Egg (food) - Farming Issues - Color of Eggshell

Color of Eggshell

Although egg color is a largely cosmetic issue, with no effect on egg quality or taste, it is a major issue in production due to regional and national preferences for specific colors, and the results of such preferences on demand. For example, in most regions of the United States, chicken eggs are generally white. In some parts of the northeast of that country, particularly New England, where a television jingle for years proclaimed "brown eggs are local eggs, and local eggs are fresh!", brown eggs are more common. Local chicken breeds, including the Rhode Island Red, lay brown eggs. Brown eggs are also preferred in Costa Rica, Ireland, France, and the United Kingdom. In Brazil and Poland, white chicken eggs are generally regarded as industrial, and brown or reddish ones are preferred. Small farms and smallholdings, particularly in economically advanced nations, may sell eggs of widely varying colors and sizes, with combinations of white, brown, speckled (red), green, and blue eggs in the same box or carton, while the supermarkets at the same time sell mostly eggs from the larger producers, of the color preferred in that nation or region.

These cultural trends have been observed for many years. The New York Times reported during the Second World War that housewives in Boston preferred brown eggs and those in New York preferred white eggs. In February 1976, the British New Scientist magazine, in discussing issues of chicken egg color, stated "Housewives are particularly fussy about the colour of their eggs, preferring even to pay more for brown eggs although white eggs are just as good". As a result of these trends, brown eggs are usually more expensive to purchase in regions where white eggs are considered 'normal', due to lower production. In France and the United Kingdom it is very difficult to buy white eggs, with most supermarkets supplying only the more popular brown eggs. By direct contrast, in Egypt it is very hard to source brown eggs, as demand is almost entirely for white ones, with the country's largest supplier describing white eggs as "table eggs" and packaging brown eggs for export.

Research conducted in France in the 1970s demonstrated blue chicken eggs (as laid by certain breeds, including araucanas, heritage skyline, and cream legbar) can be stronger and more resilient to breakage, yet an article in New Scientist magazine (contemporary with that research) stated there was little to no demand for blue-colored eggs from housewives, despite the clear advantages.

Research at Nihon University, Japan in 1990 revealed a number of different issues were important to Japanese housewives when deciding which eggs to buy; however, color was a distinct factor, with most Japanese housewives preferring the white color.

Egg producers carefully consider cultural issues, as well as commercial ones, when selecting the breed or breeds of chicken used for production, as egg color varies between breeds. Among producers and breeders, brown eggs are often referred to as "tinted", while the speckled eggs preferred by some consumers are often referred to as being "red" in color.

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