Fake eggs are still going strong in China, despite the hilarity of it all to people outside of the Mainland PRC. In the few English-language sites that have picked up on this story, the whole idea seems absurd. The major theme across the English-language sites is Hoax! mostly due to the small profit margin to be made and perhaps just the sheer comedy of making fake eggs for a living.
Danwei.org published a small report in 2004 and several blogs reported on fake eggs such as The Raw Feed and Chinaview (in 2007 and 2006), but a look at the stories from Chinese language sources (below) show that the problem is still there, if not bigger than before. Additionally, most of these “ads” and reports are dated 2009.
I wish I could laugh along with you, but unfortunately I love eggs and live in China.
The Price is Right
The profit margin for fake eggs, estimated at USD$70 per day, is more than enough for the common Chinese to engage in the business and there’s nothing China’s poor won’t do to get ahead. The list of faulty (or deadly) products coming out of China is long and will continue to lengthen for some time to come. It’s simply a matter of economy and history.
Knowing this, I have decided to give up eggs for a while.
A cursory search of Chinese language news sites brought up more than 8,000 hits for “man-made eggs” including numerous news reports, instructional videos and most galling of all, dozens of ads for training manuals for interested entrepreneurs.
Info From Chinese Websites
18Dao.com thoughtfully put together a collection of information about man-made eggs in China, including videos and pictures. The English translation follows the original Chinese text, which from here on will appear within grey boxes.
Man-made eggs: using man-made materials to make chicken eggs.
An Insider’s Report: In order to tell the difference between man-made and natural eggs, the first method is to inspect the shell. Man-made eggshells are particularly shiny and if the egg is opened, the egg white is not as sticky as a natural egg and is easily mixed in with the egg yolk. There may also be a light chemical smell coming from the egg yolk/white, whereas natural eggs have a fresh smell.
A man made egg has a cost price of 5 fen (1fen=0.01RMB — 1USD=6.83RMB). The lowest sales price found is 2jiao (1jiao=0.1RMB). One person can manufacture aprox. 1500 eggs in one day.
An Insider’s Report: Man-made eggshells are made from Calcium Carbonate (CaCo3). The egg whites and egg yolks are made from the following materials: Alginic Acid, Potassium Alum, Gelatin, Calcium Chloride (with water) and artificial coloring.
Man-made eggs are manufactured with chemicals, most importantly through the calcification of Alginic Acid. (Editor’s Note: The actual formula described above for Alginic Acid is C6H8O6 + some form of Na, which we were unable to locate. If anyone has an idea about this particular molecule, feel free to add a comment!). Man-made eggs are basically solidified gel. Most of the ingredients are additives that are regulated under Chinese law. None of these additives have any health benefits; man-made eggs cannot be considered a viable alternative to natural eggs.
Many of the ingredients involved in the manufacture of man-made eggs come in industrial and commercial forms. Considering the extremely low cost price of man-made eggs, it is uncertain what form of these additives the manufacturers are using. Research has shown that long-term consumption of man-made eggs can lead to memory-loss and dementia.
More Evidence to Examine
In this story, the journalist follows the trail of one of the ads to a man in Shandong who claims to be the “Father of Man-made eggs”. The man, never named, tells how he charges 800RMB (US$120) per student. In his classes, the “Father” teaches how to make the egg-shell (the most important part of the process) as well as the yolk and white. According to the report, the man has taught college graduates as well as peasants and enjoys a comfortable living — safe from the authorities or anyone else — teaching down and out Chinese how to make fake eggs and get rich.
What a Fake Egg Ad Looks Like
Perhaps most damning and most appalling are the ads themselves, which describe the ease with which one can make 400RMB (~USD$80) per day manufacturing eggs. The ads give tips on whereand how to sell the eggs, which ingredients to use and leave contact information via QQ, web and cell phone for interested parties who want manuals (RMB350 – RMB800) or equipment (RMB400 – RMB1000). Below are a few choice translations from ads we found online.
Chicken: You’re Fired!
Man-Made Eggs a path to riches!
“… Our company has promoted the technology of “Man-Made Eggs with Shells” and trained at least 70,000 people in more than 20 Provinces and cities nationwide. We have a great reputation and excellent economic results, in part due to our performance at the Third Annual New Technology and Product Exhibition, where we won the Gold Medal …
… Total cost for one-on-one training: RMB880; or RMB580 for a manual and a set of equipment for eggshells, egg whites and eggyolks as well as manuals for man-made beef, chicken and five other manuals for man-made products.
Technical secrets are under copyright and any dissemination without permission will be punished!
Below is an excerpt from a rather lengthy ad which you can read in its entirety here.
Question #9: What are the special benefits of your company’s egg manufacturing process?
Answer: As you read above, compared to traditional manufacturing processes, our company offers the following obvious benefits:
- Similarity to Real Eggs Much Greater: not just the shell, but also the yolk and the white, the surface of the egg and the consistency display no difference to the real thing … can be placed along real eggs in the market
- Easy Method: Required level of education very low, no need for special equipment …
- Much Lower Cost of Goods: Only need six different ingredients … cost aprox. 0.05RMB – 0.08RMB
- Much more versatile: Can be used to manufacture goose eggs, pigeon eggs as well as single and double yolks
In a word … this is a new method which will help you grow rich!
It’s important to understand that in developing countries like China, India, and most of Africa, the idea of “bad money” doesn’t exist. When you’re hungry, desperate, and competing with a billion other people, anything goes. For people living in the developed West, there is no justification for lead-based toys, weak steel or man-made eggs, but in the shark-infested oceans of newly capitalist countries like Russia and China, there is no justification for not corrupting oneself to get ahead: ethical behavior will get you respect, even as you drift away into insignificance.