One of the first questions I had when starting to raise chickens was why aren’t eggs refrigerated? Another question was how long will eggs last on the counter? After doing some research and experiencing gathering my own chicken’s eggs, I have found my answers and they surprise even me!
Why aren’t eggs refrigerated?
Eggs that are laid fresh from the chickens still contain the bloom or the protective covering. The bloom is the natural covering or coating on the eggshell that seals the eggshell pores. The coating prevents any bacteria from getting into the egg and keeps moisture from escaping outside the eggshell. The bloom helps the egg to have a longer shelf life and keeps the inside nice and moist.
On a commercial farm, eggs are gathered and sanitized right after being laid. This removes the natural bloom on the eggs. Sometimes they will spray the shells with a thin layer of mineral oil to try to replace the removed bloom, which creates a shine on the eggs. Then the eggs are sold to a store and are bought by consumers. Did you know that this whole process can take up to NINE weeks before the eggs are sold and brought home to your refrigerator? Yikes!
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Yes, shiny eggs look nice and they are beautiful when they are cleaned. But that’s just not how natural farm life occurs. I like my eggs nice and fresh. But, sometimes when I gather eggs, there’s poop smeared all over it. Welcome to farm life! Eggs can be dirty for a variety of reasons (namely, the chicken’s butt is dirty). And if you are selling your eggs to people who don’t have their own farm, they may not understand why their eggs are dirty.
However, leaving the natural bloom on the egg is the best method to preserve and keep your eggs. If you pick out dirty eggs, i.e. they are a little poopy, use a dry cloth to wipe the poop off. If it won’t come off easily, simply don’t sell the egg and add the egg to the front of your egg stash. Before using eggs that have poop or dirt on them, it’s good practice to wash the eggs before eating.
In addition, for any eggs fresh out of the nest that may have shavings or feathers on them, simply brush them off. This won’t harm the bloom.
How Long Do Eggs Last on the Counter?
Unwashed eggs that still have the bloom can last up to two to three months. Isn’t that amazing? However, when the bloom is washed off of the egg, the egg cannot last more than 45 minutes on the counter without beginning to develop salmonella.
My husband grew up in Mexico. In Mexico, it is normal to leave your eggs on the counter. It’s only in the United States that producers are required to wash eggs before sale. In fact, most European countries require producers to leave the natural bloom on the egg and they leave their eggs out on the counter.
So what happens if you don’t wash the bloom off the egg and still refrigerate them? That’s actually the best way to keep and store the eggs. After about a week on the counter, move the eggs into the fridge if they aren’t going to be eaten right away. Store the eggs on the bottom shelf, with the pointed end down in the carton.
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Sometimes I’m not sure how long I’ve kept the eggs out on the counter. I’ll be honest, they may have been sitting out for 2-3 weeks before I get around to eating them. If you aren’t sure if the egg is still good, try the float test.
Simply place the egg in a glass water. If the egg sinks to the bottom, you have a fresh egg. If the egg is floating in the middle of the glass, the egg is still good, just not as fresh as it could be. Any eggs that float on the top of the water should be thrown out as those are no good.
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How to Clean Your Eggs
So long as the egg is not washed, the bloom remains intact. As soon as the egg is washed, the bloom is removed. Washing the eggs will immediately remove the protective coating.
Safe practices to wash the eggs is to never use soap, bleach, or any other chemical. Once you remove the bloom, any of these substances can seep into the egg, which will contaminate it. Also, do not use cold water to wash the eggs. Using cold water will cause the egg to pull any bacteria into the egg even quicker.
When washing the eggs, use warm water that is at least 90 degrees. Warm water causes the contents of the egg to expand and push out any dirt or contaminants away from the pores of the shell.
Don’t soak the eggs in either cold or warm water. This will encourage the egg to soak in any contaminants quickly.
If you are going to be refrigerating eggs and you have washed the eggs, it is best to dry them. Do not put the eggs away wet. Wet eggs will encourage the growth of bacteria.
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Methods to Gathering Clean Eggs
If you are raising your own backyard chickens, try these simple tips to getting clean eggs out of the coop:
- Collect eggs often. This keeps the eggs from getting dirty from other chickens stepping around the eggs. Try gathering the eggs twice a day, if possible. In the winter, try gathering the eggs more often to prevent the eggs from freezing.
- Make sure that the roost is built higher than the nesting boxes. This will ensure that the chickens roost away from the nests. Chickens poop in their sleep, a lot.
- Keep the coop clean. Keeping the coop clean will ensure that the chickens are not walking around in their own poop and spreading fecal matter around.
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As long as the bloom is maintained on the egg, don’t worry about refrigerating the eggs if you know that they will be eaten relatively quickly. If you have an overabundance of eggs, it may be safe practice to keep the eggs in the fridge for your own peace of mind. What about you? Do you keep your eggs on the counter or in the fridge?
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