A Staff Report from the Straight Dope Science Advisory Board

Are red spots in eggs dangerous?

Dear Straight Dope:

I was wondering why we are told not to eat an egg that contains a red spot. I know this means the egg is fertilized and some how slipped by unnoticed by the inspectors. But why not eat it anyway? It appears normal in all other respects. Can you dip out the red spot and use the rest of the egg in a recipe? What's the s-coop on eggs?

Wrong on both accounts, Dan. (Wish I were better at puns, because there are thousands of possibilities in this topic.) There is no health hazard from eating eggs that contain red spots, and the red spot doesn't mean the egg is fertilized. It's just a spot of blood. As Sue at Mountain States Meat and Poultry told me, "hens that lay the eggs you buy in the store are never exposed to a male." (Exposed?) Sue told me that when she cracks an egg and sees a blood spot, she dips it out with a spoon, but only because of the unappetizing look of it, not because it poses any health risk. She said blood from the chicken can get into the yolk occasionally while the egg is being formed, especially if she experiences any stress during the process (the hen, not Sue). Sue gave the example of her dog getting into her henhouse at home (wouldn't you think she'd want to go home from that place to a chickenless home?) and chasing the hens around. Later several of them laid eggs with blood spots in them. It's caused by minor ruptures or hemorrhages inside the chicken.

I also talked to Russ at another poultry place, and he told me several interesting things. There are inspectors called "candlers" at poultry plants who shine bright lights at eggs to look for and discard any eggs found to have blood spots in them. They also check for shell quality. Americans take their "egg aesthetics" (say that quickly five times) very seriously. Russ wouldn't tell me what these candlers get paid. He also told me that brown hens lay brown eggs and white hens lay white eggs, but when I cross-examined him in my aggressive journalistic style about that, he admitted that it was the breed and not just the color that determined the color of the egg. Don't talk down to me, Russ.

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