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Jun 15, 2005 07:52 PM

Fertile eggs

  • l

For some reason, my wife has decided to start buying cage-free eggs from Trader Joe’s. I guess since they’re cage-free, the roosters get after them, and the eggs are therefore fertile.

I think I’ve read somewhere before that fertile eggs are actually better for you (assuming you’re not squeamish).

But what about the little fetuses in there? Recently we’ve had little solid bodies in the eggs. Is it okay to eat these? Are they good or bad for you? It’s kind of gross, so we’ve been taking them out before cooking (or as they’re cooking in the case of fried eggs). But we wouldn’t be able to take them out of hard boiled eggs prior to cooking. Any input?

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  1. Filipinos and Vietnamese eat fertile eggs. Click on the link to find out more, if you dare.


    1. When you say "solid bodies" in the eggs, what do you mean? Depending upon the nutrition/age of the hen, the chalaza can take on a "solid" appearance. If the eggs are collected every day and refrigerated, the only "fetus" that you would see in a fertile egg is a white spot on the yolk. There is no nutritional difference between a fertile egg (refrigerated within a day of being laid) and an infertile egg. However, the fact that the hen had an opportunity to go outside (cage-free) and a rooster was present does make for a somewhat better life for the chicken.....if you had an occasion to visit an egg farm, you would want to buy eggs from cage-free hens.

      1. First of all, just because the eggs are labelled "free range" it definitely does not mean that there was a rooster within ten miles of the farm. It only means that the hens walked around in a yard or something. Many commercial producers prefer not to keep roosters. So therefore your free range eggs are not necessarily fertilized.

        Secondly, any egg producer who has even the slightest modicum of decency will collect the eggs at least daily. The eggs are laid, the chicken walks away, the egg is collected. There is no opportunity for fetal development in a fertile egg. This only happens when the fertilized egg has been kept warm (under a chicken, usually) for a period of time. Three weeks and they hatch. But even a day or two of incubating isn't likely to produce anything you'd notice. Any producer big enough to be selling to Trader Joe's is probably pretty conscientious about that kind of thing.

        Trust me, I know all about this. We keep a motley assortment of chickens of all sorts and, occasionally, when I am out of town or otherwise preoccupied, the eggs do not get collected with proper regularity. This has resulted in several horrible incidents - either in the frying pan or, worse, in a dozen eggs sold to an unsuspecting friend. I got into the habit of cracking each egg into a small dish before adding to whatever I was making to ensure that there would be no biology projects in the frying pan.

        I don't even want to think about the time when I was doing TV publicity for a cookbook that I cracked an egg into the mixing bowl - on LIVE CAMERA - which had spent a little too much time under a hen. Fortunately the camera operator had the good sense to pan away from the bowl quickly as I madly scrambled the mess up. Ugh.

        1. The organic eggs I buy in the UK often have little red spots on the yolk, but I never saw this on organic eggs in the US. Are you referring to a small, red spot or to an actual solid body?


          9 Replies
          1. re: Blackbird

            Hmm. Thank you. Very helpful. The eggs are brown, which would explain the blood spots that we find. I always assumed this indicated they were fertile, but as your link points out, this is not the case.

            In addition to the blood spots, there are very small solid bodies. They aren't distinguishable (no beaks or wings or anything), but it's enough for us to pick them out before or as we cook them.

            My wife is even more squeamish than I am, and she also picks out the white substance alongside the yolk of normal eggs. I don't have a problem with the white substance, and in fact never even noticed it before she pointed it out to me one day when I didn't remove it.

            But the little solid bodies even gross me out, and I'm afraid to hard boil any of these eggs for fear of a surprise one day.

            Thank you also to the other posters.

            1. re: lil mikey

              The "white substance" is the chalaza and it anchors the yolk to the shell and centers it in the albumin. The chalaza degrades as the egg ages, so its presence is actually the sign of a fresh egg.


              1. re: lil mikey

                I assume you have no problem cooking them when they become full grown chickens?

                1. re: Peter

                  You are correct. I have no problem cooking them when they are fully grown.

                  I read the post by gooGLeR, and I see that in other cultures, they do eat fertile eggs, including the embryo. In those cultures, it's perfectly acceptable, even sought out.

                  So I guess it's psychological. In my mind I have an expectation of an egg, and when I get something different, I automatically think there's something wrong.

                  I guess this is the value of Chowhound. It expands the possibilities beyond the status-quo.

                  But I still prefer my eggs without the embryos.

                  1. re: lil mikey

                    It is very unlikely that you are getting fertile eggs, unless you are buying your eggs from a person with a backyard flock (like mine.) Commercial egg producers do not keep roosters--they are not necessary for egg production.

                    The spots you find in your eggs are called "meat spots" and are tiny bits of the reproductive tract of the hen that slough off and are incorporated into the egg white. They are esthetically displeasing, but not unhealthy, and have nothing to do with fertile or infertile eggs. Those eggs should be removed when the eggs are candled in the plant, but it is harder to see spots in dark colored eggs.

                    A fertile egg that has been incubated for 48 hours will have a small white donut shaped spot on the yolk. By 3 or 4 days, the yolk will have a very obvious network of blood vessels--think badly bloodshot eyeball--not just a little spot of blood. That spot of blood comes from a minor injury to the hen's reproductive track.

                    "Cage free" is a marketing term--means that hens are loose on the floor of a large building, instead of in small cages in that same building. "Free range" means they have access to the outdoors for some portion of every day. Not necessarily access to grass and bugs and things that hens like, just a door that goes to an outdoor space, probably a feces covered slab of concrete.

                    I have hens that lay white eggs, and hens that lay brown eggs. Once the shell is off, the eggs are identical. I would not pay extra for brown eggs.

                    1. re: sparrowgrass

                      Thank you. Very insightful and helpful.

                      1. re: lil mikey

                        I am quite sure that the white "bodies" you are seeing is just the chalazae(sp). They are quite normal, but not in every one. I believe it dissolves as the egg ages. I would by a dozen supermarket eggs, crack them and look closely. I'll bet you will find them there too.

                2. re: lil mikey

                  brown eggs = blood spots. I don't get your logic, nor do I believe Trader Joe's is selling eggs with "little bodies" in them.

                  1. re: ElBee

                    In the post by Blackbird, there was a link to an article that discussed the red spots in eggs. Specifically, it said there were tests run on eggs to identify those with the spots and they are removed from production, so they have become much less prevalent.

                    However, the article goes on to say that it is difficult to discern the blood spots in brown eggs as the color of the shell often masks the spot. Hence my comment about the spots in brown eggs.

              2. If you are actually finding solids besides the yolk and chalaza (see post below) then you should demand your money back pronto.

                Nyleve is absolutely right that eggs need to be gathered promptly. An extra day is usually fine, but to have actual embryo development means the eggs were either left for a hen to sit on for *several* days or the eggs were kept at temperatures similar to that of a setting hen--ie. body temp. Either one is a sign of really bad handling.

                My mother raises chickens for fresh eggs and I can't remember the last time we got one that had gone too long, although it does occasionally happen. Blood spots are more common.

                And remember fresh eggs should have nice plump yolks and whites that more gelatinous than older eggs. But, older eggs are easier to peel when hardboiled. I would feel ripped off if I paid extra $$ for cage free eggs only to get old or mishandled eggs.