Safe Egg Handling Practices

What are the best ways to store your farm fresh safely and how can you make sure you are properly handling your eggs? Let’s find out!

Whether you are a backyard hobby homesteader or an avid homesteader on your journey to live off-grid, these are the homesteading articles you want to be reading.

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.

The three digits you see on egg cartons is called the Julian Date. It tells you how old the eggs are. 001 stands for January 1st and 365 stands for December 31st.
The three digits you see on egg cartons is called the Julian Date. It tells you how old the eggs are. 001 stands for January 1st and 365 stands for December 31st.

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 Puddlethey could use a good washing before anyone would want them.

Learn more about the differences between farm fresh eggs and store bought.

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.

People are passionate about how they choose to store their freshly collected eggs. Cultural and generational differences sway views. Lets talk egg safety.

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    Hi Jessica
    I very much appreciate your blog. Humorous and informative! We raise both meat and egg birds. My husband’s flock. He usually hangs onto the meat birds longer than most and so our egg numbers can be as many as two dozen a day. Double yolks common with the meat birds and triple yolks on occasion .
    Regarding egg handling practices, I separate clean from dirty eggs when collecting them. Soiled eggs get a dry rub cleaning, clean ones get a smile . . 🙂 All sit on my counter until used or bartered with neighbours who have food items I want. Bartered eggs go into recycled egg cartons. Because we run roosters with our hens I crack eggs into a small dish before adding them to anything.
    My husband and I cannot consume as many eggs as we keep, but I raise Yorkshire Terrier and Miniature Schnauzer dogs and feed eight cooked (scrambled) eggs morning and night as part of their soft diet. I have very healthy dogs!!
    A side note:
    Best before date in the commercial world of food production means best before . . not rotten the day after!! We have friends who won’t eat anything not dated . . . but smoke . . . Big Money Buys Brains!!
    Thanks again for your blog.

  2. We don’t wash ours…. My hubby has been paranoid that the eggs shelf life would be compromised so has been putting them in the fridge… After this I think we will leave them out of the fridge from now on! Thanks for the post!

  3. Katrina C. says:

    HI! We are new to chickens this year so I am really enjoying reading all the different opinions on storage. Right now we have 23 hens that are around six months old that I believe are all producing. We are getting around 18 eggs per day. We have told our daughter that she can sell the eggs and use that money to pay for feed for her 4H projects but it is one of her chores to take care of the chickens.
    Our question is this…. I have read that using mineral oil on eggs will make the eggs last longer, especially if the eggs have been washed. Would you suggest or recommend this? Also, we have now made a road sign for “Fresh Eggs for Sale”. We would like to put a container by the road to put the eggs in for customers to have a self service. What would you suggest we use for this container.

    1. Jessica Lane says:

      Mineral oil will extend the shelf life of eggs significantly. I wouldn’t worry about it until next year, though, when your hens may reduce their output during the winter. They should continue to lay steadily this year, but at two they start to have trouble with the shorter days.

      We’ve found that a cooler works great for an honor system egg container. My husband secured a coffee can with screw-on lid to the side so it’s harder for people to steal the funds.