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One Egg Debate That's Not Over Easy

January 28, 2002

Perhaps you've never added them to your shopping cart, but you've probably seen them at your local farmer's market or health food store: fertile eggs.

You may have asked yourself the question: Are fertile eggs any better for me than regular eggs?

Health experts say there's no nutritional difference between fertile eggs and conventional, or infertile, eggs. There's also no apparent difference in taste. The whitish area at the center of the yolk in a fertile egg has a slightly different appearance from an infertile egg. And the fertile variety will also cost you a bit more because they are more expensive to produce.

The main appeal of fertile eggs seems to be social consciousness. Unlike a typical commercial poultry operation, hens used to produce fertile eggs are not kept in cages. They are allowed to roam and roost freely--with roosters.

Some people believe that free-roaming hens are surely happier--and more likely to produce eggs that are healthier. "They feel it is a more natural process for the chicken, and some groups have the opinion and belief that they are a better egg," says David Will, sales manager for Chino Valley Ranchers in Arcadia, which markets Nutri-Fresh fertile eggs.

But Francine Bradley, an extension poultry specialist at UC Davis' Department of Animal Science, scoffs at the notion. "People think these hens all want to have [roosters] running around with them," she says. "In buying these eggs, people are supporting a poultry lifestyle that says this is somehow better for the hens of the world. But scientifically, there is no support for that."

In any case, fertile eggs aren't for everyone. Some people are turned off by the possibility of seeing a developing embryo growing inside the eggs. And under Jewish dietary laws, fertile eggs are not kosher.

--David Olmos

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