What Color Egg Yolks Do You Eat? – Organic Vs. Free-Range Eggs


DW STAFF – The National Organic Program is run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to maintain standards for organic food production on a national scale. But what is the difference between ‘organic’ food and ‘free-range’ food, specifically eggs?

With this article, allow me to give you a brief run through of the two certifications and give you a little insight as to what they mean for food consumers.

Organic Certification



Image: Wikipedia

According to standards set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, organic chickens must be fed only feed that is grown without the use of fertilizers or pesticides. Additionally, they cannot be fed hormones or antibiotics at any time during their lives. They can, however, be given vaccinations to prevent disease and must be provided reasonable access to the outdoors, although they can be kept inside for medical treatment purposes.

As is to be expected with food certifications, there is quite a large marketing aspect related to the National Organic Program, as laid out in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s document on organic farming.

The National Organic Program regulates marketing standards related to organic agriculture. What this means for us consumers is that produce such as chicken cannot be labelled ‘organic’ unless it meets certain criteria. I suggest you take a look at the official government document I’ve linked to again here related to the National Organic Program’s regulations.


Free-Range Chicken


Image: Wikipedia


For chicken to be classified as ‘free-range,’ it must have been granted access to the outdoors during the raising process. There are no specific time or space limitations set for this, making the term a little ambiguous.

In fact, there is quite little regulation in general regarding free-range chicken, with many questions being raised by credible sources regarding the practices involved.

It becomes even more ambiguous when you factor in that free-range chicken does not have to be ‘organic.’ In other words, growing chicken free-range does not instantly qualify their eggs to be labelled as ‘organic.’

So which should I buy?

It’s a bit hard to tell at this moment, isn’t it? Both sides seem to have their perks and drawbacks, with each classification being a bit ambiguous and not exactly helpful to the end consumer.

And such is the case when buying many types of mass produced food of either classification, as mentioned in this article from WebMD.

But there actually is a third option that’s worth looking into, and that is that of free-range organic chicken, typically grown by private, local farmers.


On the left is the yolk of an egg produced by a free-range organic chicken, on the right is just the opposite – a store-bought, mass produced egg.

Notice the difference in color. This is a common difference that will instantly give away ‘store bought’ eggs in the presence of natural, free-range organic eggs.

The egg yolk’s color has implications regarding the nutrition and health of the chicken that produced it. A darker yolk is an indication of a nutritious and balanced diet rich in xanthophyll, omega-3 fatty acids and meats.

Simply put, it takes quite a bit of time and energy to feed free-range chickens that produce eggs with a darker yolk. While the above hyperlinked article goes into a bit more detail regarding the commercial chicken feeding process, the gist of it is that egg factories feed their chickens lots and lots of corn, which gives their yolk a golden color.

On the other hand, free-range organic chicken farmers must feed their chickens lots of fresh greens, including kale, collard and broccoli to produce the dark orange yolk that has been proven to not only taste richer but also be more rich in nutrients and vitamins.

I hope that, after reading this article, you will choose to buy free-range organic chicken eggs from your local farmer. Most should not have a problem allowing you to ask questions regarding the raising of their chickens – maybe some might even allow you to walk through their property yourself.

But if that option does not work for you, please do consider regular store bought ‘organic’ or ‘free range’ eggs. Supporting those types of eggs is far more ethical than to support the means by which eggs are conventionally grown.

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Aya Granola - September 3, 2015

In Japan, you find the colour of egg yolks are usually orangey yellow even they are not from organic, nor free-run chickens. Because people prefere darker colour in an egg yolk, mass producers (and many farmers) blend a natural or non-natural colour agent with the feed for chickens. So it does not necessary means that the egg yolk’s colour has implications regarding the nutrition and health of the chicken that produced it.

Anonymous - September 5, 2015

I run an organic shop and the eggs we sell are from a lovely small scale organic farm in the Swiss Alps, yet they are never of the darker orange colour as described above, likely due to a different but equally nutritious diet. I comparison, most eggs in the supermarkets I find here are of a darker shade, achieved through artificial colouring in most cases. Thus I wouldn’t say comparing colours is a safe way of rating eggs, to really find out if your eggs are as they should be I’d check how much information the producer discloses and which kind of guarantees and labels they have acquired.

mainemomma - September 20, 2015

When I was in Germany, I was surprised a the deep gold of the egg yolks… and indeed it has to do with diet…. the eggs from our farm are far superior to anything from the store.. they are fed grains and all the excess veggies from our farm.

