When faced with a choice between white or brown eggs, I will almost always choose brown. I couldn't really tell you why, except that my mother bought brown eggs and, to my eye, they are prettier (though not as pretty as blue ones!). But is there really any difference apart from color?
As far as hue, the difference lies in the breed of chicken. In general, white chickens lay white eggs, brown chickens lay brown eggs, and blue eggs come from a South American breed called Araucana. When it comes to taste and nutrition, however, there is no difference. Color is not an indicator of quality.
Yet preferences persist, perhaps due to misinformation, tradition, or aesthetic attraction. According to poultry farming publications of the 1910s and 20s, there existed a strong geographic divide; New Yorkers and San Franciscans were said to prefer white eggs, while Bostonians insisted upon brown. Even today, many consumers expect brown eggs to be more "natural." Brown eggs also tend to be more expensive, as the hens that lay white eggs are smaller, eat less, and are therefore preferred by commercial producers.
When we asked our local "eggspert" (ahem) Erik Knutzen of Homegrown Evolution for his perspective on the matter, he had this to say: "There is no difference in taste or nutrition based on color. But there is a big difference in flavor, nutrition and texture between eggs from hens raised on pasture and all other eggs. A 'pastured' egg comes from a chicken that's allowed to do what chickens want to do naturally – wander around in the sun and open air, scratch around in the dirt and eat bugs, vegetation and supplemental feed."
Where can you find pastured eggs? Ask at your farmers' market, check out Eat Wild's directory of pasture-based farms, or, as Knutzen says, "Better yet, if you've got a yard, you can raise a few hens of your own. It ain't hard, and you'll know where your egg came from." To get started raising your own chickens, hop on over to our sister site Re-Nest for Knutzen's How To Build a Backyard Chicken Coop tutorial.
(Erik Knutzen is the co-author, with his wife Kelly Coyne, of The Urban Homestead and blogs at www.homegrownevolution.com)