I bought free-range eggs at a local farm, but I forgot to put them away when I got home. Are they safe to eat?
Yes, you can feel at ease about eating those eggs. One of the nice things about raising your own chickens (or getting eggs from a local source you trust) is knowing what they’re eating and what’s going into the eggs they lay. Another nice thing is knowing that your eggs are fresh, even if they’ve been at room temperature for a while.
The average egg in the grocery store can be up to 8 weeks old by the time you buy it. Hopefully none of your backyard eggs will hang around that long, but here are some tips to keeping your eggs fresh for as long as possible.
Keep the eggs clean. Change your nesting box bedding often so it’s always tidy, and collect eggs as often as possible. That way, the eggs will likely be clean and not caked with mud or poop. If any eggs do get dirty, rinse them immediately and scramble them up for your dog or to feed to the chickens. They’re a super-nutritious treat for chickens and won’t lead to egg-eating in your flock, I promise!
Don’t wash them. As a general rule, eggs should not be washed immediately after they’ve been collected. Eggs exit hens with protective blooms on the surface of their shells that keep out air and bacteria. You must leave the bloom intact in order to keep your eggs fresh.
Store them safely. Eggs don’t need to be refrigerated, but one day out on the counter at room temperature is equivalent to about a week in the refrigerator, so if you aren’t planning to eat them for a while, refrigerate the eggs — they’ll keep about seven times longer. Unwashed eggs will last at least two weeks unrefrigerated and three months or more in the refrigerator. Washed eggs will last at least two months in the refrigerator but won’t taste as fresh as unwashed eggs of the same age.
The decision about whether to refrigerate eggs or not is a personal one. Because of instances of salmonella infections in factory-farmed chickens, the U.S. Department of Agriculture requires eggs to be washed at processing plants, which removes their protective blooms and necessitates refrigeration. But in many European countries, producers focus on eliminating salmonella in the chickens themselves and keep the eggs’ blooms intact, meaning eggs aren’t typically refrigerated at the grocery store or in consumers’ homes.
Store eggs with the pointy end down and the blunt end up. The air sac in the blunt end helps keep additional moisture from being lost. Because eggshells are porous and will absorb odors, they should be stored in a carton or covered container. A bowl with plastic wrap over the top works fine for fresh egg storage in a pinch.
Not sure whether an egg is good? Just do the “float test.” Drop the egg into a glass of water. As long as one end is still touching the bottom, it’s still perfectly good to eat. If an egg floats, it’s very old and could be bad — I would toss it.
Freeze the extras. Egg whites and yolks also freeze well, so I always break extra eggs into a container and freeze them during summer and fall to use through winter.
Wash before using. When you’re ready to use your eggs, simply rinse them under warm tap water. There’s no need to use any soaps, detergents, or commercial egg washes — plain tap water will work fine. Just be sure it’s warm to avoid drawing bacteria in through the shell. Save the eggshells, dry and crush them, and feed them to your chickens as a free source of much-needed calcium.
If your household is anything like mine, eggs won’t hang around long enough to be anything but fresh! I like to leave a dozen or so eggs on the counter to use, and then I refrigerate the rest — partly because they look pretty, and partly for the convenience. A bowl or basket of eggs on the counter is a visual reminder of our wonderful, simple farm life. Just seeing them makes me smile.