs. One source is exclusively from a red feathered breed--all the eggs are brown and have a deep yellow colored yolk. This yellow color is markedly more yellow than conventional store bought eggs, but still yellow nonetheless. The other egg source has eggs from several different types of breeds I assume since the shells are white, brown and pale bluish-green. But these eggs (no matter the color of the shell) have yolks that are bright orange. I have never seen yolks this color before, they are truly orange. Both sources taste delicious and my cats go nuts when I crack them open and want to eat the yolks (they are completely uninterested in conventional eggs).

Note: both sources are verified pastured eggs that are free to eat bugs, but I do not know what additional supplements/grains the chickens are fed, if any.

Why are some yolks yellow and some yolks orange? And does it even matter?

61f9349ad28e3c42d1cec58ba4825a7d

(10480)

on October 05, 2012
at 04:01 PM

Buy insects and worms for them to eat, if they can't forage themselves. You can order them in bulk online, if you don't have a pet supply store that can get them for you.

F31d10b54b31428e189d9b771bf7b1d1

(1439)

on September 26, 2012
at 05:53 PM

You get a little plus just for doing some actual science.

8f87879387f2a357db7c33008ff9a04a

(887)

on July 23, 2012
at 08:53 PM

Meat, eggs, raw dairy kefir. sunflower seeds are high in protein too..not complete I'm sure but a good supplement.

742ff8ba4ff55e84593ede14ac1c3cab

(3531)

on July 19, 2012
at 12:26 AM

What do you feed them for complete protein? There isn't enough bugs in my backyard.

B3e7d1ab5aeb329fe24cca1de1a0b09c

(5242)

on May 23, 2011
at 09:16 AM

Nice experiment Meg!

Df37dee1b45f564770863d8a74016cbe

(1035)

on May 22, 2011
at 07:12 PM

The "liver" yolks tasted very rich and egg-y. But no, not any different than what my best foragers' eggs always taste like.

Df37dee1b45f564770863d8a74016cbe

(1035)

on May 22, 2011
at 07:08 PM

Kim, I've found that more protein in their diet makes firmer egg whites. If protein is low (and some commercial feeds are barely protein-adequate for layers) then the whites are runny, even when the egg is just laid and fresh. About that artificial yolk color, I wish it would be illegal it's so misleading. To test, I planted marigolds 2 years ago and my hens have never even TOUCHED them. So...so much for grinding up marigold petals and forcing the yolks to get darker.

B4ec9ce369e43ea83f06ee645169cee0

on May 22, 2011
at 06:54 PM

Meg... great minds think alike... we posted at the same time about bugs. :) Very cool to hear you did an actual experiment with your own hens that is amazing! Did the liver eggs taste any different?

Fe29f6658ce67c1ecc4a22e960be7498

(2997)

on May 22, 2011
at 06:12 PM

I just this morning cracked a couple eggs from pastured chickens (at least that's what it says on the carton), and also noticed the bright dark orange color. The shells seemed pretty solid too which is a good sign. This is a new brand for me - my regular, mostly-organic store doesn't carry it. I *assume* it's more nutritious - *I'm* not going to eat snails and bugs but I'm happy if the chicken does :-)

Medium avatar

(5136)

on May 22, 2011
at 05:37 PM

i've heard that certain feed gives yolks a yellower color so its not necessarily indicative of nutrional value, but i can say that i get mixed colored eggs from the same farmer and i always find the pale blue green eggs to have slightly more yellow yolks.

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12 Answers

12
Fa9f340eddbad9a544184c688fa4dcdd

(6433)

on May 22, 2011
at 05:41 PM

The colour of the yolk depends on the level of beta-carotene and xanthophylls like lutein present, and so is a reflection of the content of the hen's diet. In many cases, a deeper colour is indicative of a higher quality, more nutrient dense diet (and thus a more nutrient dense egg), although some farmers supplement their hen's diets either with artificial sources of these pigments, or natural supplements like marigold leaves, so it is not a strictly reliable test.

Shell thickness and strength is a fairly good informal guide to the health and life of the hen.

