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The truth behind orange egg yolks

orange yolk next to yellow yolk

If you’ve ever bought truly pastured eggs, you know the excitement that comes from cracking open an egg to find that perfectly orange, firm yolk. You may also know the disappointment of cracking open an egg with the expectation of that orange only to find a pale yellow. So what exactly affects this coloration?

I’ll try to keep this short and simple. Basically, the biggest factor in the coloration of an egg yolk is in the hen’s diet. 

Two summers ago I attended a local event featuring a chicken expert from a company that makes high quality mineral mixes for livestock. The topic of yolk coloration came up and he shared with us a little known fact that many companies selling “Pastured Eggs” in grocery stores are adding paprika, chili flakes, and other brightly colored herbs and foods to the hens’ feed in order to keep their yolks consistently orange all year long (by the way…these birds are rarely, if ever, living on actual fresh pasture).

This is why no matter what time of year you buy these eggs, the yolks will always be bright orange. It also gives these companies more freedom in how they raise the birds, making consumers think they’re getting high quality eggs when in actuality they may not be.

Switch over to a truly Pastured Egg farm like our friends at Mountain Run Permaculture, and what you’ll find is a farm raising happy, healthy hens while fully embracing and working with the seasons. These farmers are transparent with their practices – including not adding paprika to their feed to deceive consumers. This transparency keeps them honest in their work because slacking is more obviously noticed in the end product.

These nutritionally superior eggs are superior not because of the consistency of their yolk color, but because of how they are raised and the quality of feed they are given.

In the Spring and Fall, when temps are near perfect, grasses are the most lush, droughts are rare and bugs are prolific, the yolks are the brightest. On the hot, 90+ degree days of summer and the cold days of winter, when droughts or freezing temps inhibit grass growth, the yolks can be more pale since the hens don’t have as much lush grass or bugs in their diets. They prefer to lay in the shade on hot days and stay near the warmer coop on cold days and therefore graze less. Keep in mind, however, that no matter the season, the birds are still moved regularly, are living on fresh pasture and eating as much grass as they can and want to find. Basically, if the yolks are frequently but not consistently/year-round bright orange, it’s a good sign!

You see, in regenerative farming we embrace every season. We understand that every season is different and learn to work with what we are given. Our honest, restorative farming practices are the heart of our operations and we strive to reflect that in all of our marketing.

So the next time you purchase that box of nutrient dense, truly pastured eggs from your local farmer in the middle of summer only to find the yolks not as orange as the “pastured eggs” from the grocery store, remember the bigger picture. How did those grocery store eggs get that orange? Were those thousands of birds on 8 acres of “pasture” really eating enough lush green grass and bugs to get that bright? I can guarantee you if those local eggs are from a truly regenerative farm they will taste better and be much healthier for you than the paprika eggs!

Want some truly pastured eggs? Visit our online store!

The Palma Family
Restoration Acres Farm
“Food that Restores”