Washed or unwashed, refrigerator or pantry? What’s the best way to store farm eggs to make them last the longest?
One question that many people often ask, is “How to I store my eggs?”
First, let’s talking about washing the eggs – or should I say not washing the eggs.
What?! Not wash eggs?
Yes, you read that right. It may be very surprising to most people that you really don’t need to wash eggs. As a matter of fact, it is better if you don’t.
Let me explain.
You see, when an egg is laid by a chicken, the hen’s body puts a natural coating on that egg called the “bloom” or the “cuticle.” This bloom is like a coat of armor for that egg. An egg’s shell is not solid as most people think. It is actually porous. Those invisible-to-the-eye pores allow air, moisture and bacteria to travel through the shell. The bloom keeps that from happening. That is how a baby chick is protected during the three weeks it takes to hatch from that egg.
When an egg is washed, that protective barrier is removed, leaving the egg vulnerable to contamination.
So my first bit of advice: If at all possible, don’t wash your eggs.
I know, you are probably wondering how to keep the eggs clean, right? Well, it all starts with keeping the chicken coop and especially the nesting boxes clean. Let’s start there and work our way out.
- Check the nesting boxes daily and clean if needed.
- Clean the coop on a regular basis, and make sure nothing gets tracked into the nesting boxes from the coop floor.
- When the weather is rainy, I toss down a layer of straw outside the coop to keep the chickens from tracking mud into the coop.
By reducing the chances of anything getting tracked into the nesting boxes, it reduces the chances of the eggs getting dirty to begin with.
Now things do happen and you may occasionally get a smudge on an egg. I’d suggest waiting to clean it until you are about to use the egg, but if that idea gives you the heebie-jeebies, I understand.
To clean the egg, gently scrub the smudge with a dry scrubby sponge, a toothbrush/fingernail brush, a paper towel or other gently abrasive surface. If that is not enough, then you can rinse it under water, but the water MUST be at least 20 degrees warmer than the egg. Again, the shell is porous. If the water is colder than the egg, the egg will contract as it cools and draw in anything (like bacteria) from the outside to the inside. That’s a recipe for disaster.
Cleaning the egg does compromise the bloom, so you will have to refrigerate the eggs once washed, whether done with the dry or wet methods above.
That brings us to…
It’s not at all unusual to go into a store in Europe and see eggs on the shelf right next to the bread. Why? Well, a major factor in that is the institutional/commercial way most eggs are “grown” in the United States…that are banned in Europe. Because the chickens in Europe tend to live in more natural environments rather in the 25-46,000 chicken warehouses that are prevalent here. (That’s forty-six thousand chickens per building.) So right off the bat, the eggs are cleaner to begin with because they aren’t living in those conditions. (Article: What are Pastured Eggs?)
An unwashed chicken egg, that still has its bloom in tact, doesn’t have to be refrigerated. Now that said, refrigerating an egg will make it last longer. (See: How do I know if an Egg is Good or Bad?)
If you refrigerate your eggs, keep in mind that like stated above, those egg shells are porous. So if your refrigerator is storing something really strong and smelly, your eggs may take on the smell or flavor of whatever you have in your fridge. That is going to effect the flavor of your eggs.
So here is what I suggest to keep your eggs the freshest longest:
- If at all possible, don’t wash your eggs, or at least wait until the last minute.
- Store your eggs in the refrigerator if you don’t plan on using them within a few days of purchasing or collecting them.
- When you store your eggs, they are best stored in an air-tight container, and should be stored point down (air sack up.)
There you go!
These tips are all for the storage of eggs that you plan to consume. If you are collecting eggs and plan to put them in an incubator, that’s a whole ‘nother story.
To read about a very extensive study that was done about egg storage, check out this article from Mother Earth News.