If there’s anything that can put Chinese chickens out of work, it’s the man-made eggs that have been plaguing consumers for over a decade.
Since 2003, Chinese workers have been able to replicate chicken eggs to a surprising degree of detail. The shell is made of shaped calcium carbonate, reported the Beijing Media Network. Other ingredients include starch, resin, and cellulose coagulants for the egg white, and edible pigment additives for the yolk.
Countless pictures of the fakes have appeared on Chinese social media throughout the years. Lured by low prices, shoppers all over China have reported unwittingly buying the eggs, only to find that the yolk becomes hard and rubbery once cooked; one internet post said the yolks bounced when thrown on the floor.
Manmade eggs still infest Chinese supermarkets.
“Finally I have encountered the legendary fake eggs,” a January online post reads. “Before, I might choke on the yolk, but that won’t happen now because I can’t even chew it.”
Consuming the fake eggs can lead to memory degeneration and Alzheimer’s disease.
In 2011, Qilu Evening News, a regional newspaper in Shandong Province, published an investigative report into the method of production. According to Mr. Ren, a 10-year veteran in the industry, the most important part of the process lies in producing the eggshell. Even if the insides are botched slightly, a good shell will fool most shoppers.
“I am the only one in China who can make a good eggshell,” Ren boasted.
The eggshell is created in a mould; stirring the calcium mixture and applying it evenly is crucial in creating a convincing fake. In ten minutes, the egg is complete.
To reduce the strong chemical smell given off by the compounds that comprise the whites and yolk, the eggs are treated with aquarium water to recreate an authentic odor. For added effect, traces of chicken droppings can be placed on the eggs.
In 2009, Japan’s FujiTV produced an 8-minute report on China’s fake eggs. The TV station even reproduced the process.
It costs $120 for egg-making lessons with Mr. Ren.
Ren said he was on good terms with chicken farms and egg sellers. “I openly tell the farm directors that my manmade eggs are far cheaper. Who doesn’t want to make more money? I have business relationships with them.”
“From the farm to the wholesalers to the retailers, they all know it,” Ren claimed. “Only customers don’t.”