This debate seems to be never ending: do you need to wash your eggs or not? Ultimately, it depends on how clean your eggs are naturally and whether or not you sell your eggs.
When an egg is laid, it is covered in a liquid membrane called the ‘bloom’ to protect the shell from absorbing bacteria and contaminating the egg. With this shield intact, the egg does not need to be refrigerated and can sit at room temperature for 1-2 weeks. Lightly brushing the egg with a dry cloth to remove any dirt or manure would not damage the bloom; however washing the egg with water would remove that shield. If your eggs are especially dirty, you would want to wash them to keep bacteria from entering the egg once it’s cracked. If your goal is to not have to wash your eggs, keep nesting boxes clean and collect eggs frequently, this will help avoid the eggs getting dirty. It is recommended to wash the egg in warm water right before use. Once the bloom is removed there is nothing blocking germs from entering the egg, so washed eggs do need to be kept in a fridge or consumed right away. Keeping eggs in the fridge increases their shelf life to several weeks.
DIFFERENCES IN HANDLING
Interestingly enough, in Europe, washing eggs is illegal. This is said to actually promote cleanliness on farms. Since they cannot wash their eggs, no one will want to buy eggs if they’re dirty so they produce the cleanest eggs possible. Eggs in other countries are sold at a grocery store on an unrefrigerated shelf. In an American supermarket, you would find those eggs in a fridge near the milk and cheese. The European Union regulates that eggs should not be refrigerated until sold to the final consumer. Any change in temperature could cause eggs to sweat, be covered in condensation and promote the growth of bacteria. Here in the US, commercially sold eggs are required to be cleaned and sanitized with a chemical solution, their protective coating is removed, so the eggs need to be refrigerated to prevent the growth of bacteria. The USDA recommends keeping the eggs at a consistent temperature that should be 45°F or lower.
WHAT’S RIGHT FOR YOU?
So, if your chickens are laying clean eggs for your own consumption, then no you do not need to wash your eggs. Those chickens have created a natural defense against bacteria for you. If you are selling eggs at a farmer’s market or grocery store, be sure to research your local egg handling laws. These vary from state to state and have strict regulations of how eggs are to be sold.
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