Eton free-range egg producer discovers ‘entire egg inside another’ in rare poultry phenomenon

An extra-large egg laid at a free-range farm in North Queensland has been found with a cracking surprise inside — another egg.

Eton farmer Deb McLucas was grading eggs when she put one aside to investigate as it was so large it wouldn’t fit in their boxes.

“We saw this particularly large egg, and anything a bit different we always like to crack those ones and see what’s going on inside,” Ms McLucas said.

The farm had recently welcomed a new flock of 1,000 pullets (young hens) in response to the surging demand for locally grown eggs during COVID-19.

Ms McLucas said it was one of these hens which likely created the exceptional find.

“[Young hens] are when you get the most double yolkers as well because their hormonal systems are not quite in sync.

“They’re still getting the hang of producing the egg and knowing exactly when to put that shell around.”

Grading about 10,000 eggs each week, farmer Deb McLucas says it is not the first odd egg find.(ABC Rural: Melanie Groves)

Extra-large egg is no ‘yolk’

In the six years that Ms McLucas has been farming free-range chickens, this is the second time a double-shelled egg has been found.

Ms McLucas and staff grade about 10,000 eggs every week, which are sold locally at shops and markets.

But don’t expect to see a double-shelled egg in your supermarket any time soon — the egg was so large it didn’t even make it to the grader.

three low tin sheds in the background with red hens foraging across a grassy field.
A young pullet on the farm is likely responsible for the discovery.(ABC Rural: Melanie Groves)

On a grading table, a light would normally shine through the shell to check the quality and spot any issues before being sold to the public.

“We’re pretty experienced at identifying these things now,” Ms McLucas said.

“You get to know what’s going to be different and what it might be, so that’s how it got put aside.

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Call for Tasmanian central sperm and egg donor register, for donor-conceived children’s ‘right to know’

Lottie Frohmader, 17, has always known she was conceived with sperm from a donor.

“I don’t think there was a moment where Mum sat me down and said ‘you’re donor conceived’, I just always knew,” she said.

“Maybe I didn’t understand the ins and outs of it, but I always knew I had a mum and didn’t have a dad.

“I had a donor.”

But while Ms Frohmader has always been completely comfortable and proud of her heritage, she said she has had a lingering curiosity about her biological father.

“But also there’s that human curiosity of wanting to know and finding out — does he look like me? Does he have similar interests to me?”

Lottie’s mother Carolyn Frohmader has always been upfront about Lottie’s conception through a sperm donor.(ABC News: Mitchell Woolnough)

Since 2004, the national guidelines around Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) have ensured donors can no longer remain anonymous.

Under the guidelines, once donor-conceived individuals turn 18, they can access records of their egg or sperm donor’s identity.

Ms Frohmader was born in 2002, but TasIVF, one of the state’s two dedicated fertility clinics, has been applying the same rules since 2002.

Lottie, a grade 12 student, plans to find out her donor’s identity as soon as she turns 18.

“I’ve always been told he’s open to contact when I turn 18. I’m a little bit impatient, I really want to find out. I’m a little bit nervous, but more excited.

She said she was open to having a relationship, but said her donor would be nothing like a father figure for her.

“My mum is amazing and she has taken on the role of a mum and dad, but I think it would be really nice to keep an ongoing friendship with him if he was keen.”

Scrolling social media to find someone who looks similar

Ms Frohmader, an only child, said one of the things that was most important to her was finding her donor siblings.

“I didn’t even think I had siblings until my mum found out from TasIVF that there’s seven of us in total.”

She said she can know their ages and their genders but “can’t find out anything more about them”.

Bill Watkins in his office
Fertility specialist Bill Watkins is urging sperm donors to come forward and reveal their identities.(ABC News: Mitchell Woolnough)

In Tasmania, sperm donors can donate to a maximum of five families, but the same family can have numerous children from the one donor.

Ms Frohmader said unfortunately she may never get to know her half brothers and sisters.

“It’s really complicated, I’m privileged enough to have always known I was donor-conceived but I’m sure that some of the siblings, their parents may not have even told them. And even though I really want to know them, I want to be respectful of them and not cause them any distress.”

Ms Frohmader said she was always on the look out for people who look like her, because she knows she has a half-sister who is a similar age.

“There’s been times when I’ve been scrolling through Facebook and trying to see if someone looks a bit like me or is similar to me, but it’s hasn’t really come to anything.”

She believes there should be a dedicated sperm and donor registry in Tasmania, that donor-conceived individuals could turn to for support, education and information.

“Just to have support and guidance about my siblings, or how to go about finding them or potentially even meeting them,” she said.

“In other states there’s a centralised registry, but here there’s no way really for me to ever find out.”

Fertility specialist Bill Watkins is supportive of the idea of having a central sperm and egg donor register, which was recommended by a parliamentary inquiry in 2017.

“It means that as other clinics open and there’s more sources of this data, that there’s somewhere central to store it,” he said.

