Friday, June 27, 2008

more advice: how to handle fresh eggs

Got a great comment on my post "how to clean urban chicken eggs" from Bad Wolf and it's worth bringing out here to stand on its own because he's helped me see just how wrong my intuition about handling the fresh eggs has been:
You probably already know this but eggs have a natural coating called "bloom" which basically seals them, keeps the various bacteria out and keeps them fresh. That's why people will see eggs sitting out at a market in Mexico (something that bothers the gringos). It's also the reason a hen can lay a clutch of a dozen or so yet have them all hatch about the same time. Until she starts sitting on them, keeping them at a constant temperature, they are in a stasis.

Once washed, the coating is gone and the eggs can't be left out as the shell is porous. Eggs bought in the store have to be washed (and are usually in a corn based detergent, then covered in a corn based coating) according to the rules so would go bad quickly if left out. They also turn quicker in the fridge than unwashed.

Here's a great article Mother Earth News did on various techniques of storing eggs and the results over a year.

We use a fingernail brush like deal to clean off dirty eggs before storing. The eggs I used to buy at the farmers market would often have a little dirt and even a downy feather or two attached but I loved that as it showed the origins. We are so freaked about sanitation in North America often causing more problems with our obsessions.

For instance, just as the cold water draws in the germs to the eggs, that's what is currently believed to be the issue with the tomatoes. Warm toms from the fields are being dunked in ice water to firm them up so they'll be tougher for the rest of the processing before hitting store or restaurant. That temperature shock is sucking the germs in through the stem end which has been compromised in the picking.
Thanks, Bad Wolf, for the great info.

I'm no longer of the mindset "the eggs out of the bird, must get it washed and into the fridge ASAP!"

How do others handle their own backyard-fresh eggs? Leave them out? Refrigerate same day? Straight into the frying pan? I'd like to get a sense of how the group's handling their golden yolks.


Laura said...

I'm pretty much of the mindset that the less done to them the better. I try to keep the nests clean so that the eggs will be clean, but if they're a bit dirty, so what? I'm not eating the shell. In fact I just crush the shells and feed them back to the birds and they certainly don't care.

I try to collect daily, but if we're gone for the weekend I don't worry about it. They can handle sitting there a day or two.

I usually collect once a day in the evening and put them in my pockets while I do other chores. Then I put them in an egg carton and into the fridge. Maybe a light swipe with my fingers to take off a feather or two - but they're usually pretty clean. I have been known to eat them straight from the nest into the frying pan.

As a kid we kept about 20 laying hens. Eggs often sat in the barn for a day or two while we filled up an egg carton (big 24 egg ones). Never had that cause a spoilage problem even in hot MN summers.

Kathi D said...

In most of the rest of the world, I believe eggs are mostly sold on the store shelf, not refrigerated. And even in the US, it wasn't until the second half of the 20th century that eggs had to be refrigerated in the store. I tried to look up the date but couldn't find it in a brief round of googling.

My grandmother's fresh eggs were always in a bowl on the kitchen counter. The whites beat much higher at room temp, too.

Kim said...

Thanks!!! This is great info! We're not at the egg laying stage yet but this saves me what would have been hours of research.

Harvey1701 said...

Thanks for the info.

Just discovered your blog. My partner and I will be tuned in as we just started our own flock of 6 hens about 2 months ago. No eggs yet, but we're expecting them in late August or early September.

Anonymous said...

That's great info. Thanks for sharing!

Bad Wolf said...

Wow, I'm delighted people have found this so helpful. :)

I was just clicking in to let you know about the second episode on Backyard Chickens from Deconstructing Dinner.

Anonymous said...

If you feed the shells back to the hens, please microwave the shells first so they aren't raw. This way you can avoid possible salmonella contamination. Also, I've heard that hens can sometimes develop a tendency to eat their own eggs if fed the shells. I feed oyster shells to mine. Really cheap at the feed store. I also have free pullets if anyone is interested. One group consists of 4 pullets/one rooster hatched April 15th. Homegrown bantam mixes with Americauna influence. The other group consists of 8 pullets/one rooster hatched mid-May. Mother is a bantam Golden Sebright and the father is my rooster (1/2 Americauna and 1/2 White Leghorn). All should be great layers (especially second group) and are the right size for urban chicken keeping. Please email me at 2mkeeton AT sbcglobal DOT net. I'm located by Vallejo and can deliver or meet halfway.

alan said...

It's a pretty old blog post now, but what the hey, here's my opinion. We share our house and yard with a dog and a cat as well as our chickens, so i'm sure with all the contact we have with dog and cat, anything we might pickup from being in contact with slightly coop-soiled eggs is no big deal.

We keep them in a bowl on the kitchen bench so they taste only like eggs, not like the contents of our fridge. We pick anything off the eggs that's pickable when we bring them into the kitchen, but that's all.

If I boil an egg I'll give it a bit of a wash under cold water first so it's not cooking in a boiling pan of chicken poo soup, but really, it's not likely to do any harm if I didn't. A few minutes in boiling water is really pretty good at killing any bacteria or virii that might be on your eggs.

Thanks for the blog, this is really great reading!


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