Pros and Cons of Egg Refrigeration

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Photo by: Doug McCaughan

This may be a new subject for some of you, but anyone who’s been talking shop with fellow chicken aficionados will eventually hear a passionate debate on the pros and cons of keeping eggs cold.

Unless you were raised in Europe, you were probably taught that eggs always belong in the fridge and that’s that. The fact that this is even a debate may be an eyebrow raiser for you. But since we are going into the colder months, this is a great time to mention a new way of storing eggs.

If you think about it, raising chickens for eggs has been a way of life for people around the world for centuries. And they certainly didn’t always have a way to keep them in cold storage! It’s a fallacy to think that ancient peoples ate spoiled food because they didn’t. What makes us sick made them sick, too.

If you happen to be able to tour an old estate or go visit an Amish farm, you might see how they did things in years before. They usually had a spring house, which was built over or next to a spring or well and made of stone to insulate against the summer heat. This little structure is where they would store milk, cheese, eggs, yogurt, etc. to keep a consistent temperature year round. Even to the point of putting everything in a sealed container and lowering it on a rope into the spring or well so the water would keep it cold. There were usually shelves for eggs and cheese on the side, even in the heat. However during the temperate seasons, eggs and cheese would go right on the pantry shelf inside their homes. I suspect sometimes in the not so temperate seasons as well, but that’s purely speculation.

So what is the danger here? Provided you were responsible for raising the chickens yourself, there really isn’t much danger at all. Just like with raw milk from cows you raised yourself, as long as you know what you’re doing (mostly sanitary things) then the end product is perfectly safe. Don’t tell that to the USDA or FDA, of course. Then, they tell you that raw vegetables are a safety hazard. I suppose with conventional produce that hasn’t been washed this could be very true. The same goes for factory-farm eggs. I’d rather trust the farm-fresh unwashed egg that has been stored at room temperature to the factory-farmed egg that has been washed, bleached, pasteurized, and kept in a fridge.

It really comes down to what you personally feel is safe for you and your family. Doing your own research on the differences between family farm eggs and factory farm eggs may help you make that choice. Keep in mind, the eggs that the USDA and FDA usually test are directly from factory farms. Chickens kept in those conditions are generally very unhealthy. Sick chickens = eggs that can make people sick.

Anyway, I have personally stored my eggs on a little shelf in the walk-in pantry for years. I know that the temperature of the pantry is relatively stable because I’ve shut off the heat vents to that small room and it’s located under shady trees. The little gauge on the wall always says between 55-68 degrees. This is a great temp to keep just about anything fresher for longer. I also like to put desiccant packs around that room to prevent humidity as well, but that’s more for the dry storage than the eggs.

Here are some general guidelines you should follow if you want to keep eggs outside of the fridge:

  • Don’t wash them, the bloom protects the egg inside from bacteria and viruses

  • Keep them below 74 degrees for optimum freshness

  • Flip the eggs upside down once a week to prevent them from rotting

  • Cover lightly with straw or paper

  • If you must wash your eggs, coat them lightly in oil

  • Once you refrigerate an egg, keep it there. Don’t store it at room temperature after you’ve already put it in cold storage.

In a future post, I’ll discuss egg bloom, why it exists, and discuss the merits of washing versus not washing eggs and mention a bit more about how eggs go bad as well as testing for bad eggs.

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13 thoughts on “Pros and Cons of Egg Refrigeration

    • Up to a year if either unwashed or washed and coated with oil, if stored in cool dry place. Basement is a great location if you have one.

    • Yes, Chickenlady is right. You can wash the eggs, dip them in oil (like sunflower oil or something) to seal the pores of the eggs, and store them in flats in a cool, dark, dry place. I just definitely recommend flipping them once a week or so. They start going bad when the yolk sticks to the inner membrane.

  1. Thanks for the info. I have raised three very healthy Rhode Island Reds that do nothing but forage on about half an acre of land plus treats I give them. I never wash the eggs. I just bring them inside the house, leave them on the counter for a day, then label day with pencil on egg and then store in frig. I’ve been doing this for two years and have not had problems. My chicken coop gets cleaned daily of poop. I don’t even wash them when I break them into pan. There has been only once where I had to clean an egg. They usually look clean looking when I get them.

  2. This is great news for me and my husband! We were going over this subject few weeks ago while we had hot Summer days. I have 19 mixed variety chickens (Araucana, BarRock, Silver Lace, RIR, Buff Orp, Red Sexlink and 1 Wht Leghorn)we collected between 10-14 eggs, now that the days are getting short 9-11.
    Thanks for this info just in time because we keep our house temp 65-68 all Winter long so we should keep our eggs out of the fridge and feel safe about it.

    • Yeah definitely, it should be fine. The FDA I’m sure would have kittens, but generally people can do this quite successfully. If you chose to wash them, just dip them in oil before storing them longer than a couple of days. But you can put them right on your shelf no problems. Keep an eye on the blog and I’ll have more details about washing and storing eggs among other things.

    • I’m not surprised, Carol. People seemed to be better able to stand up to basic bacterium before wide-spread antibiotic use. And besides, if you store them properly they’re safe from bacteria anyway.

  3. What about potentially fertilized eggs? We have 2 roosters and I heard somewhere???? that you should refrigerate those eggs if you planned on eating them. Any thoughts?

    • Martin:

      No, roosters really don’t make a difference one way or another unless you’re wanting baby chicks. What increases production is light, feed, and water. Never let them go without water for too long!

      Now I’ll also tell you, there’s two schools of thought on artificial light and chickens. Technically you could stimulate them in the winter with artificial light to produce more eggs. However, on a personal level I feel that nature has designed them to lay less in the weak winter sunlight for a reason. Chickens deserve rest just as humans do. For their health and happiness, giving them some time off is a good idea.

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