April 20

Fertilized vs Unfertilized Eggs – Which Ones are in Grocery Stores?

Written by: Michael

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Fertilized or unfertilized chicken eggs? Whether you've been wondering about this for ages or it's the first time you've heard the question, it's time to answer all the internet's inquiries about these two types of eggs.

The Main Differences

eggs

The main difference between fertilized and unfertilized eggs is the rooster's part in the process. If a hen mates with a rooster, then the eggs the hen lays will be fertilized.

If not, the hen will lay unfertilized eggs. Regardless of the rooster, the hen will drop the eggs. Any fertilized eggs will then require proper incubation in order to become chicks.

Thus, once an egg is refrigerated, the fertilization process stops. So if you were to eat a fertilized egg, you probably wouldn't notice the difference!

If this question makes you wary of buying eggs, you don't have to worry. Most eggs you buy at the grocery store are unfertilized!

And in terms of flavor and texture, fertilized eggs aren't much different from unfertilized eggs. And the nutrition is exactly the same!


Can You Eat Fertilized Eggs?

egg-breakfast

You can eat fertilized eggs. Any fertilized egg you would get at a supermarket or farmers' market would not be far in the fertilization process due to the technique with which eggs are checked. (1) Each egg must be inspected before it's sent to the market.


Are Grocery Store Eggs Fertilized?

Most of the eggs you buy at the grocery store will be unfertilized due to the fact that commercial hens rarely see roosters. They are used to produce eggs, not more chickens.


Commercial Farms

Commercial farms, as discussed above, utilize hens only for the most part, so the eggs you buy are unfertilized.

In rare occasions, fertilized eggs could make it through inspection, but it's not common, and they would not contain a ready-to-hatch chick.


Local Farms

Local farms could produce a mix of fertilized and unfertilized eggs, though the fertilized ones are still safe to eat. Sometimes the eggs from local farms are even sold with a fertilized label.


How to Tell if an Egg is Fertilized

eggs

Pre-cracked

Before an egg is cracked, you can tell if an egg is fertilized or not by going through the candling process. During this process, you go into a dark room and a light is shown on the egg in order to see inside the egg.

Around the fourth day of fertilization, veins will begin to appear around a dark spot in the middle of the egg. This is one way to tell if an egg is fertilized before it's cracked.


Cracked

After an egg is cracked, the way to tell if it is fertilized is to look at the yolk.

Unfertilized eggs may have a white dot, but fertilized eggs will have a concentric circle around the white dot. In other words, the white dot will have a bullseye appearance.


How Do Chicken Eggs Get Fertilized?

chickens

Chicken eggs get fertilized by roosters. When hens and roosters mate, the eggs that afterwards come from the hen are fertilized.

Without getting too far into the nitty gritty of the birds and the bees, it is the mating of the two chickens that creates a fertilized egg.

Fertilization alone, however, does not create a chicken. The egg must undergo incubation in order to develop into a chick later.

The egg must be kept in a properly warm environment and watched over so that it can grow.


White vs Brown Eggs

eggs-in-a-bucket

When it comes to the color of any given egg, the difference lies in the color of the hen producing the egg.

White eggs come from white feathered hens while brown eggs come from red-brown feathered hens.

The brown shade of the egg depends on various factors that affect the hens, such as age, stress levels, health, and housing. (2)

While some people prefer white eggs over brown eggs and vice versa, studies do not show that the color of the egg contributes largely to the nutrition of the egg.

Rather, the environment and circumstances under which the hens are raised, as well as the size of the egg, offer more insight to the nutrition of the egg than the color does.


Does the Color of the Yolk Make a Difference?

egg-yoke

The color of egg yolks ultimately comes down to the diet of the hens! Hens with a diet rich in more yellow-orange foods produce darker colored yolks. Hens with a less yellow-orange diet produce the lighter yolks.

Research is not conclusive about whether or not one is necessarily healthier for you than the other (i.e., more vitamins or minerals), but some people do claim that darker yolks are more flavorful. If you're curious, maybe try a taste test!


Egg Myths Debunks

eggs-with-faces

Myth #1: Fertilized eggs taste different

Truth: Both types of eggs taste the same! There's very little chance you can tell a difference between the two.


Myth #2: Blood spots on eggs mean they're fertilized

Truth: Blood spots can occur on unfertilized eggs as well. They occur from blood vessels rupturing, which can happen at various points in the hen's reproductive system cycle.


Myth #3: Fertilized eggs are healthier

Truth: Not necessarily! Fertilized eggs and unfertilized eggs contain the same amount of protein and fat, and studies do not show a conclusive difference in nutrition between the two.


Frequently Asked Questions

eggs

Are all chicken eggs fertile?

Nope! Only eggs that have been fertilized by a rooster can be fertile.


Do chicken eggs need to be fertilized?

They do not! Most of the eggs we eat are not fertilized, if they're from your average grocery store.


Conclusion

Both fertilized eggs (that haven't been incubated) and unfertilized eggs are safe to eat. And though there are differences between them, neither one is better or worse to eat.

Both types of eggs offer the same taste, nutrition profile, and texture. The only difference in cracked eggs will be the addition or lack of a white bullseye in the yolk.

Hence, you can rest assured that the eggs you're consuming are safe for consumption.

So keep crackin' and scramblin' and fryin' up your favorite recipes. Whatever eggs you've got, they're sure to taste great, especially with a little salt and pepper. 

Michael


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About the author

Michael spends his days eating, drinking and studying the fascinating world of food. He received his Bachelors Degree in Food Science and Technology at the University of California, Davis and spent much of his time at the school brewery. While school proved to be an invaluable experience, his true passion lies in exposing the hidden crannies of food for the cooking laymen.

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