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Old 06-13-2019, 11:56 AM
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why do Japanese chicken eggs have orange yolks?


During a recent visit to Japan, I noticed that the chicken eggs I was served had very orange yolks compared to what I'm used to here in the US, where they're somewhat more yellow. What's the reason for this? Different breed of chickens? Different feed? Something else?
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Old 06-13-2019, 12:05 PM
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It's mostly a feed difference: American battery farm hens are fed mostly corn, while Japanese hens are more likely to be fed a balanced blend of rice husks, vegetables, insects and other things. If you buy free range eggs in the US, you'll find darker yellow or orange yolks, as well.

There's also a breed difference: the Japanese have a strong preference for darker yolks, and their chickens have been bred to produce them.
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Old 06-13-2019, 12:21 PM
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Our hens free range during the day and produce eggs with a very orange yolk. During their laying season I eat 1-3 eggs a day. Once they stop laying for the winter, I rarely eat and egg other than those used in recipes. Their taste is blah.
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Old 06-13-2019, 12:25 PM
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Marigold flowers are commonly added to chicken feed to give the yolks more color.
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Old 06-13-2019, 12:25 PM
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Marigold feed
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Old 06-13-2019, 12:42 PM
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Marigold is used in some sections of the poultry industry to affect skin and muscle color as well as feed conversion, but does not have an appreciable effect on egg yolk color.

Cite
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Old 06-13-2019, 12:51 PM
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I think you should reread that cite.
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Old 06-13-2019, 12:53 PM
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Iirc just increasing the proportion of alfalfa pellets in the feed will also darken the yolk.
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Old 06-13-2019, 12:58 PM
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In Michael Pollan's book The Omnivore's Dilemma, he points out that in more traditional farming, egg yolk color changed through the year as the feed varied. According to him, chefs were taught how to cook differently with the different-colored yolks to take full advantage of the varying properties.

So, as others have stated above, it appears to be differences in the feed. And we may have lost some of our culinary richness by using factory farming methods for our eggs.
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Old 06-13-2019, 01:35 PM
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Originally Posted by Chingon View Post
I think you should reread that cite.
Sorry, that was a study in broilers. I'll try to find the similar work done in hens showing no linearity in yolk color change in marigold fed hens compared to corn and alfalfa...
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Old 06-13-2019, 01:39 PM
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According to the Japanese food show ("Trails to Tsukiji" or "Trails to Oishii Tokyo") I was watching the other day, some farmers add paprika to their feed mix for darker yolks. They feed more rice for very pale yolks. Google the show name. The episode, "Eggs of Excellence", is online in a few places.
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Old 06-13-2019, 02:36 PM
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Our hens free range during the day and produce eggs with a very orange yolk. During their laying season I eat 1-3 eggs a day.
My wife had a masseuse who ended up marrying a complete nut-job who was a full-on doomsday prepper, and moved from the DFW area to somewhere remote in Missouri to set up their homesteading lifestyle and build a bunker. (they were actually on that Doomsday Preppers show about 8 years ago, believe it or not)

Anyway, as part of this whole story, early on in this process, she came back to the area a few times to give massages- presumably to raise bunker-building money. And she had what we've called "hillbilly eggs" ever since- they were free-range eggs that were terrific, and had yolks that were more orange than yellow. I've never seen any quite like that since.
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Old 06-13-2019, 03:21 PM
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Anyway, as part of this whole story, early on in this process, she came back to the area a few times to give massages- presumably to raise bunker-building money. And she had what we've called "hillbilly eggs" ever since- they were free-range eggs that were terrific, and had yolks that were more orange than yellow. I've never seen any quite like that since.
That reminds me of a segment I heard on NPR's "Story Corps" segment years ago, in which the interviewee talked about how when he was a young man on a farm in the 1940s those orange yolked eggs were looked down on as "country eggs", something that only a complete hillbilly would eat. Back then sophisticated city dwellers wanted milder tasting pale yellow yolks. Contrast that with today, where foodies seek out the orange yolked eggs at farmers markets.
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Old 06-13-2019, 03:35 PM
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Marigold is used in some sections of the poultry industry to affect skin and muscle color as well as feed conversion, but does not have an appreciable effect on egg yolk color.

