I guess I'm pretty spoiled, since I have three pet chickens who lay eggs for me, and I barely have to do anything. It never occurred to me that people would bother to make fake eggs by hand, much less that this could be profitable. Much less that it could become such a huge issue that people throughout China would have to study news articles to tell the difference, or that it would be so prevalent as to pose a serious health risk.
China's "fake eggs" problem
It sounds silly, but this is becoming a major health concern
Literally everything about this story is amazing to me. But I have to say, aside from the small point that the fake eggs have zero nutrition or caloric value and can sometimes be toxic, fake eggs might be considered an improvement over the battery cage conditions that prevail in America's large scale factory farms.
Apparently once you learn the technique for making a fake egg, a person can make one in about five minutes. One former "fake egg" producer claimed that he could make 1,000 fake eggs a day, which earned him over 100 Yuan per day, the equivalent of $15 USD, or what the man called "a fortune."
To make a fake egg, you start with the yolk and white. These are both made from the same material: a gel comprised of gelatin, alginate, and who knows what else. You pour some into an egg yolk form, add food coloring, and there's your yolk. Add a dollop of uncolored gel for the white, then dip it all in a calcium chloride solution to set it somewhat. It is then gently rolled through a solution of beeswax and calcium carbonate to make the shell, and finally sprayed with a coating of paint to make the shell color.
These fake eggs are nearly indistinguishable from real eggs. The cues to tell one from the other are extremely subtle. Buyers are urged to shake the eggs in a cup to see how they jiggle, and to sniff the eggs (real eggs smell "something like raw meat"). The better fake eggs also behave much like real eggs, and even fry up well in a pan. Fake eggs made with poorer craftsmanship are easier to spot; one man suspected trouble when he cooked up an egg only to discover that it turned into a rubbery ball that bounced like a ping pong ball.
Unfortunately, fake eggs contain no protein or useful calories. And some fake eggs are made with toxic ingredients that have sickened people across China.