7
Df37dee1b45f564770863d8a74016cbe

(1035)

on May 22, 2011
at 06:52 PM

A rich insect diet will naturally change the color of the yolk to dark orange. In our egg-laying flock that range our property our top foragers, the most intense insect hunters, lay the darkest-orange-yolk eggs. I did an N=1 experiment, where N was my flock. For several weeks I fed them each thin strips of raw grass-fed beef liver (strips the size of worms). This was based on the thought that insects are a rich source of iron. I made sure each hen got approx. the same amount of liver every day. And yes, after a few weeks all their yolks got even darker than they were before, even substantially darkening the yolks from birds that are my weakest foragers.

B4ec9ce369e43ea83f06ee645169cee0

on May 22, 2011
at 06:54 PM

Meg... great minds think alike... we posted at the same time about bugs. :) Very cool to hear you did an actual experiment with your own hens that is amazing! Did the liver eggs taste any different?

B3e7d1ab5aeb329fe24cca1de1a0b09c

(5242)

on May 23, 2011
at 09:16 AM

Nice experiment Meg!

Df37dee1b45f564770863d8a74016cbe

(1035)

on May 22, 2011
at 07:12 PM

The "liver" yolks tasted very rich and egg-y. But no, not any different than what my best foragers' eggs always taste like.

F31d10b54b31428e189d9b771bf7b1d1

(1439)

on September 26, 2012
at 05:53 PM

You get a little plus just for doing some actual science.

3
E7fc768abe673562268fefc529f62d89

on August 25, 2011
at 09:00 PM

Yolk color isn't always the best way to determine health.

Eggs from Pastured Hens Better for Your Eyes

A new report reveals that eggs from hens raised on pasture are higher in lutein and zeaxanthin than eggs from chickens raised in confinement. Lutein and Zeaxanthin are natural substances similar to beta-carotene that protect your eyes from cataracts and a common cause of blindness called "macular degeneration." They may also protect against cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Commercial egg producers add synthetic colorants to their feed to mimic the bright yellow yolks of eggs from pastured hens, A widely used additive is "canthaxantin." Canthaxantin can cause eye problems in humans. Farmed-raised salmon and trout are also fed canthaxantin to add more color to their pallid flesh. Due to public outcry, labels on farmed Atlantic salmon must now include the words "artificially colored" or "color added," in ?? inch or larger letters. The same cautionary remark should be added to most egg cartons.

Where can you find eggs from pasture hens? Most of the premium or "natural" eggs in your supermarket are not from chickens raised on pasture. The term "cage-free" simply means that the hens are free to roam on a barn floor; typically, the hens have no access to grass. Organic eggs come from chickens fed organic ingredients. Typically, they, too, are raised in confinement. The same is true for chickens fed "vegetarian" feed. Grass makes the difference. It is rich in the natural carotenoids that are important to your health. You will find eggs from pastured hens at your local farmer's market and from producers listed in Eatwild.com.

Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry. 2006, 54, 2267-2273.

3
B4ec9ce369e43ea83f06ee645169cee0

on May 22, 2011
at 06:45 PM

The more access the hen has to bugs and worms, the more orange the egg yolk (can you say paleo eggs?). I would go with the mixed breed source with the orange yolks. Use the other source as a backup they are still better than organic 'cage free' eggs at the store.

And yes tartare is right, some commercial egg producers have caught on and are now feeding hens feed with coloring to make the yolks more yellow. That's only in commercial eggs though, I don't think these 'techniques' are too available for home growers.

One other thing to look for in eggs is two separate parts to the egg white. There will be a runny egg white and a more firm egg white around the yolk. The better eggs also spread less when cracked into the pan.

Df37dee1b45f564770863d8a74016cbe

(1035)

on May 22, 2011
at 07:08 PM

Kim, I've found that more protein in their diet makes firmer egg whites. If protein is low (and some commercial feeds are barely protein-adequate for layers) then the whites are runny, even when the egg is just laid and fresh. About that artificial yolk color, I wish it would be illegal it's so misleading. To test, I planted marigolds 2 years ago and my hens have never even TOUCHED them. So...so much for grinding up marigold petals and forcing the yolks to get darker.

