What type of eggs do you buy and how do you store them? I buy locally produced free range eggs here in England from my fruit and veggie shop where I pick them out of a large tray, packing them into smaller half dozen egg boxes. They sit for sale on a shelf with no refrigeration but sell quickly with new stock arriving every couple of days. I store them in an African craft-made wire basket on my kitchen dresser.
As the two of us get through at least 18 eggs a week
, they really do not stay around long enough for me to worry about shelf life but free range or organic eggs will definitely last for 2 to 3 weeks or longer.
How much of a habit is it to store eggs in the refrigerator?
Although there is absolutely no need to store eggs in the refrigerator outside of the USA, I think many people do because there is always that egg storage place in the door of the fridge which “invites” you to place them there when unpacking your shopping bags. But in much of Europe and the rest of the world, eggs are often stored right on the counter at room temperature just as I do.
If you live in the USA, you probably do store eggs in the refrigerator and there is a reason for this especially if you buy mass produced regular eggs. This is because most eggs from US supermarkets must be refrigerated due to their lack of a protective cuticle, the likelihood of contaminant exposure and the need for longer shelf life.
This lack of a protective cuticle is because of egg-washing – a process unique to the US
Egg washing entails the eggs being scrubbed, rinsed, dried and then sprayed with a chlorine mist which can destroy the natural protective cuticle that the hen provides when laying the egg in the first place, acting as a shield against bacteria. That chlorine mist even contains antimicrobial properties, helping to strip an egg's natural protectant.
But of course man can improve on nature – well he thinks he can
Modern farming methods where huge flocks of tens of thousands of chickens are all crammed together under one roof with no access to the outdoors, poor sanitation and susceptibility to disease, means that these chickens will be much more prone to salmonella bacteria. Many of their eggs are going to have feces and other contaminants on them. The USA gets round the problem by washing the eggs. When the majority of eggs are produced from concentrated animal feeding operations (or CAFOs as they are known) the greater the risk of salmonella contamination becomes.
According to European Union (EU) guidelines
where egg washing is neither allowed nor practised and where they consider the USA egg washing to actually cause damage to the egg, they say:
“Such damage may favor trans-shell contamination with bacteria and moisture loss and thereby increase the risk to consumers, particularly if subsequent drying and storage conditions are not optima
European egg marketing regulations also state that storing eggs in cold storage and then leaving them out at room temperature could lead to condensation, which could promote the growth of bacteria on the shell that could probably get into the egg as well. The EU therefore advises storing eggs at a constant non-refrigerated temperature.
The US solution, rather than reducing the size of the flocks and ensuring better sanitation and access to the outdoors, is to wash the eggs.
How can you change your egg buying and storing habits?
Unfortunately, many (perhaps without too much thought) will choose an inferior egg from a battery chicken that has been feed GM corn, given antibiotics in a fight against rampant disease in unsanitary and even cruel living conditions, and then been washed in a chlorine solution.
If you live in an urban area, visiting the local health food stores is typically the quickest route to finding the high quality local egg sources. Farmers Markets are another great source.
How much better to support your local Farmers Market or health store where you can choose locally produced, free range/ organic eggs and where you can be reasonably sure that the chickens have enjoyed a much happier, healthier life?
It is a win/win solution for everyone.