Living in a consumer society we are surrounded by a plethora of products in every shop we go. While this is good because your choice isn’t limited, it also has its shortcomings as one can hardly tell the healthy products from the highly refined ones.
The same goes for eggs. When you stand in front of the egg aisle in a supermarket, you are actually facing eggs of different sizes, but also of different shell and yoke color. So, how can you tell which eggs are healthy and which aren’t?
Eggs sold all over supermarkets in the US are yellow. No matter whether they are organic or not, cheap or expensive, they are all yellow and the yolk is not as thick.
When eggs are pasture-raised, they normally have a thicker and darker yoke. In other words, eggs from healthy chicken will have an orange yoke. The eggshell is much denser and harder to crack, and eggs are thicker and fuller. The orange color of the egg is the result of several components including xanthophyll, omega-3 acids and meats. Xanthophyll is a yellow pigment that belongs in the class of carotenoids, which are natural plant pigments found in many fruits and vegetables. It’s a general misconception that beta-carotene, one of the more recognized carotenoids and normally linked to carrots, accounts for the orange color of yolks. However, beta-carotene is responsible for yolk nutritional value, rather than its color. It’s the xanthophylls, another group of carotenoids, which account for the deep orange color of yolks, owing to the fact that they are easily absorbed in the yolk. For instance, lutein is one such xanthophyll, and high amounts of lutein means the yolk will be darker orange in color.
Xanthophylls are typically found in dark leafy greens such as kale, spinach, collards, broccoli, zucchini and Brussel’s sprouts. On the other hand, omega-3 fatty acids are highly concentrated in flax seeds and sea kelp. When hens are fed on such a diet, the nutrients they consume are passed on to the eggs, the highest concentration being in the egg yolk. According to a recent study, farm eggs are richer in vitamins A, D and E; beta-carotene and omega-3s.
If you opt for raising chickens for eggs, the following tips may come handy.
Start by making a small garden and planting amaranth, collards, broccoli and kale. Include as many leafy greens as possible because these vegetables will increase the lutein content in your hens’ yolks. During cold winter months when leafy greens are scarce, you can feed your hens alfalfa. Another good thing about chickens is that they are really useful at the end of the season when gardens become pest-ridden. Simply let your chickens clean up the vegetables from insects before you pull the plants out for your compost pile. It’s a double win!
To conclude, the color of the egg yolk is determined by a hen’s diet, not the breed or the freshness of the egg. If a hen’s diet is rich in yellow corn, green plants, alfalfa and other plants rich with xanthophyll, the yoke will be darker in color.