What is the tiny blood spot I found in my fresh egg?

It is probably no surprise to you that grocery store foods are a lot more processed than many of the fresh foods we get directly from our farmer producers down at The Wild Ramp.  Sometimes there will be a little dirt on our potatoes or carrots.   Some farmers will mix different sized or differently colored eggs with brown or white eggs in a dozen, while other farmers separate out colored eggs so they sell a dozen “green eggs” as a Dr. Seuss-style treat. (and yes, we often get requests for ham from people buying our green eggs!)

In many cases, we’ve become so accustomed to sterile, uniform food, that when we get fresh food the way it comes directly off the farm, we have questions about it.  One of the great things about The Wild Ramp and being directly connected to your local food is that if anyone has questions, we can talk to the farmer who provided it and find out the answer- which could never happen at a large corporate grocery store.  Can you imagine going into a huge supermarket and being able to talk directly to the farmer who provided one specific egg for sale?!

Recently we got a question about a blood spot on the yolk of one of our pastured eggs.  After talking with the farmer and doing a little internet research, this is what we found:

First off, the tiny blood spot is completely harmless.  If it bothers you, you can remove it with a knife, but the egg is perfectly safe, chemically and nutritionally, to eat.  Blood spots occur in less than 1% of all the eggs laid, and are simply caused by a rupture of the blood vessel on the yolk surface during formation.  They are not a sign of a fertilized egg or of any sickness in a hen.  Sometimes they happen in the first few eggs a pullet lays, then subside as the hen gets into her “laying groove.”  Sometimes they just happen.

Interestingly enough, if you do find a blood spot, it can help tell you how fresh the egg is- the spot will be bright red in a fresh egg, but paler in an older egg.


In the egg factory.

In a supermarket, all eggs pass through USDA inspection. The USDA requires that eggs be “candled” to detect imperfections.  Basically, eggs travel along a high-tech illuminating conveyor belt that detects and discards eggs with blood spots. Even with mass scanners, brown eggs are harder to candle than white eggs (due to their color) so even this method is not completely fool-proof.


Candling Eggs

 The inspectors who carry out this job are called “candlers” because historically the review was done in a dark room with an egg held in front of a candle.  The light penetrated the egg and made it possible to observe the inside of the egg.  I found this description online on the University of Illinois Extension website:

“In candling, the egg is held in a slanting position with the large end against the hole in the candler. The egg is grasped by the small end and, while held between the thumb and tips of the first two fingers, is turned quickly to the right or left. This moves the contents of the egg and throws the yolk nearer the shell. Because of the color of their shells, brown eggs are more difficult to candle than white eggs.”

So the answer we were able to give to the person who was concerned about the blood spot she found in her egg is that in egg factories, the eggs are all candled and sorted, and eggs that are detected to have spots are discarded, whereas our farmers don’t have the equipment (or time) to bother detecting something that doesn’t affect the quality of the egg in any negative way.

During researching this question, I personally was interested to discover eggs had such an intense “handling” period prior to being offered for sale in a typical supermarket.  Not only are they washed and transported, they are then candled, sorted by size, and packaged, all of which takes time.  This is one of the reasons that supermarket eggs are never the same wonderful yellow color as pastured eggs, and why their yolks are soft and runny instead of firm and plump- they are simply very old eggs compared to the eggs our farmers bring to The Wild Ramp.

The taste and texture of fresh eggs is something that grocery stores just can’t replicate, no matter how much extra you pay for labels that say “organic” or “cage free” or “hormone free” or even “happy hens”!

Eggs are one of the things I just won’t even bother to buy at the supermarket anymore- I only buy them directly from a farmer or from The Wild Ramp.  And now that I know that fresh pastured eggs sometimes will have a blood spot in them, I know even more about how food used to look- before everything was so processed and uniform.

Let us know if you have any questions about any food you buy at The Wild Ramp- we can talk directly to the farmer and try to answer your questions for you!

The Wild Ramp is celebrating its One Year Birthday! You, the community, built this market and through your generous support made our first year very successful. Please help us celebrate the new things to come by continuing your support. We ask for our birthday that you consider looking at our birthday wish list, stopping by to make a contribution to our donation patch, or to sign up for volunteer hours to help the market’s continued success. Thanks! Let’s make this a birthday to remember!

Katharine Lea

Katharine Lea is an architect and local food addict who helped open The Wild Ramp just because she wanted to shop there.

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About Katharine Lea

Katharine Lea is an architect and local food addict who helped open The Wild Ramp just because she wanted to shop there.
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