We all like eggs. We like our eggs scrambles, fried, hard boiled, soft boiled, in an omlette, and in many other ways. However, to eat eggs, they must first be obtained. Most people get their eggs from a store. However, recently there has been a trend of buying food, including eggs, from a farmer’s market or directly from a farm.
While this is of course great for all parties involved, Americans need to know that eggs straight from the farm must be stored differently than store bought eggs. Proper egg storage is important because otherwise eggs can carry foodborne illness.
In America, we store our eggs in the refrigerator. When we go to the store, eggs are stored in a cold environment, next to milk, cheese, and other dairy products. In Europe however, eggs are stored unrefrigerated.
Europeans store their eggs on the countertop. In stores, they are on an unrefrigerated shelf, often near baking supplies. In fact, EU law states that eggs “should in general not be refrigerated before sale to the final consumer.”
This is because cold eggs that are transferred to a warm environment, such as a customer who transports chilled eggs home in their car, will cause condensation do develop, allowing bacteria to grow on the egg and possibly enter the shell.
Bacteria cannot penetrate a dry egg shell, however, so EU regulations focus on keeping the eggs dry. However, in America, the USDA requires produces to wash eggs with warm water to remove possible fecal matter on the eggs.
This washing process, while it does clean the eggs of feces, also destroys the cuticle, which is a layer that the hen applies to an egg right before it is laid that naturally protects it from contamination.
EU lawmakers have decided that the cuticle is sufficient protection against bacterial infestation, and therefore eggs in Europe are not washed. Historically, American manufacturers washed their eggs so they could store them for very long time periods over a year so that stores could stock them year-round, as previously egg production was low in the summer and winter.
If you get your eggs straight from the farm, then they will also not have been washed, and therefore retain the cuticle, meaning that you should store them in a cool, dry place and prevent condensation from forming on them, which would allow bacteria to penetrate the egg.
Do not store unwashed eggs in the refrigerator, as condensation can form on them. As mentioned however, the purpose of washing eggs as the USDA requires is to wash off fecal matter.
However, this is an unlikely occurrence; most eggs do not have fecal matter on them. Whatever you do though, remember to keep safe and eat well.