Egg Yolk Color Chart: What Do The Colors Mean?

Did you ever stop to wonder if the colors of the egg yolks matter? You might be wondering if that sunny yellow yolk is any better for you than the deep orange one, or if there is nothing different. While the rainbow of colors that eggshells can come in has nothing to do with the nutritional value of an egg, is it the same for the egg yolk? Let’s find out.

egg yolk with eggshell

Quick Look at Egg Yolk Nutrition

There is no denying that the incredible colors of egg yolks make them look all the more delicious. But what is really in that egg?

Eggs yolks are the most nutritious part of the egg. They contain vitamins E, K, D, and A, as well as fatty acids like ALA, DHA, and EPA. None of those are present in egg whites. Similarly, you get trace amounts of magnesium, iron, calcium, zinc, choline, phosphorus, and some B vitamins. Interestingly, if your chickens are eating a nutritionally dense diet and getting a wide variety of treats, those are the very nutrients that they will be consuming. Furthermore, a single egg packs an astounding 43 grams of protein, most of which is bioavailable right away.

That’s why eggs are so good for you.

Let’s not forget that the dark egg yolks also provide you with some carotenoids. Now where do those come from? Guess!

The Egg Yolk Color Chart

different egg yolks

Take a look at the table below. It is as the saying goes: “You are what you eat.” Or maybe in the case of chickens, you lay what you eat?

Diet vs ColorDeep OrangeOrange or GoldYellowGreen
Free-Range or Pasture-RaisedXX X
Varied DietXXXX
Commercial Diet  XX

Pale Yellow Yolks

When chickens are fed a commercial diet, which mainly loads up the hens on corn, soy, white cornmeal, wheat, and barley, they tend to consume less xanthophylls, which is a kind of yellowish-brown pigment. Since these chickens are not consuming as much pigmented food, their egg yolks tend to be a little lighter than those with a heartier, healthier diet.

Mid-Orange or Golden Yolks

Hens that have a free-range diet or one enriched with supplements from greens, alfalfa, and other plants containing xanthophylls, like carrots, lay eggs with a slightly darker yolk. However, the diet is still largely vegetarian. The eggs that you purchase from the grocery store are most likely going to be a lighter shade of orange or even golden in color.

Deep Orange Egg Yolks

Any kind of chicken that is given time to roam and pick up meat, insects, and a wide variety of food is going to be taking in a lot of nutrients. In other words, many free-range or pasture-raised chickens tend to have deep orange egg yolks. Deeper orange yolks may also result from orange pigmentation in the food, such as those from carrots and cantaloupe.

Interestingly, on Season 1 of a Netflix show called “Chef’s Table,” Dan Barber, a farmer and chef from Blue Hill at Stone Barns revealed that some of his eggs have an almost blood red yolk. How did his hens achieve such a shocking feat? He feeds them red bell peppers, which are rich in carotenoids. When chickens eat a lot of carotenoids, the yolks get darker.

Greenish Egg Yolks

Have you ever scrambled up eggs or hard-boiled them only to find that they develop an off-putting tinge? While the green color may not look safe, it’s fine. Sometimes, eggs contain iron and sulfur compounds that react to the denaturation of the proteins when exposed to heat. If you don’t want to eat green eggs, don’t overcook them or expose them to high temperatures. For hard-boiled eggs, cook them until the right time then drop the eggs into a bowl of ice water to stop the formation of green rings around the yolk.

The Relationship Between Yolk Color and Quality

Now that you know about the egg yolk color spectrum and see how diet affects the color, you may be wondering if there is any impact on the nutritional value. Well, the jury is kind of out on this, and it has been long debated. Generally speaking, the protein and fat content of an egg is the same, regardless of the color of the yolk.

However, science has revealed some interesting finds of late. For example, the Journal of Food Science published a study that looked into egg yolk colors. The researchers found that egg yolks that look either light orange or golden yellow have more vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids than a lighter yellow yolk. The eggs in the study were taken from a variety of chickens, all coming from either free-range or commercial (caged) farms.

Findings like this have led people to believe that free-range eggs are far more healthier than eggs from hens with a limited diet. Since caged chickens have less access to a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, and proteins, they have less nutrients to impart into their eggs. Some commercial farms will provide their hens with supplements and additives, including xanthophyll powders, marigold flowers, carrot tops, orange peels, and algae, but those don’t have the same benefits as chickens who can forage.

Grasses, seeds, insects, and produce all have a huge impact on the health of a chicken. In turn, that impacts the quality of the eggs. 

Are Dark Egg Yolks Healthier and Tastier?

While eggs with both light and dark yolks have equal amounts of protein and fat, that doesn’t mean they taste the same. You could assume from the studies that reveal that the darker orange egg yolks contain more vitamins and nutrients also means those eggs taste better. It is true. There is a reason why many celebrity chefs use eggs with deeper colored yolks instead of the yellow ones.

Those deep orange yolks have more flavor. That slight boost of deliciousness can add new dimensions to your breakfast casserole, scrambled eggs, and baked goods. So if you ever doubted purchasing free range or pastured eggs, now you have some incentive to do so. Better yet, why not raise some of your own chickens and use their eggs instead?

Finally you can watch this great video on this topic:

Final Thoughts

Chicken egg yolks can be a variety of colors ranging from light yellow, mustard yellow, reddish-orange, to nearly dark reddish-orange or blood red. It all depends on what the hens were given to eat! While a chicken’s diet does not change the nutritional value of an egg all that much, you do get more vitamins, nutrients, and deliciousness out of eggs that come from free-roaming ladies. Buying eggs from caged chickens just isn’t the same.

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