Customer finds chicken embryo after cracking eggshell<BR>

Kingman resident Arline Oberg encountered a variation of an age-old riddle as she was preparing French toast for breakfast Thursday morning: Which came first – the chicken or the egg?

"I know what came first," Oberg said.

"The egg came first because the chicken just came out of it."

Oberg, 59, was not cracking a joke – or a yolk.

She detected a chicken fetus about the size of half a human thumb.

"This has got an embryonic sac of fluid that was a little bloody," Oberg said.

"I grossed out.

I got sick."

Oberg, who bought three cartons of eggs Sunday from a supermarket a little more than a mile from her North Roosevelt Road home, thought the fetus posed a potential health hazard.

She called the store's manager after contacting the environmental health division of the Mohave County Health and Social Services Department.

Store manager Abdul Elawik said he spoke to Oberg Thursday afternoon, and indicated that he would call the egg farm in Norco, Calif., to find out what happened.

The egg farm, Moark Productions, could not be reached for comment.

This reporter could not leave a message because its general mailbox for voicemail was full Thursday afternoon.

Oberg, who grew up in a farm in Rhode Island, speculated that a breakdown in quality control was to blame.

"You are supposed to candle the eggs to make sure they have not been fertilized," she said.

However, Dart Easterday, program manager for dairy, egg, meat and poultry inspection for the Arizona Department of Agriculture, speculated that somebody played a practical joke.

"The eggs that are sold to the major retailers are produced at farms without roosters," Easterday said.

"Even if the eggs were fertile - and it is virtually uncertain that they were – they would have been refrigerated, which would have stopped any embryonic development."

Easterday said the prank could have occurred anywhere from the egg farm to the retail level, adding that he has received only one other report of the same nature during the 18 years he has worked for the department.

He described the incident as "either a practical joke or a deliberate malicious behavior by some disgruntled employee of some farm or perhaps the retailer."

Oberg apparently did not see any humor in the incident, whatever its cause.

She expressed a concern that an elderly person with poor eyesight may not have detected the fetus and could have eaten one.

Easterday and Will Humble, who is in charge of environmental health for the state Department of Health Services, said they were unaware of any health problems posed by eating chicken fetuses.

It would be safe to eat if cooked, Easterday said, but he advised against eating a chicken fetus.

"I would think that any reputable retailer would want to know about that problem," he said.

"I would not consume any food in the market that I believed had been tampered with."

A public relations woman from corporate headquarters in Salt Lake City called Oberg at home while she was being interviewed by the Miner.

"You can see the head, the body, the wing and the embryonic sac," Oberg told Marsha Gilford.

"Could you imagine if I put that in a cake mix?'

Gilford then offered to deliver a free bag of groceries to Oberg's home – minus eggs.

"I am (too) chicken to eat eggs," Oberg told the Miner.

And the next time she goes shopping, she may not put all her eggs in one basket.