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Are store bought Brown eggs a fraud?

 
Posts: 11
Location: Snohomish county, WA
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We have our own hens, so fresh eggs are typical at our house, with exception of this time of year when our hens stop laying for a bit.

I was at the grocery store and checking out the eggs. Since I don't usually buy eggs I was surprised at the variety and selection.

I am of the opinion that the brown eggs marketed in the gocery store are dyed brown.  The packaged brown eggs are very dark in color, and show the tell tail signs of being colored . As you might see when you dye easter eggs. Uneven color, unnaturally dark color, small blemishes in the shell that don't absorb the dye , glossy finish rather than a natural matte shell.

I think one of 2 senerios applies.

1) maybe mass brown egg production , like in my small coop, produces a variety of shades of brown eggs. So they dye them to look consistent.

2) The eggs are actually white, and they are dyed simply to be packaged and sold as brown. There is probably not an actual law or regulation for over site.

I did some research, and found 2 different people questioning why their brown eggs lost the color when boiled. 2 different egg producers responded. They patronized,  saying that boiling eggs with vinegar makes the brown color come off.
That is such crap! The color never disolves when we boil our fresh eggs with vinegar.
 
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I know that growing up, I was always taught that brown eggs are "healthier" — it took much of my life to realize the only difference is… the color of the shell. So I can understand how one might think there is incentive to dye eggs brown for consumers. But in practicality, the commercial egg industry is heavily regulated, and more importantly — it's just not profitable to dye eggs. Brown eggs go for the same price as white around these parts.

Unfortunately, the truth here is that the eggs are dyed. That's how they get brown. Chickens naturally produce a dye that colors the eggs during the laying process. That dye can be removed with vinegar. Soak your eggs in vinegar for half an hour, then rub it. The color will come right off. Turns out natural dyes and artificial dyes are pretty similar. Chances are it's a bit harder to rub off on homegrown eggs since commercial eggs in the US are all washed, but it's rare for homegrown eggs to be washed.
 
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The colour of the shell depends on the breed, diet, age and health of the hen.  Not all hens lay a consistent coloured shell.  Some breeds lay a dark chocolate coloured shell, others, light, others a splautchy one.  It also depends on where they are in their laying cycle.

My current hens (which I can't spell well enough for the spellcheck, but sounds like why-en-dot)  lay a deep, earthy colour egg in the spring, and a sandy colour one in the winter.

Mother earth news has some great article on eggs that go into this.
 
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As I understand it, white supermarket eggs are usually Leghorn or proprietary variants of Leghorn.  Brown commercial eggs are usually variants of Rhode Island Red.  One common variant is the Golden Comet.  Source for all this was the internet, not personal knowledge...

 
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Someone wrote, "... it's just not profitable to dye eggs. Brown eggs go for the same price as white around these parts."

That may not be accurate. If you can sell a higher percentage of your dyed eggs than you do of your white eggs, you make more money, and have less shrinkage. So, if you do sell a better percentage of your "brown" eggs, it would be "...profitable to dye eggs". That's just (if true) good marketing.
 
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Here in the UK it is illegal to wash eggs. It interferes with the natural protective membrane on the outer shell. Dying would come under that.

Also, if you look at any eggs, the colour does not go all the way through the shell. When you break it the shell shows white. You may be seeing natural variations in the eggs, but the colour may alter as a result of washing the egg - a practice common in the USA.
 
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Michael Cox wrote:
Also, if you look at any eggs, the colour does not go all the way through the shell. When you break it the shell shows white.



Except green eggs. The green pigment is right in the shell.

I have a few that lay 'olive' eggs, with green pigment in the shell and brown on the surface.  If I was more artistically minded, I'd etch green leafy patterns onto those ones at easter time but my attempts so far haven't exactly been worth photographing...

Here's a 'normal' egg and an olive one with brown speckles, courtesy Morrigan, who is half light sussex, a quarter marans and a quarter cream legbar.



