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When You Eat An Egg Are You Eating A Baby Chick?

Were the eggs we buy in the supermarket once embryos?

eggs in a carton

Photo: Pietro Izzo (flickr)

The incredible (edible?) egg or a baby chicken in waiting?

Don Hirose and a friend had an interesting argument. Don’s friend was sure that when you eat an egg you’re eating a baby chick, but Don didn’t think so. They made a bet and came to A Moment of Science to have it settled. Before we tell you who has to pay up, let’s examine the two situations we’re dealing with.

How Does The Process Develop?

The first, and less common scenario, is eggs that are bought directly from small farmers. Odds are much higher that these are fertilized eggs that can develop into baby chicks.

Usually, the development process is halted before this happens. When the egg first forms it’s only one cell, and is fertilized as it moves down the oviduct to be laid. During the first twenty-four hours after fertilization the single egg cell divides a few times, forming a little mass of cells.

At this point it’s technically an embryo (though it doesn’t look like a baby chick), but the cells still have not separated into the ones that make eyes, feet, feathers, etc.

And remember, all of this is based upon the assumption that these farmers have roosters around. Hens lay eggs with our without a rooster present. Without a rooster to fertilize the egg, it will never become a chick.

Suspended Animation

After the egg is laid the embryo stays in a kind of suspended animation until the hen sits on it to incubate it. If the egg is not incubated within a few weeks the embryo will die. This is how things work with a fertilized egg, the kind one might get directly from a small farmer.

The second scenario involves the eggs we buy at the local supermarket, which are usually factory-farmed. These factories rely on the fact that hens lay produce eggs based upon light cycles.

So, the eggs that most of us eat do not have embryos. And even the eggs from farm and backyard chicken eggs probably have not developed enough to be at the stage where one would be eating a baby chick. So, Mr. Hirose wins the bet, and maybe he’ll want to buy an omelet with his winnings.

Sources And Further Reading:

  • run13

    So we are eating the remains of what would be a life. Thats always the case with anything we eat. But we have the choice to make being suffer or not. Plants dont have nervous system so they dont feel pain. They may sense it but they dont feel it. So paying for the horrible animal industry to keep going is insane and selfish.

  • Andrew Smith

    Yet, they are so tasty. I could be a vego but I feel that it would probably be a missed streak.

  • Doctor

    A missed steak you may say.

  • Andrew Smith

    LOL. Danged typos! :-)

  • Doctor

    Lol, seriously I didn’t realize it was a typo lmao!! I just tried to make a joke hahahaha.

  • gary lopez-watts

    yo, i most definitely do appreciate your intelligence in recognizing the infinite equality of all consciousnesses, perhaps you might care to join the e.p.c (eternal paradise crew) at and offer me some communication? we are the self, and trying to achieve this eternal paradise as its energetic instance, consequently instantaneous + eternal. this process is unfolding much slower + blinder than we would prefer, as we suffer terribly, but luckily, we begin to realize the infinite perfection of intelligence. contact me at

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