Hans and I had a discussion about eggs recently. Just to fill you in, he is my boyfriend and a chef in Santa Monica. He was talking about how some of the eggs they get in at the restaurant have bright neon-yellow/orange yolks and others have a duller, pale-yellow tone to them. He loves using the brighter colored yolks because they give his handmade pasta a beautiful, bright color.
I began to wonder why egg yolks vary in color. Even if you are a vegan, I think you might find this post interesting.
The color of the yolk is due to the diet of the chicken. Simple enough, right? Well, I discovered that it’s a lot more complicated than that.
I love eggs; however, I occasionally get a bad flare-up in my joints when I eat them.
I was on an elimination diet for a few months, and I pretty much ate the same food every day. You know that magical, excited feeling you get when you’re about to go on a really awesome vacation? That diet made me feel the exact opposite of that!
Despite my melancholy mood from eating bland food, most days I would feel great—more energy and minimal joint pain. However, there were a few days where flares would come an hour or so after I had eggs. It was frustrating because I thought that I was doing everything right. Looking back, I now understand I was not as careful as I should have been.
There are five main categories for eggs: organic, free-range, certified organic, and true free-range—and crap eggs (AKA, mass produced/conventional eggs with no labeling).
Mass Production/Conventional Eggs
Conventional egg yolks usually yield a pale yellow color. This is the result of a diet that consists of wheat, barley, and soy. If the color of the yolk is almost white, the chickens are most likely being fed white cornmeal. This is typical of the majority of the eggs that fall under this category. Just to be clear, there are chickens that are fed this diet in other categories, but a grain diet is used consistently in factory poultry production.
I have two major issues with these eggs.
Issue Number One: I have been advised to steer clear of soy in my diet because it causes inflammation in my joints (which makes me limp around for a day or so).
The adage “you are what you eat” really means just that. Well, let’s take it one step further here. Eating anything produced by animals results in an Inception-like ordeal because you are eating not only the animal or animal byproduct, but what that animal ate as well.
There have been quite a few studies that have proven that compounds from the feed of laying birds are transferred into their eggs. The conclusion of one study titled, “Transfer of soy isoflavone into the egg yolk of chickens” sums this up perfectly:
“These findings clearly demonstrate that soy isoflavone was transferred into the yolk from the feed…” 
I can only deduce that the eggs of chickens that were fed soy triggered my flares. I was unknowingly ingesting soy by just eating eggs. Yikes!
Issue Number Two: I cannot have random antibiotics running through my system because they will compromise my immune system more than it already is.
Let me crack an egg of knowledge on you for just a moment here.
There are also several studies that cover the dangers of antibiotic use on farm animals. The following excerpt is from one such study that compared the effects of enzyme and antibiotic inclusion in diets for laying birds. Here is the conclusion of this study in regards to antibiotic use on the birds:
“Antibiotic residues were recorded in eggs from laying birds fed with diets containing antibiotics alone and enzyme/antibiotic diet.” 
I will never buy these eggs again and neither should you.
Do I really need to say more here?
Free-Range Eggs/Pasture-Raised Eggs
These sound like the eggs you want, right? There’s a lot of smoke and mirrors and word play going on with these two categories. Allow me to walk you through this.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), free range is defined very broadly: “Producers must demonstrate to the Agency that the poultry has been allowed access to the outside.” 
The USDA does not define how long the chickens need to be outside in order to be considered “free-range.” It can be one minute or it can be all day long. Therefore, a farmer can keep thousands of hens inside their facilities and label them “free-range” as long as they are not confined to one cage and they occasionally venture outside for a short time. In addition, if the chickens are not outdoors all day, that means they are being fed whatever the farmer deems necessary.
The USDA does not have a definition for “pasture-raised” poultry either. Ideally, “pasture-raised” should mean that the chickens are allowed unlimited access outside to eat plants and bugs freely. The reality is murky, and I found only conflicting reports when I attempted to research exactly what “pasture-raised” means.
On top of all this, hens in both pasture-raised and free-range can be fed antibiotics since there is nothing in the USDA definition that prohibits this practice. Thanks (for nothing), USDA!
So far, I found very few USDA regulations on the feed and conditions of egg-laying birds. The exception to this is Certified Organic. The USDA’s National Organic Program ensures that the hens’ feed must be organic, vegetarian, and free of pesticides, antibiotics, and GMOs.
YAY! Kind of!
Once again, this does not guarantee outdoor access for the chickens—all that matters is that the stuff in the feed adheres to the USDA’s Certified Organic guidelines. Therefore, I believe the best way to go (for the animal and for our egg consumption) is…
Certified Organic and True Free-Range Eggs
This is the most honest option out of all of the labels for eggs. It also means you get those bright-colored yolks because the hens are free to roam and eat off the land (and nosh on some bugs and other protein sources). I have to take it one step further and find eggs from chickens that are fed a soy-free diet, but I realize most people do okay with soy.
Here’s where things might get a little scrambled
There are some extremely bad farming practices out there that harm animals and, in turn, harm us. I decided not to get into those here because this post would become a lengthy novel. You can investigate this stuff with a simple Google search, if you have the stomach for it.
While writing this post, I found something else that concerned me: Some of the companies that sell mass produced/conventional eggs will actually go to great lengths to disguise their bad practices.
These companies will add dyes to their egg yolks to trick consumers into thinking the bright yellow or orange color came from the chickens’ diets.
The best way to avoid that mess is to look at and understand your labels!
There are plenty of animal welfare and certification programs you can check out online if you want to get serious about what eggs you are eating.
Here’s a list of a few organizations:
United Egg Producers Certified http://uepcertified.com/
American Pastured Poultry Association http://www.apppa.org/
Certified Humane http://certifiedhumane.org/
American Humane Association http://www.americanhumane.org/
Animal Welfare Approved http://animalwelfareapproved.org/
You can also check out local farms in your area and find out about their practices first-hand.
I love going to farmers markets for this reason. You get to meet the people responsible for the food you are purchasing. The Santa Monica Farmers Market is the only reason I go to work early on Wednesdays, and it’s well worth my time because it means I can get the kind of eggs that are good for me.
I would have never imagined writing so much about eggs! But as I get older, I really do care about where my food comes from. I’ll tell you what—I’ll never look at eggs the same way anymore! I’m going to help myself to some right now. Over-medium. (Yum!)