Different Egg Yolk Colours Explained

We hear this comment quite often. You come home from the grocery store to crack open an egg from a new dozen, only to notice that instead of the sunny-side-up yellow yolk you’re used to, you see a pale looking yellow. Other times, you crack open your eggs to find a deep orange yolk. 

What's going on? Why are yolks such a different colour from carton to carton? We often get asked if one colour is better to eat than the other. Does a deeper colour mean more nutrients?

These are all valid questions, and luckily, they are all fairly easy to answer. The most simple and straightforward answer: Go ahead with your breakfast, no matter the yolk colour!

yolk colour

What does the colour of an egg yolk mean?

The colour of an egg yolk can vary depending on the diet of the chicken that laid the egg. Egg yolks can range in colour from pale yellow to deep orange, and the colour does not  indicate nutritional value or quality.

​​Pale yellow vs. bright yellow egg yolks

The colour of an egg yolk is primarily determined by the types of pigments the hen consumes in her diet. Eggs that come from hens that are fed a predominantly wheat-based diet tend to have a more pale yolk. 

Diets rich in carotenoids will have a deeper colour in the yolk. When hens receive a diet that is higher in corn and soy, the yolk will be a brighter, more vibrant yellow, which is reflective of the abundance of carotenoids that can be found in corn. The degree of colour vibrance can vary from province to province and even from farm to farm.

Which colour egg yolk is healthier?

Nutritionally, there is no significant difference between the yolks of different coloured eggs. The yolk is a rich source of important nutrients, including protein, vitamins, and minerals, no matter the colour! The colour of an egg yolk is not an indicator of its nutritional value.

What does an orange egg yolk mean?

Occasionally, you can also find yolks that are a deeper orange colour. These eggs come from a hen whose diet is high in carotenoids, which is common in free range environments, especially during the summer months. Free range hens' diets will change throughout the year (it is dependent on season), so yolks of this colour may not always be available at your local grocery store.

Are orange egg yolks safe to eat?

Yes! Eggs with orange yolks are equally as safe to eat as eggs with a pale or vibrant yellow yolk.

Does an orange egg yolk mean the egg is fresh?

As the colour of the yolk is related to the hen's diet, it has little to do with the freshness of the egg. Whether the yolk is a vibrant or pale yellow, or even an orange deep in colour, all of these eggs are fresh and safe to eat. 

Learn how to tell if an egg is fresh here.

Why are farm fresh eggs more yellow?

Some consumers may notice that the yolks of their farm fresh eggs may appear more yellow. This varies from farm to farm and is dependent on the hens’ feed. 

Why are store bought egg yolks so pale?

In Ontario, it is normal for hens to be fed a wheat-based diet, which is why it is common to see eggs with a pale yellow yolk. It is not an indicator of freshness or nutrition.

Does an orange egg yolk mean the egg is more nutritious?

Regardless of the colour of the egg yolk, they are all virtually equal in nutrition. The only exceptions to this rule are with specialty eggs like Vitamin D and Omega-3 enriched eggs. These eggs will have higher levels of Vitamin D or Omega-3 fatty acids, again because of the hen’s diet. The simple addition of flaxseed to the hen’s feed increases the Omega-3 found in the eggs, while increasing the amount of Vitamin D in the hens diet will result in an egg that is higher in Vitamin D.

So wherever you’re buying your eggs and whatever type you like to buy, the most important tip we can give you is: Don’t skip the yolk!

Are orange egg yolks better?

Since the colour of the egg yolk does not mean that the egg is more fresh or more nutritious, orange egg yolks are just as good for you as lighter coloured yolks.