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The colour of your egg yolk actually says a lot about the health of the chicken who laid it.

TV documentaries have increased our awareness when it comes to the living conditions of the chickens that lay our eggs. Films such as Food Inc highlighted how crammed and awful it can be, with pressure groups now constantly campaigning for improvement. Here’s how your yolk can tell you what is going on behind the scenes.

Which of these looks most familiar to you?

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The most common yolk is said to be the light yellow in the middle of the three. Organic, vegetarian-fed or cheap; most commercially available eggs in the US and UK have a thin, yellow yolk. And that means the chicken probably wasn’t eating a healthy diet.

It may not look it, but the yolk with the dark orange colour is actually the most desirable. 

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“Richer-colored egg yolks are more likely to come from free-range hens,” says Dr. Hilary Shallo Thesmar, director of food safety programs for the Egg Nutrition Center (ENC): “Free-range hens have the opportunity to eat more pigmented foods, and the pigment is then transferred to the yolk.” 

For those who think what the hen that laid the egg was eating doesn’t affect them, you’re wrong. It affects the nutritional value of the egg you’re eating.

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While macronutrients (protein and fat) remain the same regardless of yolk colour, darker coloured yolks indicate the presence of xanthophylls and omega-3 fatty acids in the hen’s diet.

Xanthophylls are found in dark leafy greens like spinach, kale and collards, as well as in courgette, broccoli, and brussels sprouts. Omega-3 fatty acids are highly concentrated in flax seeds and sea kelp.

When a hen has these healthy nutrients as part of their diet they are passed on to their eggs and concentrated in their yolks. The yolks that we eat.

This means a pastured egg is better for both you and the chicken who laid it. 

It may be worth bearing in mind the next time you’re picking up some eggs. What’s good for them is also good for you. 

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