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I've noticed when I've bought Italian eggs from delis here in Europe that the yolks are very yellow - almost orange. Why is this? Assume it's the hen's diet. What are they feeding chickens there?

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Whenever I travel to Germany I've been stunned at how yellow/orange the egg yolks are. –  Jay Oct 1 '10 at 3:52
    
Compared to British eggs? American eggs? Canadian eggs? –  hippietrail Jul 26 '11 at 8:30
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8 Answers

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Alternatively, the chickens may have been fed maize (corn); they market a specific maize-fed brand over here and the yokes of those eggs are a very deep yellow as well.

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Sounds plausible. I'm going to mark it the official answer. –  Treblekicker Jul 18 '10 at 12:31
    
Yes. we give corn to chicken, although I never knew it was just Italians doing it. –  Stefano Borini Sep 29 '10 at 18:33
    
The yellow colour comes mostly from Carotenoids which are in common chicken foods such as grass, Corn, and Alfalfa (pea family). It can also come from worms and insects etc –  TFD May 22 '11 at 22:58
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One of the most unique uses for oleoresin paprika is that it is added to poultry feed in order to give the yolks in chicken eggs a darker yellow appearance than is natural for them. Due to the fact that is is derived from natural food sources as a food colorant, in the United States, it is exempt from Food and Drug Administration (FDA) certification. It receives equally lenient treatment under European law, where it is grouped with similar colorants of capsanthin and capsorubin.

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Brown hens (and black hens) lay brown eggs. Also, all heavy [over 4 pounds] hens lay brown eggs. Italian chickens are about 4 pounds too heavy to lay white eggs, and too light to lay brown so the egg shells are yellow.

If you fry a brown egg and a white egg and put them on the same plate I'll bet you can't tell the difference.

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Farmers can control the colour of the yolk by controlling the chickens' diet. Some farms add colour to the chicken feed to produce different coloured yolks.

See the yolk section of the Wikipedia article on eggs.

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+1 for linking to what I think is the likely answer -- marigolds. (US chickens get plenty of corn, although, it's possible that it's not all yellow corn) –  Joe Sep 30 '10 at 17:21
    
This is simple and effectively correct. How farmers do it is not so simple. It can takes weeks for the colour changes to happen, and to have long lasting colour can take specific food mixes. It is mostly marketing though as the colour often has very little to do with the nutritional profile of the egg –  TFD May 22 '11 at 23:08
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Don't know about Italian chickens in particular, but I know that when my mom's neighbors in Hungary feed their chickens the leftovers from making paprika, the resulting eggs have very dark yolks indeed.

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If I remember correctly, There is one type of Italian chicken whose yolks are known and highly desired for the making of pasta. Rich yellow coler. I can not remember the name and I wish that I did know.

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This is the reason why eggs yolks (tuorlo) are called both the yellows (giallo dell'uovo) and the reds (rosso d'uovo) of eggs in Italian.

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The yellow color comes (primarily) from vitamin A in the eggs. The eggs are high in vitamin A when the chickens are fed a natural diet of seeds, vegitation and insects.

Most of the eggs that you buy in the states are factory farmed and pale because the chickens are fed a special protein mix that has a lot of corn. This makes them lay faster and more economicly, but the mix is somewhat nutrient poor, so the eggs are less colorful. This also used to happen in cows: the milk was yellow in the summer when they ate grass, but white in the winter when they ate hay and grains.

If you find good yellow eggs, that is a good sign that the chickens led a good life on a natural diet. Of course, the feed could just be doped with vitamin A to make the eggs look more yellow.

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Interesting and I think this is the factor. But if you buy UK organic eggs they're not quite as yellow as this. See evidence below (fourth pic down)... londoneater.com/2009/07/22/… So leading on from the answer, what is so high in vitamin A in the Italian chicken's diet? –  Treblekicker Jul 18 '10 at 12:11
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Organic doesn't necessarily mean free range. I suspect something is added to the feed, but I haven't seen how Italian chickens are raised, so I'm forced to speculate. –  Adam Shiemke Jul 18 '10 at 15:53
    
I think you are meaning Carotenoids (which can be converted into Retinal aka vit A)? Carotenoids are sourced from all sorts of foods. The colour of the carotenoids gives the colour of the yolk. You can have red or blue yolks if you want! –  TFD May 22 '11 at 22:52
    
You can't feed direct vit. A to any animal without major risk of killing it –  TFD May 22 '11 at 23:01
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The yellow color doesn't come from the vitamin A (and not from the beta carotene, which is actually contained in the yolk). It comes from different compounds called xanthophylls (source: Harold McGee on food and cooking). –  rumtscho Sep 24 '11 at 20:59
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