We're talking ghostly pale.
As important a staple as eggs are in many of our refrigerators, let’s be honest—we’re all a little extra wary of any sign indicating something funky or abnormal. Any slight cloud, weird white strand, different colored shell, red flecks, or deviation in the yolk’s sunny color, and we take pause. (Spoiler alert: They’re all fine, perfectly safe to eat, and don’t even substantially change the taste.) One especially freaky occurrence: Seeing a completely white, or incredibly light-yellow, yolk. We’re talking ghostly levels of pale. It’s enough to make you frantically Google search or call your mom mid-recipe to double-check if it’s OK to consume.
The good news—you don’t need to toss that frizzled egg from the pan or scrap that whole bowl of pancake batter you were working on. Coming across a white yolk is perfectly natural, albeit, a little rare in the United States. So, what causes those normally golden yolks to go white? It all depends on the feed of the chickens. In the United States, our chickens typically eat a diet of yellow corn, and the pigments from the plant make their way into the egg yolks. Those pigments, called xanthophylls, are also what give chicken skin and fat its yellowish tint. If the chicken happened to eat more white corn than yellow, the yolk will be paler as well. That’s all there is to it.
If you’ve traveled overseas, you’ve probably noticed that the color of yolks varies widely across the globe—again, what the chickens are eating is the reason. In many African countries, chickens typically have a diet of mostly sorghum, a grain with much less yellow pigmentation than yellow corn, resulting in lighter, or completely white yolks. If you’ve traveled to South American countries and have noticed pink, blood orange, or almost reddish yolks, it’s because their chicken feed is often fortified with red annatto seeds, which gives the hens’ eggs those vivid yolks. While in the U.S., we’ve come to falsely associate darker yolks with happier hens or higher nutrition, farmers can easily manipulate the chicken feed to include carrots, alfalfa powder, or annatto seeds to impact the color of their chickens’ eggs.
The bottom line: Don’t freak. The occasional, unexpected white yolk in that carton is just as edible and yummy as a yellow one.