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Farm Fresh | Summer 2013 Out Here Magazine

Fresh Eggs - Tractor Supply Co.
Eggs don't require refrigeration, but one day of room temperature equals about a week refrigerated, so if you aren't eating your eggs quickly, keep them cool.

Store eggs correctly so they remain safe and tasty

By Lisa Steele

The average egg in the grocery store may be up to six weeks old by the time you buy it, so one of the benefits of raising your own chickens is having the freshest of eggs all the time. But many new backyard chicken farmers aren't sure how to handle and store eggs correctly so they remain safe to eat.

Most assume that eggs should be washed as soon as they're gathered. Not so. In fact, you shouldn't wash eggs until just before using them. Each egg has a natural bloom on the surface of the shell that keeps out air and bacteria, and it's crucial to leave the bloom intact so your eggs stay fresh.

You can help ensure that eggs are relatively clean and not caked with mud or excrement by keeping the nesting box clean and the eggs gathered.

The nesting box bedding should be changed often, and the eggs collected as often as possible — preferably several times a day, but at least once daily — to prevent breakage, freezing in the winter, or possible egg eating by the hens.

Eggs don't necessarily need to be refrigerated, but one day left out on the counter at room temperature is equivalent to about a week in the refrigerator, so if you aren't planning to eat your eggs for a while, it is best to refrigerate them.

Washed eggs will last at least two months in the refrigerator, but won't taste as fresh as unwashed eggs of the same age. Unwashed eggs will last at least two weeks on the counter and three months or more in the refrigerator.

The decision to refrigerate or not really is a personal one. In England, Ireland, and many European countries, eggs aren't refrigerated even at the grocery store.

If you choose to leave a bowl of beautiful eggs on the counter as a visual reminder of the wonderful farm life you lead, just be sure to use those first, before the eggs you have refrigerated.

Use the washed eggs immediately, because you have now removed the bloom, allowing air and bacteria to easily enter the egg.

Eggs should always be stored with the pointy end down and the blunt end up. The air sac in the blunt end helps keep additional moisture from being lost.

If the eggs you have gathered are dirty and must be washed, rinse them immediately with warm water that is at least 10 degrees warmer than the egg; cool water can cause bacteria to be drawn into the egg through the pores in the shell.

Use the washed eggs immediately, because you have now removed the bloom, allowing air and bacteria to easily enter the egg.

If you're not sure if an egg is fresh enough to eat — perhaps you found some eggs that one of your free-range hens laid under a bush or behind a bale of hay — do the "float test" by dropping the egg into a glass of water.

  • A very fresh egg will lay on the bottom of the glass.
  • A two- or three-week-old egg will start to rise up off the bottom of the glass, as air begins to penetrate the shell and the air sac inside enlarges, making the egg buoyant. That egg is still perfectly good to eat, just not quite as fresh.
  • An egg that is four-six weeks old will start to angle up a bit more and by three months will stand up straight in the glass. However, as long as one end of the egg is still touching the bottom, that egg is still perfectly good to eat.
  • If an egg floats, toss it. It's no good.

Lisa Steele, a fifth-generation chicken keeper, has raised chickens and ducks on her Virginia farm for five years.