To refrigerate or not to refrigerate farm fresh eggs. That’s the question. If you’ve traveled out of the US, you might have noticed that many countries don’t actually keep their eggs in the fridge. Grocery stores throughout Europe keep their egg cartons at room temperature, and it’s the same in many countries around the globe.
That begs the question, do we really have to refrigerate eggs?? It all boils down to three questions: do you wash your eggs, how quickly will you use the eggs, and what are you doing to avoid salmonella?
What You Need to Know About Egg Safety
Chicken eggs are covered in a protective layer called the bloom or the cuticle. This layer keeps harmful bacteria like salmonella out of eggs. The USDA requires that commercially produced eggs are washed right away to protect against salmonella poisoning.
Washing eggs removes the bloom which makes it possible for salmonella to enter the egg. After an egg has been washed, it needs to be refrigerated to keep harmful bacteria out of the egg. This is true for farm fresh eggs, commercially produced eggs, European eggs – all eggs.
In Europe, many hens are vaccinated to protect against salmonella so commercial eggs are not washed right away. That makes it possible for them to be stored at room temperature.
How should you decide what to do? Consider the following three questions to help you make your decision.
- Do you wash your eggs?
Washing or not washing eggs right away is your call. But it is true that refrigerated eggs will last longer than eggs stored at room temperature. Farm fresh eggs have a shelf life of several weeks if left (unwashed) at room temperature and several months if kept cool in the fridge.
Once an egg is put in the fridge, it needs to stay there. Don’t refrigerate an egg and then put it back on the counter.
I personally wash really dirty eggs and put them in the fridge. We all know how dirty eggs can get if a chicken cracks an egg in a nesting box, or during mud season. These really dirty eggs get washed and put in the fridge.
If you’ve concerned about keeping track of dates, you can write the date on the egg (using a pencil) or the egg carton, if you fill one up.
- How quickly will you use your eggs?
I do like to leave some eggs on the counter though. If I know I’ll be using eggs in a week or two, I leave the cleaner eggs on my counter. Room temperature eggs are preferred for baking and eggs on the counter free up room in my fridge, so I do like to have eggs on the counter.
- What’s your salmonella protection plan?
While salmonella isn’t as common in farm fresh eggs as commercial eggs, it is still a risk. Salmonella is definitely an illness you don’t want to get.
To Reduce Your Risk of Salmonella:
- Keep your chicken nesting boxes clean.
- Don’t eat cracked eggs.
- You might consider discarding eggs that have a lot of chicken poop on them as salmonella is transmitted via the poop.
- Rinse your eggs before eating if you don’t refrigerate them.
- Crack your eggs in a separate bowl before incorporating into a recipe, just to make sure it looks ok.
What’s your protocol for farm fresh eggs? Do you wash? Store in the fridge?