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Day 13 – Must Fresh Eggs Be Refrigerated?

The most recent  31 Days of Living Homegrown posts have focused a lot on agriculture and our food system. So I thought it was time change it up. Let’s get back to some homesteading topics! So here we go…

Keeping Fresh Eggs on the Counter

The subject of whether or not to refrigerate home-harvested eggs is a big one among homesteaders. What is really safe and what is not? I will lay out the facts below so that you can find your own comfort zone.

But in case you are wondering WHY someone would want to have eggs on the counter, let me say this: There is a certain satisfaction in seeing those beautiful eggs every morning. It just feels “farm-y”. So I can see why people ask about it all the time. And understanding the safety zones can also help if you discover an egg of unknown age in your coop.

Charolette – Our Golden Laced Polish Chicken

So Are Unrefrigerated Home-Harvested Eggs SAFE?

Well, the truth is…

are unrefrigerated eggs safe

You actually do not have to keep fresh eggs refrigerated (if you don’t wash them). And yes, I do keep just a few sitting on the counter occasionally in a special antique bowl. They are so pretty, I just like to enjoy them that way.

What? No Refrigeration? Won’t We All Die?

Here’s the deal.

In America, we are required to refrigerate eggs because of the factory farming practices. The USDA requires that an American egg be power-washed (because many factory farm chickens carry salmonella) and this washing removes the natural layer of protection that an egg has when it is laid. The natural layer of protection prevents contamination through the tiny pores of the egg. So after being washed, a factory egg is then coated with a thin layer of oil to offer some protection from contaminants and drying out.

In Europe, no one refrigerates their unwashed farm eggs. They are naturally protected by their own coating and sold in stores unrefrigerated. If the chickens do not have salmonella, the egg stays safe but will eventually go bad with time in a natural way. And since your backyard flock should not have salmonella, you can do the same.

So yes, you can keep home-harvested eggs out of refrigeration FOR SHORT PERIODS OF TIME as long as you DO NOT wash off the protective coating. Take them from the hen to your counter without rubbing or scrubbing. Then wash them just before you are ready to use them.

Am I Sure?

Maran Chicken Eggs

I went to culinary school and I went through food safety certification through the extension service when I studied to be a Master Food Preserver. I took all the food safety courses. I know full well the science behind food poisoning via the egg. We were taught never to let an egg stay out beyond 4 hours. And that is absolutely true – for factory farmed, store bought eggs.

But after studying all the facts and talking to other homesteaders and farmers AND seeing for myself how farm fresh eggs are handled in Europe. I feel okay sitting a few of MY eggs out on the counter for a week at a time. My chickens are healthy and no one in my family is health compromised (which would make it too risky). You need to decide for yourself based on your situation.

Now A Few More Points:

  1. I am not suggesting that you keep those eggs on the counter for months. I know many who do this. But for me, 1 week is within my comfort zone. Keep in mind that a room temperature egg will go bad faster than a refrigerated one. I believe a counter egg will keep well past 2 weeks, but for me, if it looks like it is going to be longer than 1 week before use, I refrigerate.
  2. I would NEVER do this with store bought eggs because they are washed and probably contaminated.
  3. Would I do this with farm fresh eggs from the farmer’s market? Perhaps. IF I knew the farmer and could be assured that his flock is healthy. But for me, it is the fact that the eggs came from my hen that make me feel confident in keeping just a few on display on my counter.
  4. Here is a link to a pinterest pin with info on testing an egg for freshness. Handy to know!

Egg Skelter:

I have noticed that for some homesteaders the idea of displaying eggs can be a big deal. In Europe, it is very common to use an egg skelter for this. What is a skelter, you ask? 

An Egg Skelter is a way of storing your eggs so that the first ones IN are the first ones OUT. Chicken owners know that it can get confusing as to which are the oldest eggs you have collected. It is best to have some sort of system.

Well, this little stand keeps it organized for you. It is meant to be used on the kitchen counter and does not fit inside the refrigerator very well. I searched for weeks for one here in America until I finally discovered one from Manna Pro. (And no, I do not get anything for mentioning this company. I just wanted to share the link of where I found one.)

So what about you? Do you keep your eggs at room temperature?

This post is part of the 31 Days of Living Homegrown. Sign up for my newsletter (weekly or monthly) so you don’t miss any of the resources I will be sharing for living local, fresh and homegrown! 


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About the Author:

Theresa Loe is the founder of Living Homegrown® and the Canning Academy®. For 9 years, Theresa was the Co-Executive Producer & Canning Expert on the national PBS gardening series, Growing A Greener World®. Theresa homesteads on just 1/10th of an acre in Los Angeles with her husband, two sons and several disorderly but totally adorable chickens. Learn more about Living Homegrown here and about the Canning Academy here.