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The color, while gorgeous, isn’t necessarily a sign of better flavor or nutrition.

Hannah Klinger
April 25, 2017

An egg with deep, sunset-orange yolks is a thing of beauty, but where does that color come from? It’s not a natural trait of a fancy European breed of hen or a sign of overly pampered birds. The yolk color actually comes from what the hens eat: a diet rich in carotenoids, the natural yellow-orange pigment found in fruits (cantaloupe), vegetables (carrots, sweet potatoes, and kale), and flowers.

No artificial color additives are allowed in chicken feed, so any orange yolks you spot come from a pure source. Often marigold flowers are added to a hen’s diet to achieve the color. Free-range birds often snack on grass and small insects, which are also high in carotenoids.

An orange yolk and a yellow one are the same nutritionally. Some studies say that free-range eggs have more omega-3s and lower cholesterol, though we know now that any hen, free-range or not, can make an orange yolk with the right diet. There’s also no real proof that an orange yolk tastes any better, though many swear the flavor is richer and creamier (we do eat with our eyes, after all!).

If you find orange yolks among your eggs, post and share with friends so they can be rightfully jealous. Otherwise, buy any eggs you like.

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