Egg yolks come in a wide range of colors, not just the sunny yellow and yellow-orange that immediately comes to mind.
Egg yolks can be red or have red spots for various reasons.
If you find your egg yolk is red, it doesn’t mean it’s unsafe to eat. An egg yolk that’s red in color or has red spots is safe to eat and doesn’t taste different from yellow egg yolk.
Let’s take a look at all the factors that come into play when it comes to red egg yolks.
Why is There Red in My Egg Yolk?
Sometimes, you find an egg yolk with one or more red spots, called “blood spots.”
This is because although eggs raised for food are not fertilized and will not hatch, there are still some internal structures similar to blood vessels that would nourish a developing chick.
A red spot in egg yolk is caused by a broken blood vessel late in forming the egg.
These blood vessels can break for a vast range of reasons, including:
- Chicken age. Very young and very old hens tend to lay more eggs with blood spots
- Stress. If a chicken is stressed during this stage of her laying cycle, she may lay an egg with a blood spot
- Genetics. Some individual hens are simply more likely to lay eggs with blood spots
- Nutrition. Occasionally blood spots can be caused by too many or too few specific nutrients in the chicken’s diet
Because they can be caused by so many different factors, red spots on egg yolks are not very uncommon and occur in about 2-4% of all eggs.
Companies that produce eggs commercially inspect each egg with a process called “candling,” where the egg is held in front of bright light, so the interior structures are visible.
Most companies will see a red spot on the yolk during this process and not package the egg for consumers, so only about 1% of grocery store eggs have these blood spots.
An egg with one or two red spots on the yolk is perfectly safe to eat, with no adverse health effects and no difference in flavor.
If you prefer, you can use a toothpick or knife tip to remove the red spot.
Some more quick facts about blood spots on egg yolks:
Some people believe that a blood spot on an egg yolk is a sign that the egg has been fertilized, but that isn’t true.
The presence of a red spot has nothing to do with the fertilization of an egg.
Did you know that a red spot on an egg yolk is actually a sign of a very fresh egg?
Over time, the red blood spot fades in color until it can’t be seen anymore, and the egg yolk is perfectly yellow again.
Did you know that an egg with a blood spot on the yolk is not kosher?
Blood spot eggs are also not halal, although the egg can be eaten if the blood spot is completely removed.
Is it Safe to Eat a Red Egg Yolk?
Sometimes an egg yolk doesn’t just have a red spot; sometimes, your whole egg yolk is red.
It’s perfectly safe to eat if your egg has a red yolk, a standard egg white, and doesn’t have an unpleasant odor. Red egg yolk is not a sign of a health risk.
A red egg yolk can be caused by a few different factors, so here are the things to look for.
Red Egg Yolk with a Pinkish or Iridescent Egg White
An egg white that is pinkish or has a rainbow sheen to it has probably been infected by bacteria.
Never eat an egg with a pinkish egg white—discard it immediately.
Red Egg Yolk with a Clear, Normal Egg White
The yolk is red due to the diet of the chicken.
Various ingredients and nutrients in a chicken’s diet affect the color of the yolk, and some people feed chickens specifically to create darker or redder egg yolks.
Red Egg Yolk with a Bloody Egg White
Sometimes, a larger blood vessel bursts during egg laying, causing an egg with streaks of blood or even an egg full of blood.
This is extremely rare and seldom happens with store-bought eggs because companies discard them before they reach the consumer.
Will a Bloody Egg Make You Sick?
An egg with a blood spot will not make you sick and can be eaten normally.
Likewise, if it still smells normal and healthy, an egg with a lot of blood inside the shell is safe to eat, although most agree that such eggs are not appetizing.
What’s Considered a Bad Egg Yolk Color?
Like egg shells, egg yolks have a wide range of natural colors, influenced by the nutrients in a chicken’s diet.
For example, egg yolks can become red when a chicken eats red peppers, anatto seeds, paprika, and other red foods.
Some people like red egg yolks and believe the eggs are more flavorful (others say there is no difference), so some deliberately feed chickens red foods to produce the yolk color.
All egg yolk colors, from yellow to orange to red, are safe and healthy to eat.
In addition to the colors to look out for, a bad egg yolk may also have patches or streaks of color instead of a solid color, and a rotten egg will always smell bad.
So it’s always a good idea to crack eggs into a container instead of directly into the pan. Look at and smell the eggs before cooking.
Here are the egg yolk colors to watch out for.
Extremely Pale Egg Yolks
This is a sign that the chicken has had a very poor diet, so the egg yolk has few nutrients.
When possible, choose egg yolks with bolder, more vibrant colors.
Brown Egg Yolks
You may be surprised to learn that brown eggs do not have brown yolks.
Brown hens lay brown eggs, but brown eggs still have yellow to orange colored yolks.
However, some ducks will lay eggs with brown yolks because ducks will naturally eat some foods that are high in tannins, like nuts.
Also, when a duck is allowed to forage at will, it may lay eggs with brown yolks.
Greenish Egg Yolks
Greenish egg yolks are usually a sign of spoilage or contamination, and the egg will also smell bad.
Some free-range chickens may lay greenish eggs early in spring if they have been foraging on a large quantity of young plants high in chlorophyll.
This is extremely rare, however, and most eggs with greenish yolks should not be eaten.
Grayish or Blackish Egg Yolks
Never eat an egg with a grey or black yolk.
Red spots on egg yolks are uncommon but not a sign of a bad or unhealthy egg.
These eggs are safe to eat, and you can remove the spot for aesthetic reasons.
Red egg yolks are extremely rare because chickens do not usually eat the foods that produce red yolks, but some chicken keepers deliberately create red yolks.
Most eggs produced for sale will have yolk colors ranging from yellow to deep orange, and they are all-natural and safe to eat.