Egg yolks haven’t always been too exciting to talk about in our house – until this past few months. Several weeks ago we had a rather unsettling experience with our organic eggs from a local market – and while we knew that organic eggs really weren’t anything to write home about, we picked up out of convenience.
It wasn’t long before we switched over to pastured eggs from our farmers market for good measure – they truly are the best eggs.
Eggs have been in the news quite a bit lately – and are usually identified as a contributor to high cholesterol in the diet, which further contributes to heart disease. Unfortunately not all eggs are the same – and such as the case with free range pastured eggs.
Eggs are a critical part of a healthy diet and a pastured egg is rich in nutrients and shouldn’t ever be confused with eggs that you pick up at your local supermarket.
When you head to the grocery store to get your eggs, you are bombarded with a wall of cartons – from white to brown, pastured, grass fed, farm fresh, cage free, omega-3, and more.
However.. the best and most nutrient dense eggs aren’t found in the grocery store. They are found at your local farmers market – from farmers that allow chickens to run free and eat their natural diet of worms and bugs.
I cracked open these eggs a few days ago to do some baking and was so happy to see such healthy yolks – these pastured eggs are by far so much more nutrient dense than anything we have seen in the past.
- The egg yolk color is always dependent on the diet of the hen that laid the egg.
- The egg shell color depends on the breed of the hen.
Do you know what your egg yolk color represents?
Knowing the story behind your egg color is truly invaluable.
Deep red yolk
We have had several eggs with a dark red yolk and those eggs are incredibly nutritious. These yolks come from chickens that are feeding on lots of dark red pepper or anatto seeds.
Dark orange yolk
A hen that produces deep orange yolks eat a diet that is rich in xanthophyll and carotenoids – food rich in antioxidants and nutrients. They are more than likely hens that are raised on a free range, eating a diet of pigmented foods, fatty acids, and meat (protein).
Xanthophylls are a class of carotenoids – which are a natural plant pigment found in vegetables and fruits. Those carotenoids are readily absorbed in the yolk. You can also find xanthophylls in spinach, kale, zucchini, brussels sprouts and collard greens.
If your chickens don’t have access to these fresh greens in the colder season, then their yolks will be lighter.
Orange/dark yellow yolk
A hen that products an orange or dark yellow yolk has a diet that is made up of yellow or orange plant material – alfalfa meal, and yellow corn. Many egg factories take this route – while it might give them a nice golden color they won’t have the same nutritional value.
Sometimes you can pick up feed for your hens that contains marigold extract – that feed will produce dark yolks because marigolds are actually a source of xanthophylls.
Pale/light colored yolk
Eggs with a pale or light colored yolk come from a hen that has a diet void of color and protein. Hens that are fed cornmeal, wheat or barley have light colored egg yolks. Sometimes farmers may add a natural pigment to this feed to try to enhance the color.
When you look at these various yolk colors, you’ll probably realize that an orange yolk is far better and more nutritious than a pale/light colored yolk or even a yellow yolk.
According to a study done by Mother Earth News, real free range eggs have less cholesterol and saturated fat and more vitamins A, E, beta carotene and omega-3 fatty acids.
Even more.. a recent Pennsylvania University Study, pastured eggs are shown to contain much higher levels of key vitamins A, E and D – more beta carotene and more omega-3’s.
How do you get dark orange yolks?
If you have chickens, the best way to get those beautiful, rich, dark orange yolks from your chickens is to let your girls roam, and give them fresh greens. Whatever you have leftover from your garden or summer scraps of broccoli, collards, or even spinach.
Chickens are not meant to be vegetarian – despite what you find in the grocery store stamped on your carton. Chickens have a natural diet of worms, beetles, grasshoppers, and mealworms, as well as plant scraps.
One of the best reasons to get up in the morning and make eggs for yourself is to be able to crack open beautiful dark orange egg yolks.
Chances are, you will be just as stunned as we are with the difference.