Cite
Interesting. I knew that some free-range poultry farmers grow giant pumpkins for this purpose, and that's often done with the flesh of prize-winning giant pumpkins, because while it's edible, it doesn't taste good and has an unpleasant, Styrofoam-like texture.
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Old 06-13-2019, 04:30 PM
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Originally Posted by kayaker View Post
Sorry, that was a study in broilers. I'll try to find the similar work done in hens showing no linearity in yolk color change in marigold fed hens compared to corn and alfalfa...
In the very paper you claimed as a cite they reference:

Hasin BM, Ferdaus AJM, Islam MA, Uddin MJ, Islam MS. Marigold and orange skin as egg yolk colour promoting agents. International Journal of Poultry Science 2006; 5:979-987.
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Old 06-13-2019, 04:57 PM
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The eggs that Nigella Lawson uses on her show(s) also have orange yolks. I've bought free-range eggs from the farmers' markets here and they don't have orange yolks, just the regular supermarket yellow.
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Old 06-13-2019, 05:32 PM
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My understanding is that it has everything to do with diet. Other than marigold feed, it looks like peppers (whether red or green) and tomatoes also have an effect of making the yolk more orange, as do carrots, alfalfa, and kale.

I do remember the eggs in Budapest, even the commercial ones, having a very deep orange color to them as compared with pale American eggs. I don't know what commercial chicken feed was like there, but it wouldn't surprise me if something like paprika (being so ubiquitous there) was added to chicken feed to help get that kind of color.
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Old 06-13-2019, 07:38 PM
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WildaBeast, I think it's quite well established that Americans in the 1940s had terrible taste in food.
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Old 06-13-2019, 08:01 PM
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Doesn't anyone see this variation in the USA? Depending on where I buy my eggs, sometimes they're yellow, sometimes they're orange. This seems like normal egg yolk variation to me.

Some places do specialize in consistency, though. I can't recall having an orange yolk in an Egg McMuffin, for example. But in supermarket eggs, color is all over the map.
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Old 06-13-2019, 08:03 PM
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Originally Posted by Balthisar View Post
Doesn't anyone see this variation in the USA?
I honestly don't. They're all kind of lemon yellow-ish to me here, as far as supermarket eggs go. The farmer's market ones can get a little more orange-y.
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Old 06-13-2019, 09:53 PM
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I believe it's beta carotene specifically that's responsible for orange yolks, but yes, it comes from the bird's diet. I've never gotten eggs with orange yolks from any American supermarket, only from farmers' markets.
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Old 06-14-2019, 03:03 AM
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Mostly feed. Like others said, you can get nice orange yolks in the US from places that practice free-range farming. Not all Japanese egg yolks are red/orange. Mine vary quite a bit depending on the store.

Parts of the Japanese market find reddish yolks more desirable, so they make sure to provide food that imparts that color. Corn is not a heavily subsidized crop the way it is in the US, so there is probably more variety overall in the standard feed in Japan. Japanese farmers tend not to be organic/free-range/sustainability conscious since none of that is a selling point here, but mega-corp farming is also less prevalent so there are more smallish farms with more varied practices. That, on top of market preference is enough to make more strongly colored eggs more prevalent overall.
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Old 06-14-2019, 07:38 AM
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Beta carotene rich food makes the chicken skin yellower also. It also affects the butter from cows. Traditionally the butter had more color in the spring when cows were feeding on flowering plants. The different colors of American Cheese are supposed to be based on the different colors of real cheese, white and yellow (or yellow and orange) produced from cows based on what they eat. People have also consumed high doses of beta carotene to get a sort of faux tan because it makes their skin yellower.

