Here's what those red dots are all about.

I finally made the decision to splurge on quality farmers’ market eggs. I wanted eggs from a farm I am confident treats their chickens well, plus I have heard that farmers’ market eggs are way tastier (and brighter!) than most commercial brands at the grocery store. I’d chewed on the idea for a while, considering which of the many egg carton terms were actually important to me, and if there might be a cheaper store-bought variety that would offer the same benefits. Did I really need to drop upwards of $6 on eggs? Ultimately, I decided—yup. Might as well at least give them a try.

Last week, I finally approached the farmers’ market stand and requested a dozen farm-fresh eggs. I proudly brought them home, and I planned to fry them up morning after morning for a week of perfect breakfasts. That is, until I cracked open my first egg to find tiny blood spots dotted within the yolk. The disturbing discovery prodded vague memories of my mom telling me to crack my eggs, one at a time, into a seperate bowl in order to check for blood spots before cooking with them... but I had never actually seen a yolk with that tiny red splat of blood. Naturally, I turned to Google to see if blood spotted eggs are safe to eat. Did this mean the egg was somehow tainted? Was the egg I planned to sizzle in a pool of olive oil actually fertilized?

As a disclaimer, my mother wasn’t all wrong when it came to her precaution about checking for blood spots. It turns out, based on the Jewish dietary laws I was raised following, it’s debated if eggs with blood spots are acceptable to consume from a religious standpoint. But, more generally speaking, the USDA says eggs with blood spots are totally safe to eat. The blood spot is “caused by a rupture of one or more small blood vessels in the yolk at the time of ovulation” and in no way indicates the egg is unsafe or fertilized.

Egg Yolk
Credit: Getty Images/ Jorn

What causes the blood spots? These blemishes can sometimes happen due to the hen’s age or her diet, but it is in no way an indicator of her overall health or the quality of the egg. Most eggs sold at supermarkets are identified in the processing facility through candling, a process in which a light is shone through the shell to illuminate noticeable defects, like blood spots. If an inconsistency is detected, the egg is removed from the line. This is why you’re more likely to find blood spots in darker shelled eggs, and significantly more likely to find blood spots in your own hens’ eggs or farmers’ market eggs.

Of course, for those of us who aren’t super keen on the red blob floating in our perfect yolk, the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture suggests removing the blood spots in the yolk with the tip of a knife. So, go ahead and cook up your eggs any way you’d like—with or without those little blood spots.