In some countries it is common to pigment chicken and eggs. In markets such as Mexico, Spain, France, Italy and China chickens are sold with various skin colorations from yellow to orange-brown. In some products, naturally occurring pigments from corn and its co-products are used: corn gluten and DDGS. But when sorghum or other grains are used in poultry feed, it is essential to use xanthophylls and carotenoids of natural origin.

I know that in animal nutrition, natural pigments provide no nutritional components and have the "downside" of increasing the production costs. From the point of view of human nutrition, they contribute nothing. But boy, they make products looks so good!

Whenever I travel to a country, I like to go to a market or supermarket and see their chickens and eggs. Knowing that pigments provide no nutritional benefits, I see many of these pale looking poultry products; chickens with almost bluish skin or pale egg yolks, which frankly do not look attractive to me and not appetizing at all.

The consumer relates an intense yolk color with a fresh, nutrient-rich egg, or the golden yellow color of chicken skin, with a well-fed and healthy chicken. Even to me, the chicken broth from these pigmented products looks much more appetizing.

In his article on pigmentation, Fernando Cisneros states, “Preferences for certain yolk color are highly variable, depending on the culture and the country." He adds that there are market studies done in the last ten years that state that in different cultures there is a preference for dark orange yolks as a reflection of internal product quality. Why is this? Why is a more intense yolk color is more appealing?

Normally carotenoids (canthaxanthin and paprika extracts) for red base, and xanthophylls (lutein/zeaxanthin) for yellow base are used. From a marketing standpoint, I think it is worth using these pigments and use these means to add value. Even if the value of pigmented eggs may be a little higher than unpigmented eggs. In other cases, pigmentation is often increased in products enriched with omega-3 or antibiotic-free.

Thinking as a consumer, I prefer pigmented products. I believe this would help boost the consumption of chicken and eggs.