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Do I Have to Refrigerate my Fresh Eggs?

Do fresh eggs from your backyard coop have to be refrigerated? No they don't. And here's why.

One of the most common questions I get asked by readers is if they have to refrigerate the eggs they collect from their chickens. 

The answer might surprise you.

Do I have to refrigerate my fresh eggs?

The short answer is no. You don't need to refrigerate farm fresh eggs. 

And I'm going to make it very clear here that there's a vast difference between "farm fresh" eggs and store bought eggs in how they're handled which makes the answer to the refrigeration questions different depending on what kind of eggs we're talking about.

What are "farm fresh" eggs?

Farm fresh eggs (and by that I mean eggs that haven't been washed yet) can include:

  • eggs laid by your own backyard chickens
  • eggs from friends or neighbors who raise chickens 
  • eggs from a local farm
  • eggs from a farmers market

But it's important to ask (if the eggs aren't from your own chickens) whether or not they have been washed. And here's why.

It's all about the Bloom

The bloom is the key to why some eggs don't need to be refrigerated. Eggs are laid with a near invisible coating called the "bloom" or "cuticle" on the shell.

This coating helps keep air and bacteria out of the egg, thereby keeping the egg fresher - and safer to eat - longer. 

So as long as you don't wash your eggs until just before cooking them, there's no need to refrigerate them.

In fact, the United States is one of the few countries where eggs are refrigerated. 

Eggs Aren't Refrigerated in all Parts of the World

In Europe and most other places in the world, eggs are left out at room temperature at grocery stores and restaurants. The eggs aren't washed, so they are perfectly fine without refrigeration.

However, here in the United States, commercial egg farms are required to clean the eggs before packaging them up in cartons to be shipped to supermarkets, so that means they require refrigeration.

Commercially sold eggs must be cleaned with warm water (110 - 120 degrees F) and then sprayed with sanitizer. This removes the natural coating on the eggshell that protects the egg from bacteria and air entering the eggs. 

Note that there is an exemption for small farms. per FDA rules farms with fewer than 3,000 laying hens don't need to wash or sanitize eggs before selling them.

Eggs Last Longer in the Refrigerator

Even though unwashed fresh eggs don't need to be refrigerated, they will last longer and retain their structural integrity when chilled. There's also less chance of bacteria growing inside the egg.

As an egg ages, and the aging happens faster at room temperature, the egg white will thin out, the yolk will flatten and the moisture starts to evaporate from the egg.

So it's good practice to refrigerate all your eggs regardless.

Washed or unwashed, fresh or store bought, an egg will last longer if you refrigerate it. 

1 Week on the Counter = 49 Days in the Refrigerator

One day out on the counter at room temperature equals roughly a week in the refrigerator as far as the egg's freshness goes. So if you aren't going to eat the eggs in a week or so, then you'll want to refrigerate them. 

And if you wash your eggs as soon as you collect them, then they should be refrigerated immediately. 

Leaving Some Unwashed Eggs out for a Week or Two is Fine

But if you are going to use your freshly collected eggs within one or two weeks and don't wash them, then they will be just fine out on the kitchen counter at room temperature.

I do refrigerate most of our eggs, but also leave some out on the kitchen counter in a bowl to use first. I rinse them in warm water just before cracking them.

Our eggs are so pretty, I love to see a bowl of them out on the counter, and since we go through them so quickly, they don't sit out for long.

I also love having room temperature eggs always available to bake with since most recipes call for the eggs to be at room temperature, not cold. 

However, Store Bought Eggs DO Need Refrigeration

Now, store bought eggs are a different story. The bloom has been removed from them by the commercial egg farm, so they DO need to be refrigerated.

 Same with previously refrigerated eggs - once in the fridge, then they need continue to be kept chilled.

And a previously refrigerated egg should be returned to the refrigerator within two hours to prevent spoilage if you aren't going to be cooking it. 

And if you collect eggs from your chicken coop in the winter and leave them out and find that condensation has formed on them, then I would refrigerate those just to be on the safe side because the bloom has likely been compromised. 

I love my mini fridge! It was a fairly recent purchase and it gets the eggs out of our kitchen fridge and into this mini refrigerator that we keep in the mud room/laundry room. 

I feel so much better not storing unwashed eggs in with our other food. 

The colored egg cartons make it not only fun, but easy to mark the date on each carton so I know which eggs to use first. 

Where to buy colored egg cartons

How to Correctly Refrigerate Eggs

And believe it or not, there's a right way and a wrong way to refrigerate your eggs, whether they're farm fresh or commercial eggs. 

Here's how to correctly refrigerate eggs...

Eggs should be stored:

  • at a temperature 45 degrees or lower, but above 32 degrees
  • near the back of the fridge on a shelf, not on the door where the temperature can fluctuate
  • in the original carton (or any carton, if you raise your own chickens)

If You're Not Sure if an Egg is Fresh

I've left fresh, unwashed eggs out on the counter for several weeks without a problem, but if you're unsure if an egg is still okay to eat, you can do the Float Test.

And always crack an older egg you're not sure of into a separate bowl, not right into your recipe or pan with other eggs!

Of course, dirty eggs don't look very nice on the counter, so read my 5 tips to ensure you're collecting clean eggs.

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