Dr Watkins said the issue of donor-conceived individuals wanting to know donor siblings was complex.

“That can be an issue … but children tend not to necessarily want to know who their parents, who their siblings are, they’re much more excited about that.”

Many Tasmanians still searching for answers

In Tasmania there is still no legislation around donor conception and no central register for sperm and egg donors, with fertility clinics instead relying on a set of national guidelines.

That is despite the recommendations of the parliamentary inquiry which stated “donor conception practices should be legislated as a matter of urgency, to establish the rights of all donors and donor‐conceived persons and to remove the reliance on a set of guidelines applicable to only post-2004 individuals”.

The Lower House Committee also recommended the establishment of a central authority to manage all information, counselling and research services in relation to donor conception.

Andrea Peace on play equipment with her two year old daughter Madison
Andrea Peace is frustrated she is in the dark about her daughter Madison’s medical history.(Supplied: Rudy De Santis)

Andrea Peace is one of the many donor conceived individuals in Tasmania who gave evidence to the inquiry and said it was deeply disappointing.

“I think the recommendations were very well considered and quite fair, they would have brought Tasmania in line with other states.”

Ms Peace was born in 1983, when donors could remain anonymous. Now 36, she’s still in the dark about her biological father’s identity.

She said the issue became really important to her when she became pregnant with her two-year-old daughter Madison.

“The first question the hospital asked me was ‘tell us about your medical history’ and I couldn’t tell them half of [it] and I still can’t, which is really difficult. I definitely feel for my daughter and my future offspring.”

While TasIVF made attempts to seek information from her donor, it was unsuccessful.

“They actually were able to contact my donor, I had been really hopeful that he would want contact with me but unfortunately his decision has been that he would prefer not to have contact.

“I know that he’s out there which is somewhat reassuring and I’m very hopeful that one day I will be able to meet him.”

Lara Giddings and two-year-old daughter Natasha at the beach
Former Tasmanian premier Lara Giddings’ two-year-old daughter Natasha was conceived with a donated egg.(ABC News: Annah Fromberg)

Recommendations yet to be implemented

Former Tasmanian premier and Labor MP Lara Giddings was on the parliamentary committee and said it was sad the “urgent” recommendations had not been implemented.

“Right now, there is no law in place in Tasmania at all, it is just national guidelines; that just does not give the level of strength and certainty that’s required for donor-conceived children that they will have access to information they deserve to know.”

Ms Giddings, now the chief executive officer of the Australian Medical Association in Tasmania, said she was not speaking on behalf of the AMA, but as a former MP and mother of a donor-conceived child.

Just over two years ago, she and her partner had a daughter, Natasha, with the help of an egg donor.

Ms Giddings said she planned to tell Natasha about her conception at about four or five, so it is her “norm” growing up.

“She might want to know more about her donor in years to come, or there might be a relationship between her and her donor, but I will always be her mother.

“People shouldn’t be frightened of losing their relationship with their child because the child starts to know who their donor was.”

Ms Giddings said she believed the recommendations were yet to be adopted because of the money it would cost to set up a sperm and egg donor register.

“Victoria has the Rolls Royce model, which really we should be looking at, or joining to, if the Victorians will allow us.

“They have a central registry, they have a system that has all these emotional supports around it as well.”

Dr Sonia Allen smiles and the camera.
Sonia Allen says people who get information through DNA testing are then faced with the question of what to do with it.(Supplied: Dr Sonia Allen)

People turning to ‘DNA detectives’

Sonia Allan has been looking at the regulatory issues around assisted reproduction for nearly two decades and also gave evidence to Tasmania’s parliamentary inquiry.

She said without a central register, people were forced to go to extreme lengths to track down their donor, using DNA testing websites.

“They have to submit their own DNA … the website will generate matches to people who they are related to and they can swap their information and create what’s called a mirror tree and start to trace their lineage back up and down again.”

Dr Allan said once people had that information, they were still faced with the question of “what do I do with this?” — with some going on to hire “DNA detectives” to help them track down relatives.

“They call themselves DNA detectives because it’s not a simple process, it’s really difficult,” she said, adding people then asked themselves “do I make an approach, how do I make an approach, will I get rejected?”

Dr Allan said Tasmania was lagging behind other states when it came to a legislative framework and a central sperm and egg donor register.

She said fertility clinics were not best placed to manage the process because it was not their core business.

“What I’ve found over the years is different clinicians, different people who worked in the same practice, have different views about whether or not that information should be made available and how it’s made available.”

In a statement, a spokesman for the Tasmanian Government said it was continuing to consider the recommendations of the inquiry.

“It is important to note that, since 2004, donor conception practices have been required to operate in accordance with the National Health and Medical Research Council’s Ethical Guidelines on the use of Assisted Reproductive Technology in clinical practice and research, including having consent to information sharing prior to procedures being undertaken,” the spokesman said.

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