A panel of experts has unanimously agreed on a question that has baffled us through the ages: which came first, the chicken or the egg?
Their answer? The egg.
Put simply, the reason is down to the fact that genetic material does not change during an animal’s life. Therefore, the first bird that evolved into what we would call a chicken, probably in prehistoric times, must have first existed as an embryo inside an egg.
Professor John Brookfield, a specialist in evolutionary genetics at the University of Nottingham, said the living organism inside the egg shell would have had the same DNA as the chicken it would develop into.
“Therefore, the first living thing which we could say unequivocally was a member of the species would be this first egg,” he said. “So, I would conclude that the egg came first.”
The same conclusion was reached by his fellow panel members, philosopher of science David Papineau at King’s College Lonon, and poultry farmer Charles Bourns.
“Whether chicken eggs preceded chickens hinges on the nature of chicken eggs,” Papineau said.
“I would argue it’s a chicken egg if it has a chicken in it. If a kangaroo laid an egg from which an ostrich hatched, that would surely be an ostrich egg, not a kangaroo egg. By this reasoning, the first chicken did indeed come from a chicken egg, even though that egg didn’t come from chickens.”
Bourns, chairman of trade body Great British Chicken, said he was also firmly in the pro-egg camp. He said: “Eggs were around long before the first chicken arrived. Of course, they may not have been chicken eggs as we see them today, but they were eggs.”