It doesn’t happen very often, but when it does, it’s kind of gross. You break open an egg and there’s a little red spot floating around in it. Resist the urge to pitch it and everything else in your kitchen. Those tiny blood spots are harmless.
Why Eggs Have Blood Spots
Blood spots—sometimes called meat spots—are typically caused when a blood vessel on the surface of the yolk ruptures. “People used to believe the blood meant the egg had been fertilized, but that has since been shown to be untrue,” says Caroline West Passerrello, MS, RSN, LDN, community coordinator and instructor at the University of Pittsburgh, and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Instead, it’s because one or more of the tiny blood vessels on the yolk burst during the hen’s ovulation process, explains poultry expert and author Gail Damerow.
But it’s not just the yolk that can be affected. You might notice a brown, white, or reddish spot in the egg white. That’s likely a meat spot, which is a small piece of tissue picked up from the insides of the chicken while the egg was forming.
Certain Eggs Are More Likely To Have Blood Spots
The odds of finding a blood spot are pretty slim. Less than 1% of commercially laid eggs typically have a blood spot.
And the color of the egg makes a difference. The spots are found in only about 0.5% of hens that lay white eggs, while they are in about 18% of hens that lay brown eggs. Hens may lay more eggs with blood spots for genetic reasons, or if they are stressed, have had an infection, or have low levels of certain nutrients.
Egg processors typically hold eggs up to a light—a process called candling—to remove any eggs with imperfections like blood or meat spots or cracked shells. “Candling methods usually remove the blood spots, but it is hard to catch every egg during manufacturing,” says West Passerrello. “So it is not very common, but the blood spots can indicate a fresh egg and these eggs are safe to eat.”
It’s harder to spot issues using candling with brown eggs because of the darker shell. Blood spots may be more common when eggs come from backyard breeders because they may not use candling.
Is It Safe To Eat Eggs With Blood Spots?
According to West Passerrello, if you happen upon a blood or meat spot when you crack open your egg, it’s perfectly safe to eat. “If you’d like to remove the blood spot, take a fork or knife, and gently remove it before you cook the egg.”