Latest update: November 15th, 2011
Generally speaking, any food produced by a non-kosher animal is non-kosher. Thus, the egg of a non-kosher bird is not kosher but the egg of a kosher bird, such as a chicken, is kosher. If one comes across an egg and does not know which bird laid it, how does one tell a non-kosher egg from a kosher egg?
The Talmud gives us two ways to tell if an egg is of a non-kosher bird. If the egg is totally round like a ball rather than round at one end and tapered at the other end, a non-kosher bird laid the egg. So, too, if the yolk of the egg surrounds the white of the egg rather than the other way around, or if the egg has no white but is filled with yolk. If, however, the egg is round at one end and tapered at the other, the white of the egg surrounds the yolk and it looks like the egg of a chicken or of another identifiable kosher bird, the egg is kosher and may be eaten without any further investigation as to its pedigree.
In accordance with the general principle articulated above, the egg of a neveilah chicken that died before it was properly slaughtered, as well as the egg of a treif chicken that suffered from one of the treif-rendering defects previously discussed, is prohibited for consumption.
If a non-kosher egg, such as the egg of an eagle, was cooked in the same pot as kosher eggs, the kosher eggs remain kosher and may be eaten provided the non-kosher egg was cooked in its shell. The reason for this is that a kosher item cooked with a non-kosher item only becomes non-kosher if it absorbs the taste of the non-kosher item cooked together with it.
The shell of the non-kosher egg acts as a buffer through which the taste cannot be transferred to the kosher eggs. If, however, the non-kosher egg is taken out of its shell or its shell is cracked and it is cooked with the kosher eggs, the kosher eggs become non-kosher and cannot be eaten even if the kosher eggs remain in their shells unless the ratio of the kosher eggs to the non-kosher egg is at least 61 kosher eggs to the 1 non-kosher egg.
What is the status of an egg with bloodstains or blood specks?
The basic principle here is that the Torah only prohibits the consumption of blood of meat but not the blood of eggs. Nevertheless, there is a concern that a blood spot in an egg may indicate the presence of the beginning of the formation of the embryo of a chick. Although a hatched chick would be permissible for consumption if properly slaughtered, the embryo of a chick inside an egg of a bird, even a kosher bird, is forbidden for consumption. Such a blood spot that raises the concern of the existence of the beginnings of an embryo in the egg is referred to in the halacha as dam rikum.
The concern of dam rikum, however, is only present in the case of an egg laid by a chicken that mated with a rooster but it is not present in the case of an egg laid by a chicken that was not fertilized by a rooster. A fertilized egg may hatch into a chick after the hen has sat upon it for a period of three days whereas an egg that was not fertilized by a rooster, referred to in the halacha as beitza hamuzeret, will never hatch into a chick never mind how long the hen sits on it. Accordingly, any blood found in an unfertilized egg cannot be dam rikum and under Torah law may be eaten.
Nevertheless the rabbis, out of concern that one might confuse the bloodstain of a fertilized egg with that of a non-fertilized egg, prohibited it for consumption and require the blood spot itself and its immediate surrounding area to be removed from the egg, after which the egg may be eaten. If, however, a bloodstain appears in a fertilized egg, the generally accepted view in is that it will not do to merely remove the blood from the egg; rather, the entire egg must be thrown out.
Whether a bloodstained egg may saved by removing the blood or whether the entire egg must be thrown out hinges then on whether we are dealing with a fertilized egg. According to the Talmud, an egg is deemed to be unfertilized if one is certain there was no rooster within a radius of 60 houses from the hen. Accordingly, if the chicken farmer confirms the chickens were confined to a pen into which no roosters were allowed, one can be certain the eggs laid by such chickens are unfertilized eggs.
According to the Shulchan Aruch, such eggs, referred to as beitzim muzarot, may be eaten even if they are bloodstained as long as the blood spot and its immediate surrounding area is removed. Indeed, this is the ruling of Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef regarding eggs laid by hens that are secluded in chicken pens. Of course, there is always the concern that a particular egg may just come from a farm that does not seclude the hens from the roosters.
According to Rav Moshe Feinstein, one would be halachically justified in relying on the majority situation that most eggs come from farms in which the hens are secluded. However, since discarding the bloodstained egg will not cause great financial hardship in the U.S. where eggs are inexpensive, Rabbi Feinstein recommends that in practice one should go beyond the strict letter of the law and discard the entire egg.
Rabbi Yosef, addressing the situation in Israel where eggs are more expensive and peoples’ financial situation may often not permit such caution, rules that the egg may be eaten after the bloodstain and its surrounding area have been removed.
Raphael Grunfeld’s book “Ner Eyal on Seder Moed” (distributed by Mesorah) is available at OU.org and your local Judaica bookstore. His new book, “Ner Eyal on Seder Nashim & Nezikin,” will be available shortly.
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