Last edited by TriPolar; 06-14-2019 at 07:39 AM.
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Old 06-14-2019, 08:55 AM
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The beta carotene doesn't affect the taste but our customers are convinced they're better so we keep our mouths shut.
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Old 06-14-2019, 09:01 AM
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The beta carotene doesn't affect the taste but our customers are convinced they're better so we keep our mouths shut.
Culinary adage: "First we taste with our eyes"
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Old 06-14-2019, 09:45 AM
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Apparently cheese from particular cows way back in the day was very yellow, and it caused other dairies to dye their cheese with annatto to fool buyers into thinking their cheese was as good as the cows whose cheese was yellow naturally. And this is why so many different kinds of cheese are dyed yellow today.

I suspect a similar phenomenon is happening with eggs. At one point in time, yolk color probably was a good sign of quality. But now it's easy enough to fake it, so the correlation between color and quality isn't really as strong anymore.

This kind of already happened with shell color. Used to be, commercial eggs, at least in the US invariably came from Leghorn hens, which laid white eggs. But local farmers often had Rhode Island Reds and other breeds who laid brown eggs, so farm fresh eggs were often brown, leading buyers to associate brown shells with high quality eggs. But now commercial farms are selling brown eggs in grocery stores and eggshell color is no longer a reliable indicator of quality. So it goes.
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Old 06-14-2019, 11:36 AM
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why do Japanese chicken eggs have orange yolks?

Because that is what the Japanese consumer wants.

Quote:
However, in recent years, customers have been asking for even darker shades. While Canadians prefer lemon yellow, many countries, such as Japan, have been moving toward blood orange, and even red.
Here is the full article, and it is a good one.

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/news...ticle30261516/

Astaxanthin is a synthetic carotenoid developed by Dutch pharmaceutical company DSM that is used it the feed industry to color egg yolks and farm raised salmon. Marketed as Carophyll Pink. There is a set of color chips that the feed manufacturers use to formulate for the desired end result. A Yolkfan for eggs and a Salmofan for fish. Just like picking out paint at Home Depot.

The perception is that the darker the yolk color the healthier the chicken and eggs. At least that is what the Japanese consumer wants and what the feed suppliers are giving them.

Yes, you can get the same sort of results from free range chickens due to what they eat but it isn't as consistent and becomes problematic on a large scale. All these orange and red egg yolks are not coming from boutique organic farms.
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Old 06-14-2019, 01:28 PM
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Culinary adage: "First we taste with our eyes"
Which is why it's good to do the taste tests with added food coloring. Or blindfolds. But green eggs are fun.
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Old 06-14-2019, 02:07 PM
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Which is why it's good to do the taste tests with added food coloring. Or blindfolds. But green eggs are fun.
I would not eat them here or there
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Old 06-14-2019, 02:30 PM
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Doesn't anyone see this variation in the USA?
I go for the package that tries the hardest to convince me their chickens are pets--free range cageless, organic, etc. I know it only really means they're fenced in a single cramped pen as opposed to a cage for one, but I try. I made waffles a couple weeks back. 6 eggs from the same package. All had different color yolks from lemon yellow to orange.

I want to raise chickens again, but they last a lot longer than they lay and I end up with more pets. Takes too much out of me to kill them (like if they get sick or something), so I can't do the practical farmer thing and invite them to dinner when they've retired from egg-making. So I just have to keep on pretending the chickens with the best marketing staff are happiest.
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Old 06-14-2019, 02:31 PM
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Colorful yolks do not cause flavorful eggs, but they can have a common cause. Chickens fed the cheapest diet will have pale eggs without much flavor. Chickens with a diverse, healthy diet will have colorful eggs with a lot of flavor. It's possible to make a very slight change to the cheap diet to give more color, without doing much for flavor or hen health, and while keeping it very cheap. But it's more difficult to come up with a good diet that would leave the eggs pale. So while colorful eggs might or might not be good, pale eggs usually won't be.
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Old 06-14-2019, 02:33 PM
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Inigo Montoya, just don't buy the ones that proudly brag about how their hens are fed a 100% vegetarian diet.
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Old 06-14-2019, 02:34 PM
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Right. I know chikkins love themselves some bugs. And never get between a chicken and a mouse.
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Old 06-14-2019, 03:18 PM
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The "taste it with your eyes first" is a real thing. That is why chefs value the presentation of a meal. If it looks good it will taste better. These artificial carotenoids are derived from algae and yeast sources, so they are as natural as free range bug eating chickens, it just seems wrong and artificial.

