Even if you’ve cracked billions of eggs in your life, every once in a while, what emerges from the shell is not like anything you’ve seen before. If you’ve ever noticed a red spot in your egg, you know what we’re talking about. But there’s no need to freak out. It’s probably fine and entirely edible.
Just to reassure you, we talked to a professor emeritus of poultry science and a farmer who wrote the book (well, one of them, anyway) on chicken farming. They explained the mysteries of what exactly is in your egg.
If you notice a tiny red blood spot on the yolk, you might think you’ve gotten a fertilized egg, but you’d be wrong.
“Blood spots are caused by a tiny tear when the egg yolk releases from a chicken’s ovary,” Michael Darre, professor emeritus of poultry science at the University of Connecticut, told HuffPost.
There’s a good chance you’ve never actually encountered one of these, thanks to improvements in candling, a process that uses a bright light source to show what’s inside the shell. “With highly efficient candling machines, which can process 450 cases of eggs an hour, defects like blood spots rarely get through these days,” Darre said.
Are those red specks safe to eat? The consensus is yes, but feel free to scrape them away with the tip of a knife before you cook them.
If you’ve picked up farm-fresh eggs from a local producer, you might notice a brownish or reddish spot floating in the egg. This is a little bit of tissue torn from the chicken as the egg moved through her body.
“It’s considered a ‘flaw’ of the bird, which seems a little unfair, since it was going through her reproductive system,” Lucie Amundsen, co-owner and “marketing chick” at Locally Laid Egg Company and author of a memoir on the egg business, told HuffPost. “They’re fairly rare.”
Like blood spots, they’re safe to eat, or you can nudge them away with a knife and discard them.
Congrats, you won the protein lottery today. A double yolker is a pretty rare occurrence, not only because of modern candling methods, but because they’re typically only produced by chickens in a couple of specific age groups. “You’ll find more double yolks from young pullets or older hens,” Darre said.
If you want to up your odds of getting nature’s version of a prize in the Cracker Jack box, select jumbo eggs, which tend to come from these two chicken age demographics.
Dark yolk color
It’s a good thing! According to the Egg Nutrition Center, yolk color is dependent on how much carotenoid content is in a hen’s diet. Amundsen says that her own experience at Locally Laid confirms that. “In the summer, when our chickens are eating clover in the pasture and lots of juicy bugs, their yolks tend to get very bright,” she said.
She said research has shown that those darker-yolked, pasture-raised eggs are more nutritionally dense than conventional eggs, with less cholesterol and more omega‑3s and beta carotenes.
Shell color depends on the breed of hen that laid the egg, and it’s not an indicator of nutritional value. Eggshells can occasionally vary in shape and texture. You probably never see these odd-shaped eggs, Darre said, because they are sent to what’s called “breakers,” which are companies that make liquid pasteurized, freeze-dried or powdered eggs.
If you have home chickens or you shop at a farm stand, you might see the occasional oddball shape, but they aren’t harmful. And if you notice a sandpapery texture to your egg, those are just calcium deposits that weren’t smoothed away during the laying process.
“My favorite ‘shell art’ is when an egg gets laid and is still wet, and then the chicken sits on it,” Amundsen said. “By the time it dries, it can sometimes get a lovely feather imprint. We eat those ourselves.” (Her family of four goes through 30 eggs a week.)