Do Brown Eggs Taste Different than White Eggs? Which is Better?
mobi-logo

Posted by Eric Troy on 05 May 2012 20:47




No. Brown eggs do not taste different than white eggs. And no, white eggs are not better than brown eggs in terms of quality or taste, or vice versa. I wasn't sure if this myth persisted, so I asked around to some friends and acquaintances. To my surprise, out of nine people, four of them thought that there was a difference between brown eggs and white eggs. Incidentally, three thought that brown eggs tasted better - had more flavor. One thought that white eggs were better. That is not a large sampling, but it is telling.

What's the Difference Between Brown and White Eggs?

The fact is that the color of the egg's shell has absolutely nothing to do with its taste, wholesomeness, or culinary properties. The only difference is the outer color of the shell itself. The breed of the chicken determines the color of egg that is laid. If you'd like to know the egg color of different breeds of chicken, you can skip to that information, below.

Have you noticed, though, that the more "premium" brands of eggs tend to proudly declare that their cartons contain brown eggs? The generic "grocery store" brands tend to be white. Maybe I'm imagining this but it may help lead to the myth that there is a difference. However, I suspect that the myth is owed to the fact that we eat with our eyes. The color of food makes loads of difference to our perception of its quality. Usually, the presence of color, even brown, will signal higher quality. Food manufacturers know this.

Regardless, eggs are always sorted and packed according to color because eggs packaged in mixed colors do not sell as well and this is owed specifically to the consumer's belief that one color or the other is better. But remember, no matter what you may think, color has no bearing in the grading regulations. Still, there may be something to the perception that color affect quality. The way it affects quality is not direct, but having to do with consistency. People who think that white eggs are better quality may just have a case. Why? Because it is harder to see through the shells of brown eggs and make accurate quality determinations. The fact is, research has shown that brown eggs are more likely to have blood spots, simply because they are not detected as easily, not because brown eggs have spots more often than white eggs. Other aspects of interior quality are equally as difficult to determine with brown eggs. Yet, people in some regions prefer brown eggs, and more people that I have talked to. As I said before, I suspect this is the influence of color. More color, more quality and nutrition, as far as our food perception is concerned.


cartons of brown and white eggs

Cartoned eggs, separated into brown and white.

cartons of brown and white eggs

Cartoned eggs, separated into brown and white.


How Is the Quality of an Egg Determined?

Eggs are sorted into categories by size, weight and "quality" factors concerning the shell, white, egg yolk, and the internal air cell. Also, abnormalities are looked for, such as the presence of spots of blood, which indicates a fertilized egg, unfit for consumption. Historically, a candling device was used and a similar method is used even today, except with a flashlight and a dark sleeve rather than a specific device. I certainly will not attempt to explain the whole procedure for egg grading, but the inspection consists of using a device, any device, that can "candle" or shine a light on the egg in darkness, so that the internal characteristics of the egg can be determined. A few eggs, now and again, are 'broken out' to compare the results with the candling results and determine the "Haugh Unit value."

In case you are really interested, or plan to start your own egg plant (egg plant, not eggplant, joker) you can get the lowdown in the USDA Egg Grading Manual and the specifications in the Federal Register of the USDA, Code of Federal Regulations 7, part 56, 2008.

Eggs are categorized into three grades, AA, A, and B based on quality considerations. Now, the thing about eggs, like any fresh food, is that the quality is not static. It deteriorates as the egg ages. So the eggs must be stored and handled carefully to minimize this deterioration. Some of the characteristics that determine egg quality are:

External Factors: Shell Shape and Texture, Cleanliness

All chicken eggs are oval. You're not going to find a round one. So the different shapes are variations on "rounded with large end and smaller end." There is considerable variation allowed. The image below shows ideal, practically normal, practically normal with slight ridges and rough areas, and abnormal eggs.


grades of eggs by shape

Egg Grades by Shape

grades of eggs by shape

Egg Grades by Shape



Eggs are checked for cleanliness after washing. Eggs considered clean can have some very small stains, cage marks, or specks but are generally free from foreign material, stains, and discolorations. An egg considered dirty has dirt of foreign material clinging to its surface, or has prominent or moderate stains. If localized, the "dirt" cannot cover more than 1/32 of the egg's surface. If scattered, it cannot cover more the 1/16 of the egg's surface.

