18 January 2011

White or brown?

All the eggs you find in France are brown. I've seen white eggs only once in the past 7½ years. They were being sold by a farmer at the market in Loches. I don't think he was selling anything but eggs, and he didn't have an awful lot of them. So I assume he kept chickens and the eggs were the product of his hens.

According to French Wikipedia, French chickens used to lay mainly white eggs. But French chickens were cross-bred with Asian breeds starting in about 1850, and now all the eggs are brown (called œufs rosés in French).

Twenty-four eggs laid by free-range chickens.

English Wikipedia says that, in general, "chicken breeds with white ear lobes lay white eggs, whereas chickens with red ear lobes lay brown eggs." Ear lobes? I guess I'm not very familiar with chicken anatomy, because I didn't know that chickens had visible external ears.

French eggs are always brown.

Different cultures have their preferences when it comes to eggshell color, but chicken eggs of one color are not inherently better that chicken eggs of other colors. In the U.S., at least where I lived, brown eggs used to be considered to be "better" than white eggs, but that is evidently not the case. One French friend told me she assumed that brown eggshells are not as fragile as white eggshells, and that's why egg merchants prefer them: less breakage. I don't know if that's true.

In France, the eggs are brown and they are often sold in cartons of 10, not 12. They are also sold by the half-dozen. The ones I bought in Loches a few days ago came in a pack of 24. Oh, and in the supermarkets they are not kept in refrigerated cases. They're just out on the shelves like the bags of flour and sugar.


  1. I remember the first time my girls saw (were aware of) the white eggs in the USA. They asked me why Americans wash their eggs...

  2. Nice picture of our local free range producer's box. They are literally just up the road and we always buy our eggs directly from them.

  3. I buy eggs little and often so I can store them on the kitchen dresser. Most recipes call for eggs at room temperature anyway.

    White eggs were being used last night on a baking show on BBC2, so they must be available somewhere in the UK.

  4. Ken, the ear-lobes sound like a bit of Wakkopedia non-sense!

    Some friends of ours in the UK have some chucks that lay pale blue eggs!
    And the chucks are as pretty, with lovely mottled feathers... the variety is Columbine [there is a picture of one here on Chicken Keeper, but it doesn't really show the lovely colouring of the feathers.

  5. That link didn't work... so here is the cut and paste version... http://www.chickenkeeper.co.uk/hybrids/columbines.php

  6. My impression in the U.S. is that brown vs. white eggs as a preference is a regional thing. In New England, brown eggs prevail (my bro-in-law feels funny eating white ones, I hear!), but in New Jersey, as well as out here in Missouri, brown eggs were virtually unheard of until we started getting "designer" (read: yuppie/foodie) eggs in very recent years. And... many people out here are very suspicious of brown ones!
    Ken, was North Carolina brown-egg country?

    We used to be able to buy locally-grown hen eggs here, and they came in a rainbow of colors (pale green, pale blue, different shades of brown, white, etc.). The carton told what kind of hen each color came from. It was fun :)


  7. You didn't mentioned that the date the eggs were laid is printed on the egg carton. Maybe that's why they're kept on a regular shelf.

    In the States, as far as I know, nothing is printed on the egg carton as far as the date is concerned. Eggs may have been laid months before [LOL]; that's why they're kept on refrigerated shelves. I suppose it's to increase their shelf life!

  8. I can just remember the days when brown eggs were considered a relatively rare "sport", and somehow they were simply thought to be posher. So now all eggs - at least from supermarkets - in the UK are brown (until the fashion changes again).

  9. Ditdit, that's funny. I know at least one American who doesn't want to eat French eggs because eggs are "supposed" to be white.

    CHM, in France, the date (la date de ponte) is stamped on each egg, not on the carton! I think Americans are paranoid about salmonella, so the eggs now have to be refrigerated -- at least in California. I've never in my life been made ill by eating an egg.

    Judy, in N.C. our eggs were usually white. In California too, if I remember correctly.

    Niall and Antoinette, yes, we've driven through Charnizay on our way to Le Grand-Pressigny or Preuilly-sur-Claise, so I recognized the name.

  10. I remember in the early years of traveling to Europe, the time we wasted simply looking for eggs in the supermarkets. Now it is not unusual for us to find them near the check-out. The one situation I will be tolerate is in the Bahamas. The eggs are laying in the front, sunny windows of the stores. This just doesn't seen right.

  11. At least among many of my friends, brown eggs means better, more local, more natural eggs. (right or wrong!) We have many choices at the stores. Organic, brown, white, at the markets even the "special varieties".

    I'm curious about the eggs not being in a refrigerated case. I remember back in the late 60's when I lived in Germany that I thought it amazing to buy milk on the shelf in paper cartons!

  12. Well, yeah, actually chickens do have visible ears. In fact, they look a little bit like ours. I've been told that the brown eggs taste better, but I've never been able to discern a difference.

  13. My father, who grew up on farm in the 1920's-30's, always said he could tell the difference between white and brown eggs by taste. We used to test him every now and then and he was never wrong. But that was long before the egg business got so mechanized.

    All of the free range eggs we buy in central Illinois are brown and the supermarket eggs are white.

  14. I do not like green eggs and ham. I do not like them, Sam I am.
    This whole topic brings to mind a discussion I had with a co-worker. In France, it seems like it's always "date limite de vente." In the US, I've often seen "best by", "enjoy by", sometimes "sell by". All very ambiguous!

  15. On my milk cartons, it is printed this way: A consommer de préférence avant (and then a date).

    When it comes to food and freshness, there are few hard and fast rules. You have to use your nose and your other senses to judge.

    I do remember thinking that eggs in different countries tasted different back in the 70s, when I was traveling back and forth a lot from the U.S. to England to France. But I never associated the taste differences with eggshell color.

  16. wow! i love hearing about the differences - thanks for sharing! most factory eggs are white here in the states. the local food movement has done wonders for brown eggs tho. taste usually depends on what the hens are fed. i used to love going out for breakfast until i got my own laying hens.. not i wont eat anything but farm eggs.

    i have a hen who lays blue eggs. a visitor asked me if the yolks were blue also. they are not.

    ps and the ear thing doesnt matter either - that little hen of mine doenst have blue ears (and yes you can see them they just dont stick out).

  17. When my kids were little, I missed having white eggs to decorate for Easter. That's about it. At other times, I missed having large eggs, but I got over that, too, and besides, we now have larger eggs for a price. What is relatively new is the code system stamped on the eggs:
    Code 0 : œuf bio
    Code 1 : œuf plein air (free range)
    Code 2 : œuf au sol (in a hanger)
    Code 3 : œuf de batterie (in cages)

  18. I've just recently started seeing white eggs for sale here in Paris (I think someone told me North Africans preferred them??). And for whatever reason, they are usually a lot cheaper than brown eggs.


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