Welcome to yet another controversial poultry topic. Egg safety. People are passionate about how they choose to store their freshly collected eggs. Do cultural differences play a part in the decision you make? Do new chicken owners with no guide to pass down the skills make different decisions than someone who has a family that raised chickens for years? Let’s talk egg safety.
(U.S.) FDA Requirements for Egg Handling Safety
The FDA guidelines state that you should only purchase eggs that have been stored in a refrigerated unit, keep refrigerated when you get it home and use within three weeks. Store eggs only in the original packaging and never reuse egg cartons. Commercial sellers of eggs must complete an intensive washing program before their eggs can hit the shelves. Hence, the temperature concerns.
On the FDA website, they’ve even been kind enough to create a little video on how to keep your eggs cold when traveling to a picnic. Well isn’t that just sweet?! Basically, to wrap up the U.S.’s standpoint: Cold, cold, cold! Don’t forget, they are also selling us old eggs (hence the use within 3 weeks) and recycle your container, but don’t think about reusing it.
European FSA on Egg Handling Safety
I absolutely love that on the European Food Safety site, the first thing they say is Eggs are Overwhelmingly Safe to Eat. The U.S. scares you right off the back with Salmonella risks, but I digress… If you enter any European market place you will see eggs not in the coolers, but in an aisle next to the bread. Not only are they not chilled, but they haven’t seen so much as a sponge since they left the farm. What?!? Dirty room temperature eggs!
The European FSA’s position is…
Eggs should not be washed or cleaned because such practices can cause damage to the egg-shell, which is an effective barrier to bacterial ingress with an array of antimicrobial properties. However, some practices, such as the treatment of eggs with ultra-violet rays, should not be interpreted as constituting a cleaning process. Moreover, Class A eggs should not be washed because of the potential damage to the physical barriers, such as the cuticle, which can occur during or after washing. Such damage may favour trans-shell contamination with bacteria and moisture loss and thereby increase the risk to consumers, particularly if subsequent drying and storage conditions are not optimal.
Mark Williams (Chief Executive of the British Egg Industry Council) shared his viewpoint that the FSA standards encourage good husbandry on farms because it’s in the farmer’s best interest to produce the cleanest eggs possible, as no one is going to buy their eggs if they’re dirty. A valid point indeed.
Generations of Wisdom
On a similar token, worldwide farmers in history didn’t refrigerate or wash eggs. When you have a small ice box, other things take precedent. It is only in fairly recent history that people started washing and refrigerating eggs. The reason for one was brought on by the other. If you wash eggs (removing a protective bloom) than they must be refrigerated. If you want to refrigerate, you’ll often wash to protect other foods from bacteria present on the shell.
How do you store your eggs?
I collect my eggs two or three times a day and pop them right into my cute crochet chicken basket sitting on the counter-top. Once the basket starts to overflow, I pop them in reused fiber cartons (sorted by color for customers with a love or hatred for certain colors) and left on the pantry shelf until purchase. Am I breaking the law? Oh heck yeah (but please don’t turn me in).
These are the cartons I started with and my wonderful customers keep on returning them so I haven’t had to buy more in the last three years.
All new customers that come to my home get washed and refrigerated eggs. After building a rapport with them, I discuss my feelings on egg storage. Most often they ask to try a carton unwashed and room temperature. They never ask to go back to the old way. When I sell my eggs to the health food stores, however, I must follow FDA protocol and wash and refrigerate all eggs. Thankfully I am only selling duck eggs through the health food store at this time and really, after digging them up from the mud (thanks Puddle) they could use a good washing before anyone would want them.
Please Note: Once an egg has been refrigerated, it must stay refrigerated.
Otherwise bacteria can enter the egg when it “sweats”.
So how do you store your eggs? Let me know in the comments below.