Psstt.. every Wednesday I write a post called “Why I” and last week I wrote one on Why I Chose the RIE Method of Parenting — just in case you missed it.
I remember the first time I had been exposed to non-refrigerated eggs and I was a bit shocked. “I have to run an errand before I go home, will these eggs be okay until I get home or should I drop them off first?” The farmer replied, “Oh you’re totally fine. You don’t even need to refrigerate them.”
Whhhhaaattt?? I thought to myself. How could I not need to refrigerate eggs?
Turns out, Mother Nature has an awesome trick up her sleeve, again, which is why I don’t refrigerate my backyard eggs. #GoMotherNature
Before the egg releases from the chicken’s vent (yes, the same place she goes pee and poo), a natural antibacterial mucus membrane coats the entire surface of the egg. This membrane is called the bloom. The reason a chicken’s body naturally does this is because an egg is actually super porous — having anywhere from 7-17,000 air pockets all over the egg! (source)
It wasn’t until I actually had chickens that I could see this process happen. Curiosity naturally got the best of me so when my chickens starting laying their first eggs, I stayed inside the coop to see exactly what happens from start to finish. What I noticed is when the egg drops from the vent (for this reason, I love using mats like this under the hay — FYI) it actually is wet; this wetness is the bloom. Within a few seconds, the bloom dries and the chicken takes a few pieces of hay, puts it behind her like it’s her nest she’s covering up and walks away to get some water.
The bloom works in protecting the freshness of the egg. It makes sense now that we know an egg is porous. If the bloom wasn’t there, lots of air can get inside the egg causing it to go rancid much more quickly.
I’m sure the bloom also plays a roll in keeping fertilized eggs safe and airtight, so a chick can form in a healthy manner.
So Why Are Store Bought Eggs Refrigerated?
Well there is one huge thing that I do differently than farmers who sell their eggs to stores: I don’t wash mine.
Generally, my eggs are really clean so there is no need to wash them. With the hotter weather we’re having, I seem to be having more “dirty” eggs. The dirty isn’t because when the hen lays an egg, her poop comes out with it; it’s because she has poop on the feathers below her vent which the egg hits before falling into the nest. I think it’s because their poop is more runny because of how much water they are drinking to stay cool. Not sure if that’s actually true but it seems like the only logical thing to explain why it’s happening.
Anyway, back to the washing. Since I don’t wash a majority of my eggs, the natural bloom stays intact. With the bloom still intact, there is no need to keep them in the refrigerator to keep them “fresh” — the bloom naturally does that for me.
If my eggs are a little dirty I wash them, lay them out to dry, and then place in them in the refrigerator or use them right away. With no bloom, the eggs are susceptible to not being “air-tight” and losing their freshness rather quickly.
The Need To Wash Eggs in the Industrial Setting
It’s no secret now that eggs which come from industrial commercial farm settings are way less superior than eggs coming from your own backyard or a trusted farmer. But just to re-summarize exactly why industrial eggs are far less superior here are two major points to consider:
- Hens are in dirty, cramped living conditions — Even though the natural movement has put more awareness on chickens being in pasture where they belong, there is still a huge majority of eggs that are being produced from chickens in cages. The chickens have no room to express their natural chicken-ness and are stuck to the confinement of a small cage where they sit in their own urine and feces. Who knows how often those cages are actually cleaned? As you can imagine, the eggs are probably extremely dirty and it’s an absolute MUST to wash them.
- Industrial eggs may use a chemical rinse — Since washing them is necessary, industrial settings may use a chemical wash to make sure all the bacteria and nasty stuff is off of their eggs. Do you see the problem here? Since we know the egg is porous, the issue with using a chemical rinse is that the chemicals actually seep into the egg. So, not only do we have eggs that came from unhappy, sick hens in cramped living conditions; the eggs are then washed in chemicals for us to eat and then “sealed” with a mineral oil coating (this tries to mimic the bloom).
Since nothing is ever as good as what Nature creates, you can’t assume that just because an egg has the mineral coating that it is okay to leave them outside of the refrigerator. I’m sure there are still chances of the egg being susceptible to airborne diseases which is why they immediately need to go into the refrigerator.
Can I Leave Eggs from the Farmer Out After They Have Been Refrigerated?
Say your farmer pastures their chickens and gives them the life they should have but refrigerates their eggs. Can you leave them out on the counter? Probably not.
If we think logically, once you remove the egg from the refrigerator it will sweat. So even if the farmer hasn’t necessarily washed the bloom off of the egg, by allowing the egg to sweat on the counter, it probably removes the bloom (almost in the same sense as washing) and the egg is no longer protected — air can free flow into the pores and cause freshness to drop.
How Long Can Unwashed Eggs be Left on the Counter?
We go through eggs at a rapid pace so they never sit on my counter longer than 2 weeks.
Some people say they can last up to a couple months on the counter and some say they only last 2 weeks. I say do whatever you’re comfortable with. If you’re concerned about your egg being fresh or not, you can do the float test to determine freshness.
If you’re still worried about whether or not you should refrigerate your eggs, I say stick with the way the eggs were received. If they were given to you refrigerated, keep them in the refrigerator. If they were not refrigerated, keep them on the counter.