What’s the difference between brown and white eggs?

Now We Know: Answering the foodie questions you didn’t even know you had

Margaret Farrelly: “Brown eggs are laid by our beautiful brown hens, and white eggs are laid by our white hens, who have lovely red heads and yellow earlobes”

Margaret Farrelly: “Brown eggs are laid by our beautiful brown hens, and white eggs are laid by our white hens, who have lovely red heads and yellow earlobes”

 

“Sometimes I think that I think like a hen,” laughs Margaret Farrelly of Margaret’s Happily Free-Range Eggs (formerly known as O’Egg) near Kells, Co Meath. “Some of them are so determined and full of character. They’d almost become like a person to you when you get to know them.”

Margaret would know too. Her family currently look after nearly 9,000 free-range hens on their own farm, and they work with 22 free-range suppliers in Meath, Cavan, Monaghan and Longford. Suffice to say, Margaret knows her hens.

She met her husband Leo at a dance in Cavan on Easter weekend in 1982. Margaret was an independent, single young woman working in AIB in Dublin at the time, and had just bought her own house in Mulhuddart, Co Dublin. “That was all up-scuttled when I met Leo. We had so much in common.”

Within a year of meeting, Leo and Margaret were married and living on Leo’s small dairy farm in Mullagh, Co Meath. To support their growing family, they switched from dairy farming to free-range hens in 1987, the same year their second daughter was born.

They started out with 150 hens, and today they pack eggs from almost 200,000 free-range hens. They sell brown eggs and white eggs. But what’s the difference between them?

The main difference in the two types of eggs is the fat in the yolks

“Brown eggs are laid by our beautiful brown hens,” explains Margaret, “and white eggs are laid by our white hens who have lovely red heads and yellow earlobes.”

Roberto Macias, a food engineer originally from Mexico, is the general manager of the Farrelly’s hen farm. “The main difference in the two types of eggs is the fat in the yolks,” he tells me. “Even though they are the same animal, the white and brown birds are very different.

“The white birds are more flighty and mobile, and the brown birds are calmer. If you think about it, in meat there’s a different in the fat profile of cows that are very mobile versus cows that aren’t mobile. I would think there’s a link between how mobile the hens are and the fat content of the egg yolk.”

So, a key difference is that there is more fat in the yolks of the white eggs, and because of that egg lovers may notice an extra creaminess to white eggs. 

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