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Decoding Egg Yolk Colour

YOU’VE PROBABLY SEEN OR eaten a “farm-fresh” egg, with a gorgeous orange yolk, and wondered why it looks so different from standard grocery store eggs. Does that orange yolk mean it was a free-range egg or that there’s something special about it? Does it make it more nutritious than regular eggs?

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Where Egg Yolk Color Comes From

Turns out that egg yolk color is really just an indicator of the hen’s diet!

If they eat more yellow-orange carotenoids, or natural pigments, it affects and changes the yolk’s colour.

In fact, while artificial colour additives are not allowed to be added to chicken feed, naturally pigmented substances like marigold flowers are sometimes added to feed to enhance yolk colour.

Besides being a coveted colour, orange yolks are an indication of a well balanced and highly nutritious diet. A few things factor into the making of an orange yolk: xanthophylls, omega-3 fatty acids, and meats. Yes, meats. Chickens are not meant to be vegetarian, no matter what your premium carton of organic/grain-fed/cage-free eggs tells you? Chickens are omnivores by nature and their healthiest diets include meats such as mealworms, beetles, grasshoppers, grubs, and whatever creepy-crawly they can pull out of the ground. Includes small rodents and snakes too! Xanthophylls are a class of carotenoids. Carotenoids are natural plant pigments found in many fruits and vegetables. It’s often thought that beta-carotene, one of the more well-known carotenoids, is responsible for giving yolks the orange pigment that people associate with carrots. But in actuality, beta-carotene benefits yolks nutritionally, rather than colourfully. The carotenoids that cause deeper yolk colouring are xanthophylls, which are more readily absorbed in the yolks. (Lutein is one such xanthophyll, and a lot of lutein means a lot more orange.) Xanthophylls are found in dark leafy greens.
Besides being a coveted colour, orange yolks are an indication of a well balanced and highly nutritious diet. A few things factor into the making of an orange yolk: xanthophylls, omega-3 fatty acids, and meats.
Yes, meats. Chickens are not meant to be vegetarian, no matter what your premium carton of organic/grain-fed/cage-free eggs tells you? Chickens are omnivores by nature and their healthiest diets include meats such as mealworms, beetles, grasshoppers, grubs, and whatever creepy-crawly they can pull out of the ground. Includes small rodents and snakes too!
Xanthophylls are a class of carotenoids. Carotenoids are natural plant pigments found in many fruits and vegetables. It’s often thought that beta-carotene, one of the more well-known carotenoids, is responsible for giving yolks the orange pigment that people associate with carrots. But in actuality, beta-carotene benefits yolks nutritionally, rather than colourfully. The carotenoids that cause deeper yolk colouring are xanthophylls, which are more readily absorbed in the yolks. (Lutein is one such xanthophyll, and a lot of lutein means a lot more orange.) Xanthophylls are found in dark leafy greens.

The Nutritional Value of Darker Yolks

As for the nutritional value of the yolks, darker, more colorful yolks have the same amount of protein and fat than lighter yolks. Some studies have shown, however, that eggs from pasture-raised hens can have more omega-3s and vitamins but less cholesterol due to healthier, more

Some studies have shown that eggs from pasture-raised hens can have more omega-3s and vitamins but less cholesterol due to healthier, more natural feed
Some studies have shown that eggs from pasture-raised hens can have more omega-3s and vitamins but less cholesterol due to healthier, more natural feed

natural feed.

Despite the fact that there’s no real proof that egg yolk colour is related to flavour, some people still claim they find darker yolks more flavourful. Any noticeable difference in flavour, though, is probably again due to the hen’s diet.

What do you think? Do eggs with darker yolks just taste better?

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Story from thekitchn.com

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