Mar 15, 2017

Why I Refrigerate Our Chickens' Eggs

Maybe you've seen them - the homesteading posts explaining why you don't need to refrigerate chicken eggs. They are everywhere, it seems. And yes, those posts are right. But I still refrigerate our hens' eggs. Here's why.

Why Eggs Don't Need Refrigerating

As I mentioned in my post on why I don't wash our chickens' eggs, the FDA requires commercial eggs be washed before they are sold; this destroys the natural bloom on eggs, which normally would protect the edible part from bacterial contamination. Theoretically, refrigeration helps keeps commercial eggs from making us sick - but refrigeration itself can be problematic. In fact, the European Union forbids egg refrigeration because if a consumer buys refrigerated eggs, then carries them home, more than likely those eggs will develop condensation - which attracts and breeds bacteria.

But...if you don't wash your eggs until just before you're ready to cook them, the protective bloom on those eggs stays in place, So, the argument goes, there's no need to refrigerate eggs. Especially eggs from backyard flocks, where the risk of salmonella is low. ("In fact, the likelihood of getting salmonellosis is greater with other pets than with poultry," claims the website of the University extension system.)

So yep, that's right; you can leave eggs on the counter, and they are perfectly safe to eat. The European Union recommends grocery stores keep eggs between the temperatures of 66.2 degrees F to 73.4 degrees F. - easily done at home, except on the hottest days.

But Why Did Our Ancestors Preserve Eggs?

So if eggs don't require refrigeration, why did our ancestors preserve eggs in lime or waterglass (liquid sodium silicate)? For that matter, in days gone by, why was it common practice to keep eggs in a cool cellar?

The answer, my friends, is the same reason I refrigerate my family's eggs today: Because we can't eat as many eggs as your hens produced each day, and we know even the best hens don't lay well during the winter. In other words: We have more eggs than we know what to do with during the sunny seasons, but aren't getting many (or any) eggs during the winter.

As it turns out, the whole reason the United States began the tradition of refrigerating eggs is that they are not naturally a year round commodity. Today, commercial farms force hens to lay in the winter by putting them in well lit (and crowded) barns. But before that was standard practice, farmers didn't have eggs to sell in winter. So the extra eggs laid during sunny months were stored in the refrigerator to be sold during the winter months.

Yes, fresh eggs last a long time when refrigerated. I personally have stored them for six months in our fridge, and never found a bad egg.






So rather than buy store bought eggs during the winter, or rather than just doing without during the dark months, I dig into the fridge and have plenty of eggs to last us until our hens start laying again.

P.S.

No matter how you store your eggs - the fridge or on the counter top - it's always smart to check them for freshness before you use them. It's easy to do this with a float test; click here to learn how.

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