KathyK - September 29, 2015


    Emilio - October 14, 2015

    I don’t think he’s a vegan. He sells all kinds of deer placenta, deer antler and other nonsense animal based pseudoscience “health” products. And turn your caps lock off. It makes you look like a crazy person.

Ella May Kibler-White - October 11, 2015

This theory on yolk color is simply not true. My hens are healthy, truly free range, (they are free to go wherever they choose, absolutely no fencing,) and have access to organic feed, scraps, and whatever plants and bugs they find in the land they range. Their yolk color varies not only with the time of year, but also hen to hen, depending on what she has found tasty the days before.
Commercial egg farmers routinely add chemical and/or natural coloring agents to their chicken’s diets to produce the dark yolk that so many people have (falsely) come to correlate with a healthy, happy, chickens and healthier eggs. You can easily purchase battery cage eggs with dark orange yolks. The only way to ensure that the eggs you are getting are from organic and free range hens, is to know your farmer.

Emilio - October 13, 2015

Also the one on the left is a duck egg. That makes a pretty big difference too.

Emilio - October 13, 2015

The one on the left is a free range organic DUCK egg. The one on the right is also organic but it’s a chicken egg. This picture was taken from an article comparing duck and chicken eggs. It’s irrelevant to the topic, unless the topic is misinformation.

Andy Keher - October 13, 2015

The one on the left is a duck egg, you weird avocado-loving fraud.

Jon Albiez - October 14, 2015

Nice deception there. If you look at the source one is a duck egg and the other is a chicken egg. Chicken eggs vary depending on what they eat and a myriad of other factors.

Either blatant ignorance or wilful manipulation at work here. And based on prior content, I’m leaning towards the latter. I’d be furious if I was a organic certified egg producer and my eggs looked like those on the right (and most of them do)

    susandaytoday - October 16, 2015

    I have been buying organic eggs from a local farm and the egg yolks are bright orange and taste amazing . The first time I had ever seen an orange yolk was from a friends backyard chickens fed organically and they were very bright and delicious so there is something to the story.

      Emilio - November 28, 2015

      Chickens that are fed grain have pale yolks and chickens that forage for grass and bugs have bright orange yolks. It’s as simple as that . Both can be raised organically/ethically. It’s entirely down to what they eat.

Kara Robichaud - December 18, 2015

Your article is nothing less than fear-based propaganda. If I may advise, you should educate yourself about the strict federal food and safety guidelines “conventional” farmers must abide by. Are you aware “free range” hens lay there eggs where they also defecate? This is how salmonella is spread. How large is this “range” of which they speak? Egg yolk colors are influenced by diet. A diet high in yellow corn will produce a more yellow yolk. In Africa, some hens are fed a white corn making the yolk lighter; it doesn’t mean the yolk has less nutritional value. If the paler something is equates it to less value albeit nutrition, intelligence or value, than as Caucasians we are screwed.

Peter Currie - January 21, 2016

I am in touch with a 90 year old woman who has been a poultry farmer for 60 years. Before you even start to compare organic, free range, battery or caged or barn, the breed is of the utmost importance. And next is the age of the hen. And next is how happy the hens are. And if their is a leader among them. My friend lives in a remote area where her hens have the best of everything. Her eggs are the very best. In my country they use colouring agents to make eggs orange in colour, but it is expensive to do so. Hens who have access to grass, grubs and insects produce the best quality eggs generally due to the natural caratines. The photo above is confusing. The egg on the right has a gelatenous white surrounding the yoke which is a good sign, but looks a bit anemic. The egg on the left looks to have colouring, but if it’s a duck egg, very unusual. My friend gives me eggs from her hens. I am very fortunate. Last time I was in the USA I found farmers’ markets which had fresh produce on offer. Just takes some effort, but well worth it.

Robert Henderson - March 28, 2016

My chickens yolks look exactly like the one on the left, but they eat grass and stuff they find in the yard (in addition to a regular feed). I do find that the picture is accurate when I have compared my eggs with ones, even organic, from the grocery store.

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