1
0adf6874a9af2b5c89a2f7212b65cd0b

(10)

on June 13, 2013
at 01:14 AM

My wife and I have been free-ranging laying hens in the high mountains of Arizona for a couple of years now. Recently on a camp trip my wife broke open a couple of seriously orange yolk eggs, freaked out and tossed them away! The next day I cracked four more of the same batch over easy and gobbled them down, mmmmmmmmmmm. Then I did my internet research, I'm going to live!!!

1
8f87879387f2a357db7c33008ff9a04a

on July 18, 2012
at 11:07 PM

Another thing to consider is if you are getting second hand soy! I've stopped feeding my chickens store bought chicken feed..even organic is soy loaded. I have friends who say my eggs are the only ones that don't give them stumach issues. Even the best pastured chickens (meat) I can find are still eating the bloody soy! Raising them myself is thus far the bests solution to this problem.

742ff8ba4ff55e84593ede14ac1c3cab

(3531)

on July 19, 2012
at 12:26 AM

What do you feed them for complete protein? There isn't enough bugs in my backyard.

8f87879387f2a357db7c33008ff9a04a

(887)

on July 23, 2012
at 08:53 PM

Meat, eggs, raw dairy kefir. sunflower seeds are high in protein too..not complete I'm sure but a good supplement.

1
97cfdc81f6b680a2da17635b174dcf43

on July 18, 2012
at 10:29 PM

Hi folks, My name is John and I just came upon this site to find out why the egg yolks in Colombia, where I just returned from vacation, and also the ones I've had in Costa Rica are so orange. Thanks for the insight. It must be in the diet. Commercial US chickens are so cooped up and fed junk food. Also of interest, all the eggs sold in stores in Colombia are on unrefrigerated shelves and they're all brown and when the people bring them home they don't refrigerate them and they're perfectly fine. I guess they don't wash off the protective coating the US demands so that they can stay unrefrigerated for extended periods of time.

1
Ed983a42344945b1ff70fd9597a23493

on May 22, 2011
at 11:36 PM

My hens' yolks are a vibrant orange, and whenever we purchase pastured eggs, they are never as bright. Our girls eat lots of greens, and I believe that is a main factor...our eggs are also just better formed when cracked...they forage so much, that they hardly eat their crumbles...I imagine larger flocks would rely on their feed more out of necessity.

1
27823dfdae823c2e1a16f567bf1016f2

(85)

on May 22, 2011
at 07:42 PM

it's actually the pigments in grass that makes the yolks so bright...

0
E001a21e0361ee553d3a14d959f122ca

on August 30, 2013
at 11:59 AM

Free-range eggs may be broader, and have more of an orange colour to their yolks due to the abundance of greens and insects in the diet of the birds. An orange yolk is, however, no guarantee that an egg was produced by a free-range hen. Feed additives such as marigold petal meal, dried algae, or alfalfa meal can be used to color the yolks. Soy products in their feed is 97% GMO, HORRID! I had eggs at the Windsor Hotel and the yolks were bright yellow, the waiter explained that yellow yolks denote organic free range, meaning the chickens are grass feed and forage for bugs and insects, there is no chicken feed given to them. Chicken feed contains soy plus coloring's for a deeper orange yolk, plus a lot of GMO stuff.

0
931de502597f8cfffc2d17a81cd7fd14

on January 28, 2013
at 08:46 PM

the chickens that we raise on the ranch i work on and live we feed the chickens lots of pulled up weeds and grass. also we feed them chicken feed and scraps from the scrap bucket we throw are scraps of food in and feed them that. I've noticed that the yolk is really orange. But when we put the eggs in the fridge the yolk turns to yellow. So i don't know if it is from not refrigerating the eggs that cause the orange yolk or what we feed them...

0
F9bc584c02c3e31c10575f116b54b99e

on October 05, 2012
at 03:52 PM

Chickens eat meat? My son is in FFA and raises chickens. I've never heard they can eat anything other than the feed given to them. They are in a raised pin due to animals that can dig under and get to them so they don't get insects off the ground. Any suggestions?

61f9349ad28e3c42d1cec58ba4825a7d

(10480)

on October 05, 2012
at 04:01 PM

Buy insects and worms for them to eat, if they can't forage themselves. You can order them in bulk online, if you don't have a pet supply store that can get them for you.

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