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All About Eggs: Intriguing Egg Facts & Folklore | The Old Farmer's Almanac

Intriguing Egg Facts and Folklore

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Things You (Probably) Didn't Know About Eggs

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To put it simply: There is nothing quite like an egg! Eggs are surrounded by more symbolism, myths, and old wives’ tales than any other everyday food. Here are some surprising facts about eggs.

Egg Symbolism

Eggs play a symbolic role in many cultures and religions. It oval shape is a symbol of fertility, eternity, and the circle of life with neither beginning nor end. In the Egyptian myth of Creation, eggs were linked to the creation of the universe, suggesting that the Earth itself may have been born out of an egg. The new life that lies dormant in the egg came to be associated with life-energy.

Of course, the egg is part of the Easter celebration and associated with the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Eggs also take on an important role in the Jewish Passover holiday as a symbol of sacrifice and loss. See our page All About Easter!

Painting or decorating eggs has been a popular tradition in many cultures for thousands of years. See how to dye eggs naturally.

Intriguing Egg Facts

Opportunities, like eggs, come one at a time.

  • The entire yolk of an egg is actually only one cell, one of nature’s largest! In fact, an ostrich egg, which can serve about 24 for breakfast, is probably the largest cell nature manufactures (currently, that is).
     
  • The color of the shell is strictly a function of the breed of the bird. You can (usually) tell what color egg a chicken will lay by looking at the color of her earlobe. Hens with white ears produce white eggs, hens with red ears produce brown eggs, and hens with bluish-green ears produce bluish-green eggs! Find out more about different chicken breeds and the eggs they produce.
     
  • Americans consume an average of 281 eggs per year, which keeps about 285 million hens busy day and night. If you’d like to keep your own hens busy, check out our Raising Chickens blog.
     
  • An old-fashioned but valid test for egg freshness is accomplished by gently dropping a whole uncooked egg into a salt solution (two tablespoons salt in two cups of water.) If very fresh, the egg will be full and heavy, and it will sink and tip to one side. If moderately fresh, it will remain suspended in the middle of the water in an upright position; if it bobs up to the top, it is stale. Learn how to do this test and see other egg tips in this video.
     
  • According to folklore, you can stand a raw egg on end on the spring equinox (or fall equinox). Let us know if it works for you!
     
  • Government grades are based on the size of the air cell in the egg, the egg’s quality, and its freshness. A Grade AA egg must be less than ten days old from packing, a Grade A, 30 days. 
     
  • The whitish, twisted material seen near the raw egg yolk is thick albumen, which is part of a layer of dense egg white surrounding the entire yolk. Its purpose is to help keep the yolk centered in the egg. The albumen is especially prominent in fresh, high-quality eggs.
     
  • The color of the yolk is determined by the feed. If the chicken eats grass, yellow corn, or other feedstuffs rich in yellow pigments, the yolk will be deep yellow in direct relation to the amount of yellow in the feed, regardless of the breed of chicken or color of the shell.
     
  • The incubation period of a chicken egg is 21 days. 
     
  • Shortly after an egg is laid, it is placed in front of a light source that reveals the condition of the innards. This process, called candling, can detect cracks in the shell or harmless but unappetizing blood spots on the yolk. It also reveals the size of the egg’s air cell: the smaller the cell, the better the egg.
     
  • Old wives’ tales suggest that the shape of an egg indicates the sex of the chick that will hatch from it. Unfortunately, there is no truth to this myth. Scientists are unable to distinguish between the sexes before the eggs hatch.
     
  • The greenish gray color around the yolk of a hard-boiled egg is a harmless compound of iron and sulfur called ferrous sulfide, which forms when an egg is heated. To prevent its formation, boil the egg only as long as is necessary to set the yolk, and then plunge it into cold water and peel it promptly.
     
  • While brown, white, and green eggs are essentially the same in nutritional value, there are definite preferences by individuals and by people in different regions of the country.

Now, here’s an age-old question: Which came first, the chicken or the egg? 

No one knows the answer but we’re going to go with the egg. When a mutation or new species is created, it comes from two different parents. Think of how dogs are bred. It’s most likely that two birds who were similar to chickens (but not chickens as we know them today) mated and out came an egg that turned into a chicken! What’s your theory?

Learn even more about eggs and eggshells and their various uses here

2023 Almanac Club