If you are thinking, "Well, unfertilized, truly free range eggs should be fine... this was from my local farm and I know exactly how well they are treated, or I raise my own hens in great conditions. No roosters, and the hens are allowed to live out their natural lifespan and not slaughtered." This makes sense, it really seems like there is no cruelty. However, there is a strange but real fact that many people do not know - unfertilized eggs can develop and hatch.
The term for this is called "Parthenogenesis". Parthenogenesis is the embryonic development of an unfertilized egg, and has been observed in many animals including turkeys and chickens.
Olsen and Marsden accidentally discovered naturally occurring parthenogenesis in turkeys at the Agricultural Research Center in Beltsville, Maryland. They found that 14% of the infertile eggs laid by Beltsville Small White (BSW) turkeys developed parthenogenetically.
Poole and Olsen observed Cornish hens for parthenogenesis. They macroscopically examined eggs incubated 10 d from 3 different strains of Dark Cornish hens. They found that 21.9% of the total hen population laid at least 1 egg that contained parthenogenetic development.
Parker and McDaniel studied chinese painted quail eggs and found that 27% of the quail population laid at least 1 egg that exhibited parthenogenetic development. Of the 81 hens that laid eggs containing embryonic development, 30 hens were responsible for laying at least 2 or more eggs that exhibited parthenogenesis. In fact, 2 hens were responsible for producing 5 embryos from 20 unfertilized eggs.
For detailed information about the study please go to this link.
Below is a screen shot of another study that shows parthenogenesis in chickens.
Here's another screenshot of a study on parthenogenetic chicks.
It doesn't make a difference anymore whether it is a fertilized egg or not a fertilized egg. Here lies still, a potential in eating a dead embryo who didn't develop properly, or one that could hatch into a chick. Are eggs vegetarian then? I would say no. The easiest way to avoid this dilemma is don't eat eggs.
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