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By Rabbi Dovid Cohen, Administrative Rabbinic Coordinator
Q. Is there anything I need to know about buying eggs?
A. Raw eggs – whether white or brown – that are in their shell are kosher, even if the package claims some special health benefit (e.g., high Omega-3) or says that the eggs are pasteurized. But this is only true of standard eggs, since they are assumed to come from kosher chickens. But the same is not true for eggs from ducks, quail, or other birds. This is because we only consume eggs from birds for which we have a mesorah/tradition that they are kosher. There are specific breeds of duck and quail that meet that criterion, but there is no mesorah on many others. Therefore, one should not buy eggs from other birds unless they know it is one for which there is a mesorah, or it is certified kosher by an agency who does that verification for you.
Once you crack the eggs, you should check them for blood spots. The common practice is that if you find a bloodspot, the entire egg is discarded. [Call your rabbi if you notice the blood spot after the eggs was already mixed into other foods.] Brown eggs often have “protein spots” which are different than blood spots. Blood spots are red, symmetrically shaped, and tend to be on the yolk. In contrast, protein spots are actually pieces of egg white that absorbed pigment from the shell, so they tend to be brown, asymmetrically shaped, and are always in the white part of the egg. Protein spots are permitted and do not need to be removed.
Another caveat is that it is only whole, raw eggs, still in their shell, that one can buy from any source. But liquid eggs or powdered eggs should only be bought with certification, to ensure that all additives are kosher, and that nothing non-kosher is processed on the same equipment.
Does a Mashgiach check all liquid eggs for blood spots? No. The egg companies use a procedure called “candling” to check for bloodspots. Basically, they shine a bright light through the egg and can see if there are bloodspots. Although there is no Shomer Shabbos person overseeing this, there are several halachic reasons why this is acceptable, and, unfortunately, those are beyond the scope of this article.
One last issue to consider is that the Gemara says that one should not leave peeled or cracked eggs overnight. Some follow the Gemara exactly as stated; they will not leave a peeled egg overnight at home and will not purchase liquid eggs. Others take the exact opposite approach, saying that since this ruling is not recorded in Shulchan Aruch, it clearly is not relevant nowadays. However, many take approaches between these extremes – some allow liquid or peeled eggs if other ingredients are added (with different approaches of how much must be added), and Iggeros Moshe rules that the Gemara (basically) only applies in a home setting, but not for foods produced commercially. As with many areas of halacha, each person should seek direction from their Rabbi as to the appropriate practice for their family.
This article first appeared in the Let’s Talk Kashrus column, Yated Ne’eman, June 2, 2023.