I recently experienced something of a meltdown in the egg aisle at the supermarket over which kind of eggs to buy. After much consideration, I finally settled on the eggs I wanted (organic, free-range, and cage-free), when I discovered another problem.

The next time I opened an egg carton at the store, there was an egg missing.

Having been the victim of covert cracked eggs in the past, I always open the egg cartons before I buy them to make sure all of the eggs inside are intact. But this time when I looked in the carton, the issue was not a cracked egg, but a lack of an egg.

“Excuse me,” I said to a store employee passing by. “Do you know why one egg is missing from this carton?”

“It’s not my aisle,” he said dismissively and pushed his cart away.

I was stunned. I would think a store employee would be very concerned about a possible egg theft. If word got out there could be wide-spread panic. Unless it hadn’t been stolen. I mean, why would someone steal only one egg? I guess it was possible they needed just one egg for a recipe but didn’t want a whole dozen. However, since you can’t buy just one egg, I figured they must have had to pocket it. But how do you get an egg out of the supermarket without cracking it? I thought of all the ways someone could smuggle an egg out of the store and decided that it truly wasn’t worth the chance of being caught and then ostracized by society for being a supermarket egg stealer.

Plus, there was always the chance the egg would crack and you’d get yolk in your pocket, which to me, was a worse consequence than being thought of as an egg-stealing idiot.

Of course, there was always the chance that this was a new money-making ploy by the egg industry. There were plenty of reports of cereal makers quietly making their boxes smaller and soup companies putting less soup in the can, but charging you the same price as before. This is hard to get away with in the case of eggs, however, when you consider the design of an egg carton. For this reason, I thought it was improbable that this was a new sales strategy and instead, was more likely a random egg-napping.

Meanwhile, back in the egg aisle, I was concerned that this might not just be a single case of an egg being stolen, and worried that there might be a serial egg stealer in my community. I quickly started opening the other cartons to make sure, and was relieved to discover that all the other cartons held a dozen eggs.

Still, I felt compelled to call attention to this situation and flagged down another store employee.

“Excuse me,” I repeated. “Do you know why there is one egg missing from this carton?”

He thought for a moment and then replied.

“Maybe the chicken only laid 11 of ‘em.”

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