Internal Quality: Air Cell, Yolk, and White

Hen eggs contain an air cell at the large end which forms as the egg cools. When the egg is first laid, there is no air cell. As the egg cools, the liquids inside the shell contract more than the shell itself, which forms an air filled space, separating the inner membrane from the outer shell. The air space may grow further as water evaporates from the egg. Although it is thought that the air cell is unimportant compared to the broken out appearance of an egg, the U.S. standards still consider it a factor in grading, although only the depth is considered important. It does not matter whether the air cell moves or whether it is bubbly (small separate air cells beneath the main one). An air-cell gauge is used to easily determine the depth of the cell, although experienced handlers can judge it by eye. The depth allowances for AA, A, an B are:

Quality Depth
AA l/8 inch (3.2 mm)
A 3/l6 inch (4.8 mm)
B No limit

The appearance of the yolk, upon candling, is considered one of the best indicators of quality. The appearance of the yolk and the condition of the white are interrelated. To judge egg yolk quality the distinctness of the yolk shadow outline, size and shape of the yolk, and defects and germ development are considered.

the less defined you yolk outline is indicates a higher quality egg. An AA egg should have a yolk outline that is only slightly defined and that pretty much blends into the surrounding white. An A grade egg should have the yolk outline fairly well defined, meaning it is discernible but not clearly outlined. A B grade egg has a yolk outline that is clearly defined and is visible as dark shadow when the egg is twirled in front of the candler. The image below shows the yolk outline grades of candled eggs.


egg grades by egg yolk outline, candled eggs

Egg grades by yolk outline, candled eggs.

egg grades by egg yolk outline, candled eggs

Egg grades by yolk outline, candled eggs.



In a freshly laid egg, the yolk is round and firm. As the egg ages, the yolk's membrane weakens and water is absorbed into the yolk, causing it to grow in size and weight. These changes only become apparent in the lowest quality B grade eggs. These yolks will appear enlarged and flattened like a "balloon slightly filled with water."

The main cause of yolk defects is germ development. Other various defects can be observed but their exact causes are unknown and subject to speculation. The three terms used are:

  • Practically free from defects — AA and A grade. There is no germ development but there may be other very slight defects on the surface of the yolk.
  • Serious defects — B grade. There is no germ development but there are well developed spots or areas and other serious defects such as olive yolks. These defects do not render the egg inedible.
  • Clearly visible germ development — B quality. There is a clearly developed and visilbe germ spot on the yolk but there is no evident blood.
  • Blood due to germ development — Inedible. There is clearly visible blood which can be seen as lines or a blood ring due to the germ in a fertile egg that has developed further.

Egg white or "albumen" usually has four layers, the chalaziferous, inner thin, thick, and outer thin. The relative proportions of these layers before the candling light is the main thing that determines its appearance. As stated above, the condition of the yolk and the white are interrelated. The intensity of the yolk shadow outline and the movement of the yolk as the egg is twirled in front of the light is determined by the viscosity of the albumen. The thicker the albumen, the less movement of the yolk and the more indistinct its outline. As can be seen by the yolk outline descriptions above, then, higher quality (fresher) eggs have thicker whites. When you cook eggs and the white spreads out across the pan, being very watery, you have an older egg. The following factors are considered:

  • Clear — AA or A grade. There are no discolorations or foreign bodies in the albumen.
  • Firm — AA grade. Albumen that is thick or or viscous enough to prevent the yolk outline from being more than slightly defined or only indistinctly visible when the is twirled. If such an egg is broken-out, the albumen has a Haugh unit value of 72 or higher when measured at a temperature between 45 and 60 °F (7.2 and 15.6 °C) See Egg Grading manual link above for Haugh unit description.
  • Reasonably firm — A grade. Albumen that that is a bit lees thick or viscous than firm albumen and permits permits the yolk to approach the shell more closely, resulting in a fairly well defined yolk outline when the egg is twirled. when broken out, there is a Haugh unit value of 60 up to, but not including 72 when measured at a temperature between 45 and 60 °F (7.2 and 15.6 °C)
  • Weak and watery — B grade. Albumen that is weak, thin, and generally lacking in viscosity, permitting the yolk to approach the shell closely, thus causing the yolk outline to appear plainly visible and dark when the egg is twirled. When broken out, the weak and watery albumen has a Haugh unit value lower than 60 when measured at a temperature between 45 and 60 °F (7.2 and 15.6 °C)
  • Blood spots or meat spots — B grade. Small blood spots of not more than one-eight inch aggregate diameter are present. Or, small meat spots of not more than one-eighth inch aggregate diameter. Larger blood spots, or blood that has diffused into the albumen surrounding the spot are classified as loss. These blood spots should not be due to germ development but they may be on the yolk or in the albumen. Meat spots may be blood spots which have lost their characteristic red color, or tissue from the reproductive organs.


candled eggs showing small and large blood spots, broken out egg with large blood spot

Left: Small blood spot. Middle: Broken out egg with large blood spot. Right: Large blood spot.

candled eggs showing small and large blood spots, broken out egg with large blood spot

Left: Small blood spot. Middle: Broken out egg with large blood spot. Right: Large blood spot.