Serve a dinner of pale grey salmon and it will taste like shit. Make it red and you may say it was great. It is the same article. I used to work in the salmon feed industry and bought many a bag of Carophyll Pink, and Red. I think there is a Carophyll yellow too. Shit is expensive and only a little is added.

But it does have some health benefits. It was also added to brood fish diets, fish that will not be eaten but are producing eggs. It has shown real benefits for fish egg production. People are also buying these additives as anti-oxidants for personal health reasons, which are probably marketing woo.

Anyway, if it looks good, it tastes better.
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Old 06-14-2019, 04:08 PM
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That reminds me of a segment I heard on NPR's "Story Corps" segment years ago, in which the interviewee talked about how when he was a young man on a farm in the 1940s those orange yolked eggs were looked down on as "country eggs", something that only a complete hillbilly would eat. Back then sophisticated city dwellers wanted milder tasting pale yellow yolks. Contrast that with today, where foodies seek out the orange yolked eggs at farmers markets.
Unrelated to eggs but, in this vein, I was reminded recently while watching a video about good versus cheap bacon that real smoke is more expensive but "better" in terms of the output.

But, before the 19th century, people were always trying to find ways to keep the taste of smoke out of their food since it was just everywhere and permeated everything.
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Old 06-14-2019, 05:39 PM
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To hold their pants up?

No, wait, that's the answer to a different question.
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Old 06-14-2019, 06:07 PM
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Right. I know chikkins love themselves some bugs. And never get between a chicken and a mouse.
That's the truth. That goes for us and cats, too.
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Old 06-14-2019, 07:00 PM
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Our own hens lay much tastier eggs than most you can get in a store. They are true free-range pasture hens (in fact they are getting to be a real pain in the neck as they are getting into everything around the barn). Not only are the yolks dark orange from all the carotenoids in bugs, flowers, grass, weeds etc, but the eggs are much much fresher. Eggs keep very well, and commercial eggs may be a month old or more before they even get to the store. You can tell because our hard-boiled eggs are really hard to peel -- the air space between the egg and the shell increases as the egg ages, makes old eggs much easier to peel. Our yolks stand up high when you break an egg into a bowl, also a sign of freshness.
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Old 06-15-2019, 02:25 AM
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My friend is in the food ingredients industry. It’s similar to but different than the animal feed industry.

He said that the texture of eggs from free range chickens is also different and that there haven’t been any additives discovered which can mimic that.
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Old 06-15-2019, 02:52 PM
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According to the Japanese food show ("Trails to Tsukiji" or "Trails to Oishii Tokyo") I was watching the other day, some farmers add paprika to their feed mix for darker yolks. They feed more rice for very pale yolks. Google the show name. The episode, "Eggs of Excellence", is online in a few places.
IIRC, another advantage of adding paprika to the chicken feed is that the birds are not that sensitive to the "hotness" caused by capsaicin and related chemicals while mammals like rodents find it unpleasant and so they don't eat it.

Last edited by dasmoocher; 06-15-2019 at 02:52 PM.
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Old 06-15-2019, 03:23 PM
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Supermarket eggs have something else that affects flavor that no one in the industry mentions. Age. If you go out and steal your eggs directly from the chicken, and just take what you will need tomorrow you will find they taste a whole lot better. Wash them just before you crack them. Wash your hands after handling them. If you know the farmer, and you treat him or her well, they will just tell you when the eggs are not fresh. They are good for baking and such for quite a while.

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