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Are Cracked Eggs Safe to Eat?


If you raise chickens or buy eggs, you're going to end up with a cracked egg from time to time.

I get asked on a pretty regular basis if cracked eggs are safe to eat, and my response depends on WHEN the egg cracked and WHERE the egg came from (I mean, we all know eggs come from chickens - or ducks, quail, turkeys, geese, etc... but you know what I mean!)

It's important to understand that an egg's shell and membrane are the egg's defenses against salmonella and other bacteria getting into the egg. Once those defenses are compromised, the chances of getting sick from eating that egg go up exponentially. 

Salmonella and other bacteria can get into egg once the shell is cracked and especially if the membrane broken, so eating cracked eggs can be risky.

Are Cracked Eggs Safe to Eat?

But before you just toss a cracked egg, you should know that some cracked eggs are safe to eat.

Store Bought Eggs

Never buy cracked eggs from the supermarket or a farmers market. Always check the eggs in the carton while you're still in the store. Check for broken eggs and also hairline cracks in any of the eggs. 

Salmonella, which is present in approximately one out of every 20,000 eggs, is more prevalent in eggs with weak or thin shells.

If you notice a cracked egg when you get home from the grocery store and you're not sure if the egg broke on your way home, it's safest to toss it. 

But if you broke the egg somewhere between the supermarket checkout and home, then the USDA recommends you simply crack the egg into a small covered container and refrigerate it. 

Be sure to use the egg within two days and cook it fully to a temperature of around 160 degrees.

Farm Fresh Eggs

If you crack one of your own farm fresh eggs by accident on your way back from your chicken coop, as long as it is relatively clean (i.e. no visible mud, debris or poop on the shell), treat it the same as above. 

It's likely perfectly safe to eat as long as you cook it up relatively soon - within a day or two. 

If the egg is visibly dirty, it's probably not a good idea to eat it, especially if the membrane has broken as well and the whites are starting to ooze out. 

In that case, cook the egg up and feed it to your dog or chickens.  Their digestive tracts are far better equipped to handle a bit of bacteria than ours are and eggs are a great nutritious snack for them.

Yes, chickens can (and do) eat eggs and no, feeding them eggs won't automatically lead to "unauthorized" egg eating.

If you don't feel comfortable feeding eggs to your pets, then toss the cracked egg into the compost bin. Eggshells add beneficial calcium to garden soil.

Frozen Eggs

In the winter if you still have hens laying, there's a good chance that you'll occasionally find eggs frozen in our chicken coop. Many times the frozen eggs will crack, but sometimes the shell will still be intact. 

As long as the egg isn't oozing and the membrane hasn't broken, the egg should be fine to eat. If you're going to cook it right away, rinse the egg off under warm water then let it defrost on the counter and then use as you normally would. 

If you aren't going to use it right away, rinse it off and let the egg defrost in the refrigerator, then cook it fully within 1-2 days. 

The texture of a previously frozen egg  might be a bit different, so scrambling or baking with defrosting eggs is usually the best idea. 

Boiled Eggs

Occasionally eggs will crack during cooking. If you're boiling them and the water is at a rolling boil, the eggs often bang against each other and crack (which is one reason why I prefer to steam my eggs instead). 

Any eggs that crack during boiling or steaming are fine to eat.

Bottom line, if an egg has cracked and you're not exactly sure when it cracked or you don't feel comfortable eating it, then trust your gut and toss it - either to your chickens or your compost pile.  It's not worth getting food poisoning by taking chances with cracked eggs. 

And to avoid cracked eggs, here are some tips to prevent eggs from freezing inside your coop this winter.

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References:
https://eggsafety.org/faq/is-it-safe-to-use-eggs-that-have-cracks
https://www.nutritionletter.tufts.edu/general-nutrition/eggs-with-cracked-shells-still-safe-to-eat
https://www.livestrong.com/article/505321-what-are-the-dangers-of-eating-cracked-eggs/
https://ask.usda.gov/s/article/Is-it-safe-to-use-eggs-that-have-cracks
https://www.forbes.com/sites/davidacheson/2015/08/22/salmonella-guide/

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