Eggs. They're funny little things. They're not quite round. They're packed with protein. They're really messy if you break them. And there's that pesky question: Which came first, the chicken or the egg?
I can't tell you the answer to that question. But I can tell you all kinds of other surprising facts about eggs. Welcome to the strange and amazing world of eggs. Did you know ...
- Vitamin D: Eggs are one of the few foods that naturally contain this vitamin -- but it's all in the yolk.
- Blood spots: Sometimes eggs have little blood spots, also called meat spots, in the yolk. Contrary to rumor, blood spots do not mean the egg has been fertilized. It happens sometimes when a blood vessel is ruptured while the yolk is being formed. Industrial egg farms try to pull those eggs out of production because they know it weirds people out. Farmers keep the ladies separated from the lads so no eggs will get fertilized.
- Brown vs. white: The color of the eggshell depends on the breed of chicken. Most brown eggs are laid by a red-feathered chicken while white eggs are laid by a white-feathered chicken. But there are some exceptions. Some chicken eggs are blue or green! Brown eggs are usually larger than white eggs, and red-feathered chickens typically are larger and eat more than white-feathered chickens, which is why brown eggs cost more. Which kind is healthier? Eggshell color has no effect on the nutritional value of an egg.
- What yolk color means: Darker yellow or orange egg yolks mean there's more carotenoids, which usually means the hen had a varied diet, which usually means the egg is richer in micronutrients like vitamin A and omega-3. But the protein and fat content is usually the same as that of a paler yolk.
- What white "color" means: The freshest eggs have somewhat cloudy whites. Less-fresh eggs have more clear whites. And if the whites are pinkish or iridescent, it's going rotten. But you'll probably be able to smell that.
- Which is healthier, yolks or whites? Depends on what you consider healthy. Whites are lower in fat, but most of the vitamins and nutrients are in the yolk. Many nutritionists say a little bit of fat helps you absorb vitamins better.
- Free-range, cage-free, pastured: Just because your egg was laid by a "cage-free" bird doesn't mean that bird was living a happy life out in the sun and fresh air. Most are still raised in cramped, indoor spaces -- one giant cage, really. In the US, "free range" eggs mean hens had access to the outdoors at some point in their lives. Farmers have started using the term "pastured" eggs to say their hens spend a significant amount of time in the outdoors.
- Bad eggs float: The older an egg is, the more air seeps into the shell's pores.
- Healthiest eggs: There's mounting evidence that pasture-raised hens that eat a variety of foods produce eggs richer in vitamin A and omega-3, and lower in cholesterol.
- Egg cleanup: Dropped an egg on the floor? Sprinkle it with salt to make cleanup easier.
- Those stringy things: What are those white stringy things you see in eggs? Chalazae -- little ropes that attach the yolk to the membrane. The more chalazae you see, the fresher the egg.
- By the numbers: The average hen lays 250 to 270 eggs a year. Each egg takes 24 to 26 hours to form. They are laid large end first. The US produces about 75 billion eggs a year.
Were any of these egg facts surprising to you?
Image via BPheonix/Flickr