Do Farm Fresh Eggs Need To Be Refrigerated (How To Store Fresh Eggs)
If you’ve lived in the US for any length of time, you’ve gone to the grocery store and seen stacks upon stacks of egg cartons in the refrigerated coolers next to milk, butter, and other staples. Many folks who are new to the world of raising chickens are naturally a little nervous about making sure their eggs are safe to eat. That may leave you asking if your eggs need to be refrigerated to stay fresh and delicious.
Do farm fresh eggs need to be refrigerated?
According to Rae Ellen Bichell, a reporter for NPR, refrigerating eggs is actually a phenomenon that is only common in the USA, Australia, Japan, and Scandinavian countries. Eggs are sold around the world in great mounds, from baskets, and in streetside stalls with very few problems. So what does the rest of the world do with their eggs, and how do they protect them from spoiling? Interestingly, most eggs have built-in antibacterial properties that here in the US we wash off.
When a hen lays an egg, it comes with a nearly invisible protective outer layer made of a thin mucous. While that might not sound appealing, this layer has antimicrobial properties and creates a sort of seal that keeps any unpleasantness from creeping into the egg through the pores in its shell. As long as the eggs are unwashed, they can remain unrefrigerated safely for about am month according to the folks at The Happy Chicken Coop.
Why Are Store Bought Eggs Refrigerated?
If eggs are safe to store without refrigeration, it seems strange that companies would pay the extra money to chill them, right? It all comes down to one key word: vaccination. In most European countries, chickens are required to be vaccinated for salmonella. Chickens in the US aren’t, which means that chickens with the illness might lay eggs with a mucous barrier that is also infected.
According to information from Business Insider, factory farming techniques in the US also contribute to salmonella infection risk. Factory chickens are more at risk for illness, partly because of the tight quarters they live in but also because they have less supervision. Sick chickens in a factory sometimes go unnoticed because of the sheer volume of birds.
To prevent customers from accidentally getting salmonella, the USDA requires that certified eggs be washed and refrigerated. Factories give eggs a quick steam bath that washes away the protective barrier along with unwanted particles (chicken droppings) from the egg that could lead to contamination. Farm fresh eggs are much less of a contamination risk, because generally people with a backyard coop have healthier chickens and will notice if one (or more) of the chickens becomes ill.
If you notice that one of your chickens seems exhausted, has a reduced appetite or thirst, or if the chicken’s comb changes color, toss any eggs that it lays. According to My Pet Chicken, these could be signs that your chicken has salmonella. Even if the bird isn’t infected, it’s always best practice to avoid eating eggs from any sick chicken.
How To Store Fresh Eggs
Now that we know it’s safe to keep your eggs unrefrigerated, it’s time to figure out what the heck to do with them. If you’re like most people, you’re so used to keeping eggs in the fridge that you aren’t sure where else you could keep them.
The great news is that you can honestly keep them in just about any container you like. If you feel fancy you can find about a million different reusable cartons, caddies, and weird spiral shaped towers online. You could also just stash them in a basket or dish on your kitchen counter. Fresh Eggs Daily reccommends storing eggs with the pointy end down.
If you do decide to keep your delicious eggs in the fridge, make sure that they stay refrigerated from that point on. For most folks, a month is plenty of time to get around to your eggs. But if you notice that you’re rich in eggs and poor in time to eat them, you can stow them in your fridge to stretch out their freshness.
Farmer’s Almanac reports that the eggs you would normally buy in a store are usually already a month old by the time they land in your shopping cart, and they usually have an expiration date that’s another couple of weeks after that. Chilling your eggs at home gives you about the same amount of shelf life. Additionally, you can freeze eggs and keep them for up to a year. Freezing is a great option to keep you stocked in the winter months when your hens won’t be laying.
Just like with the store bought eggs, if your eggs have been washed they need to be kept in the fridge. Every once in a while, you might get an egg that’s a little yucky on the outside. You can always try to wipe away anything gross with a dry cloth or brush. But sometimes there’s no avoiding washing. To keep your fresh eggs ick-free, it’s a great idea to regularly change out the bedding and clean nesting boxes.
How To Check Eggs For Freshness
If you get a little uneasy about the idea of keeping eggs out of the chilly protection of your fridge, there are a few ways you can set your mind at ease. Southern Living has a couple of great tips on gauging an egg’s freshness. One time tested method (which is on their list) is to drop eggs into cold water. Eggs that fully sink to the bottom are nice and fresh. Eggs that stand on their end are still ok to eat, but they might not taste as good. If the egg floats to the top, it’s past its prime and it’s time to toss.