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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. 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, keeping the egg fresher 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. 

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.

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.  

But if you are going to use your fresh 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 some 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.

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.

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. 

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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