And a selection pack...

 
Michael Cox
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Never seen that colouration before. They are neat!

 
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Michael Cox wrote:
Also, if you look at any eggs, the colour does not go all the way through the shell.



There's one more exception, blue eggs. I have a few ameraucanas and the blue pigment is within the calcium of the shell, not a color applied to the egg exterior by the chicken like brown eggs. The easy way to see is crack one open, and look at the color of the shell from the inside of the egg.
 
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Jim Fry wrote:Someone wrote, "... it's just not profitable to dye eggs. Brown eggs go for the same price as white around these parts."

That may not be accurate. If you can sell a higher percentage of your dyed eggs than you do of your white eggs, you make more money, and have less shrinkage. So, if you do sell a better percentage of your "brown" eggs, it would be "...profitable to dye eggs". That's just (if true) good marketing.



I think that would be 'false advertising' rather than 'good marketing'    
 
Thelma Mc Gowan
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I think it would be fun .....if you are able....
The next time you happen to be in a large chain grocery store , snap a picture of the " brown eggs" and investigate a bit.
I would love to see different areas offerings.
Obviously the brown eggs in small co-op and organic stores are probably going to be different.

I feel that those posting here can consider them selves egg experts, and would be able to spot a fraud fairly easy.

I will do some homework. ....
 
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We have a small flock of Rhode Island Reds, who do not give quite enough eggs for the whole family. When I buy brown eggs in the supermarket (the basic store brand), there is no visible difference on the outside.
 
pollinator
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here in France and some other continental european countries it is possible to buy eggs that have been dyed red . Its bacause they are hard boiled :-) and to make sure people are not buying the wrong eggs they are coloured

David
 
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Right now I have three brown laying mutts, they lay lightbrown eggs, but there is often one that is a bit darker or speckled or if they have layed it somewhere wet it will have a light patch on it. My marans lay very very dark eggs at the begining of their lay so in spring, and after being broody or in moult, and then each egg is slightly lighter than the last. Untill they lay eggs that are only just darker than the standard brown eggs I have
 
r ranson
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Looking at my own chicken raising experience, it costs me the same amount per egg to grow a white egg or a white brown egg.  

If I grew white eggs, then it would cost me more to dye them brown than it would be to raise brown egg layers.  I suppose the advantage of dyeing is that they would be more uniform colour between the different eggs, but my customers don't want that.  They seem to think that ungraded (different colours and sizes) eggs are more desirable (and are willing to pay more for them) than uniform eggs.  

why their brown eggs lost the color when boiled.



My eggs lighten when boiled.  It depends more on what's in the water (city water often has chemicals in it to help keep the water supply safe).  I would be very interested in learning if they had the same experience with distilled water or if they added anything to their water (some people put a match or vinegar in their egg water).  If they do add something to the water, it would be neat to see if not adding it had any change to how the shell colour.  
 
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i have often wondered whether commercial egg producers dye their eggs.  i have found eggs in the store that appeared to have been dyed.  shouldn't this be illegal?
 
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Oranges are normally dyed. The ones coming off the tree often have significant amounts of brown and will not be purchased. Give the customer what the customer demands.
 
r ranson
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tony hinkens wrote:i have often wondered whether commercial egg producers dye their eggs.  



I suspect setting up a system that could dye thousands of eggs, all the dye, all the labour, etc, would be more expensive than getting chickens that lay brown eggs.  

Depending on the breed and the diet of the chicken, the pigment is in different layers.  Some only have pigment in the outer shell, some have it on inner layers.  Comercial egg wash strips the eggs of protective layers which means that if the chicken only put pigment on one layer of the shell, it will be easy to rub off and appear dyed.

I have a couple of hens that lay easy-rub brown eggs.  When training someone to wash the eggs, we make sure they get those eggs and we can show them what happens if they rub too hard to remove the protective layers.  They get splotchy eggs.  
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