  • Bloody white — An egg which has blood diffused through the albumen. Such a condition may be present in freshly laid eggs. Eggs with bloody albumen are classed as loss.

Eggs Defined as "Loss"

Various other factors can help determine if an egg is defined as a loss. An egg that is a loss is an egg that is inedible, cooked, frozen, contaminated, sour, musty, or moldy, or an egg that contains a large blood spot, large meat spot, bloody white, green white, rot, stuck yolk, blood ring, embryo chick (at or beyond the blood ring state), free yolk in the white, or other foreign material.

Summary of Specifications for AA, A, and B Grade Eggs

The following table is a reproduction of the Summary of U.S. Standards for Quality of Individual Shell Eggs table given in the USDA Egg Grading Manual.


Quality Factor AA Quality A Quality B Quality
Shell Clean Clean Clean to slightly stained.*
Unbroken. Practically Normal Unbroken. Practically Normal. Unbroken. Abnormal.
Air Cell 1/8 inch or less in depth. 3/16 inch or less in depth. Over 3/16 inch in depth.
Unlimited movement and free or bubbly. Unlimited movement and free or bubbly. Unlimited movement and free or bubbly.
White Clear. Clear. Reasonably Firm Weak and Watery. Small blood and meat spots.**
Yolk Outline slightly defined. Outline fairly well defined. Outline plainly visible
Practically free from defects. Practically free from defects. Enlarged and flattened. Clearly visible germ development but no blood or Other serious defects.

* Moderately stained areas permitted (1/32 of surface if localized,
or 1/16 if scattered.).
** If they are small (aggregating not more than 1/8 inch in diameter).

For eggs with dirty or broken shells, the standards of quality provide two additional qualities.

  • Dirty - Unbroken. Adhering dirt or foreign material, prominent stains, moderate stained areas in excess of B quality.
  • Check - Broken or cracked shell, but membranes intact, no leadking. A "leaker" has broken or cracked shell membranes, and contents leaking or free to leak.

Weight Classes: Jumbo to Peewee

Eggs are also classified according to weight. They are separated into jumbo, extra large, large, medium, small, and peewee sizes. This table breaks down the sizes by minimum weight per dozen eggs, 30 dozen eggs, and individual eggs.

Size or Weight Class Minimum net weight per dozen (ounces) Minimum net weigth 30 per dozen (pounds) Minimum net weight individual eggs (ounces)
Jumbo 30 56 29
Extra Large 27 50.5 26
Large 24 45 23
Medium 21 39.5 20
Small 18 34 17
Peewee 15 28 _

How Does You Know if An Egg is Good?

Regardless of the eggs quality grade when you buy it, the egg's freshness determines its true quality for cooking. A grade A or AA egg, if you store it too long, will become a grade B egg. The cook does not need to be concerned with high, average, or low AA, A, or B grade eggs but their appearance will help determine their best use in cooking. Eggs that are AA quality, very fresh, will have high and firm yolks and thick whites which do not spread. A grades will have slightly thinner whites. B grades will be watery and thin.


white leghorn chicken

The White Leghorn Typically Lays White Eggs

white leghorn chicken

The White Leghorn Typically Lays White Eggs



All of these eggs, even the B grades, are still useful, just for different purposes. Any egg will work well in a recipe where the egg is incorporated. However, certain properties are present in fresher or older eggs.

When you are serving eggs fried, poached, or cooked in the shell, ideally you want the freshest eggs possible, AA grade being the best. Break your eggs out into a separate container to judge the thickness of the white and the firmness of the yolk. Remember, B grade eggs will have yolks that are enlarged and slightly flattened. The smaller and firmer the yolk, the fresher the egg. These eggs will not spread out like water. For the most part, you simply want to avoid B grade eggs for this use, but when poaching, which is difficult to master, go for the freshest egg possible. For frying or boiling, AA or A should be fine for most, unless you are a really obsessive foodie.


plymouth rock hen in yard

The Plymouth Rock Chicken Typically Lays Brown Eggs
(looks like a Rhode Island Red in the background)

image by Thaddeus Quintin via wikimedia

plymouth rock hen in yard

The Plymouth Rock Chicken Typically Lays Brown Eggs
(looks like a Rhode Island Red in the background)

image by Thaddeus Quintin via wikimedia



When you are going to incorporate your eggs into recipes with other ingredients, they can be older. For whipping, older egg whites will actually whip up to a greater volume!

