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.