Although we are often warned never to use an egg that is cracked, if the egg has been refrigerated and if it is going to be cooked very thoroughly, it should be fine, as long as it does not smell sulfurous. Cracked eggs should be used in recipes, therefore. If you are dealing with older "B grade" eggs and you are unsure if they are too old, a sniff will tell you quickly. Good eggs have either no smell or a slightly sweet smell. On the other hand, the smell of bad eggs is hard to mistake. Any type of phosphorous or musty odor indicates an inedible egg.


Dark Cornish hen

The Cornish Chicken Typically Lays Brown Eggs

Dark Cornish hen

The Cornish Chicken Typically Lays Brown Eggs



If you find blood spots or germ spots in your eggs, as in the image above, these are harmless to you and it is up to you whether you can handle the idea that a bit of blood or the beginnings of germination are present. Obviously, you wouldn't want to serve these fried or poached to guests. You may be able to remove the spot with the tip of a spoon.

Green whites could mean contamination by Pseudomonas bacteria. They may or may not have a sour odor. Discard any such eggs.

Sometimes when you crack an egg you may break the yolk. However, the white of a fresh egg is thick and the yolk is not watery, so the yolk will not mix with the egg white very freely. On the other hand, if you break open and egg and the yolk is all mixed up with the white, causing the whole thing to be a murky mess, that's a bad egg. This is called 'mixed rot' or an 'addled egg.' This may be caused by the yolk migrating and having become stuck to the shell, then dislodged upon handling, causing the membrane to burst. At first the yolk just seeps a little and over time it becomes mixed with the white. In order for the yolk to have become stuck to the shell to the degree that it cannot be dislodged without breaking the membrane, it had to have been stored for a long period of time in a fixed position. That's a bad egg.


broken open and candled eggs showing mixed rot, addled eggs

Mixed rot or Addled eggs

broken open and candled eggs showing mixed rot, addled eggs

Mixed rot or Addled eggs


Which Kinds of Chicken Lay Which Color Eggs?

Domestic hens may lay white, different shades of brown, or yellow eggs. There is one breed that lays blue-green eggs. Sometimes very small dark flecks are present on shells, mostly on brown eggs. Eggs that are considered "brown" can range from a light yellow brown, to a dark-reddish brown. It is possible for a hen that lays white eggs to occasionally lay tinted ones. Although each hen will tend to lay the same color eggs, there is considerable variation in shade within a breed. The color of the eggshell is not related to the diet of the chicken.


blue-green egg of the Araucana hen, along with typical whitle and brown chicken eggs for comparison

The Blue-Green Egg of the Araucana
With White and Brown Eggs to Compare

blue-green egg of the Araucana hen, along with typical whitle and brown chicken eggs for comparison

The Blue-Green Egg of the Araucana
With White and Brown Eggs to Compare



It is often said that the color of the chicken's earlobe is a clue to the color of egg it will lay. According to this claim, breeds with white or pale earlobes lay white eggs and breeds with red earlobes lay brown eggs. As a rule of thumb, this may bear out, but there are several notable exceptions, such as the Holland Lamona, which has red earlobes but lays white eggs, and the Araucanas, which have bright red earlobes but lay green-blue eggs. The Americauna also produces blue-green or green-blue eggs, but this breed was developed from the Araucanas. There are four races or classes of domestic hens that are recognized in the U.S.

  • Mediterranean class - lays white eggs. Chickens of this race include Leghorns, Minorcas, Anconas, White Faced Black Spanish, and Blue Andalusian, and Buttercup.
  • American class lays brown eggs, except for the Lamona. Yes, they all have red earlobes. This class includes the Plymouth Rock, Rhode Island Red, Rhode Island White, New Hampshire, Domonique, Java, Jersey Black Giant, Wyandotte, Wyandotte Bantam, Chantecler, and the aforementioned white laying Lamona.
  • English Class - lays brown eggs, except the Dorking and Red Cap. Again, they have red earlobes. This class includes the Orpington, Cornish, Cornish Bantam, Sussex, Australorp, and the aforementioned white-layers.
  • Asiatic Class - lays brown eggs. These include the Brahma, Brahma Bantam, Cochin, Cochin Bantam, and Langshan.

Additional References

Ensminger, Audrey H. Foods & Nutrition Encyclopedia. Boca Raton: CRC, 1994.

Percy, Pam. The Field Guide to Chickens. St. Paul, MN: Voyageur, 2006.

Jull, Morley A. (Morley Allan), 1885-1959.. Standard breeds and varieties of chickens : I. American, Asiatic, English, and Mediterranean classes.. Washington, D.C.

This article contains one or more Amazon affiliate links. See full disclosure.

© 2016 by Eric Troy and CulinaryLore. All Rights Reserved. Please contact for permissions.