Why Eggs Must Be Kept Refrigerated In America

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It has become so commonplace for Americans to put a carton of eggs into the refrigerator as soon possible, that most of us don’t even realize that we are doing it. In the past — before refrigeration — and in many other countries, many people leave their eggs out in the open at room temperature, often on display in a decorative bowl. For Americans, we might be tempted to say, “that is not safe,” or “that is a quick way to get sick!”

Pre-Washed Eggs

However, not refrigerating eggs is only a health concern within the United States and a few other countries. Why is this? The answer has to do with the way eggs are cleaned, processed, shipped to stores, and held in stores. In modern America, the egg industry always washes eggs powerfully to end up with a nice and clean product for their customers. After all, we all open the container to check and see if any eggs are broken. The egg industry knows this and wants their product to be shiny, clean and look appealing.

Washing the eggs, however, is where the eggs lose their ability to be stored at room temperature. During the washing process, hot water and soap are used to scrub the eggshells of any dirt. This process actually removes the outer protective coating that eggs have occurring naturally. You can notice the difference in the feel of the eggshell. If you feel store-bought American eggs, they will feel a bit rough and porous, like a light sandpaper. If you were to feel an egg right directly from the hen-house, it would feel much smoother — due to it still having its protective layer.

Shipping of Refrigerated Eggs

When eggs are shipped and stored at your local grocery store, they are already kept below 40 degrees Fahrenheit to prohibit the growth and development of diseases such as salmonella. We all know that once food and produce has been refrigerated, you cannot let it sit out and get warm, then simply return it to the refrigerator. The same goes with eggs from your local supermarket. Even if they left the protective coating on, the eggs would be refrigerated during shipping, leaving you with no option but to continue to keep them refrigerated.

Is It Safe To Eat Raw Eggs?

While we are on the topic of eggs and health safety, it is the perfect time to bring up whether or not it is safe to eat raw eggs. The answer will apply to all eggs, whether they have been pre-washed, have been refrigerated, or if they are being sold in another country. Yes; contrary to popular belief, it is safe to eat raw eggs — most of the time. While that answer seems like it is contradictory, it is actually just a polar yes/no.

179666742Believe it or not, sushi is the best example of the yes/no answer. Yes, raw fish is safe to eat — most of the time. The sashimi fish has to be very fresh, prepared correctly, and be kept at a reasonable temperature. Sashimi-grade fish goes through a stricter quality and safety screening than fish that is graded to be cooked. Often, every single piece of fish has been checked for foodborne illnesses before being served. You can still get food poisoning from eating sushi and sashimi, but the chances are much lower due to the strict quality and safety testing.

The same goes for eggs. The possibility of getting salmonella from eating a raw egg is definitely there, but this does not mean that you are going to immediately get sick with salmonella or other contaminates as soon as you eat your first raw egg. The reason eating raw eggs is often discouraged — and the reason why breakfast menus usually have a warning about eating raw or undercooked eggs — is because the testing process for eggs is nowhere near as strict as the process for sushi. In-fact millions of eggs could be shipped between tests for salmonella, listeria and other foodborne illnesses.

When you hear about egg recalls due to salmonella, this is usually because either one of the tests done on egg batches has tested positive – and requires a recall of all eggs shipped since the last negative test — or because a batch of shipped eggs has led to an outbreak of salmonella poisonings.

The best way to still be able to eat raw eggs and not have to worry about getting food poisoning, salmonella, or any other sickness, is to buy eggs from a trusted provider. For example, we have the pleasure of living in Arizona — home to the company Hickman’s Family Farms. This provider of farm-fresh eggs proudly states that it has never in its 71 years been the source of salmonella outbreaks and poisonings. How can they keep such an amazing track-record like that? Extra testing, and testing more often. Putting quality above extra profits, Hickman’s wants to ensure that customers can purchase their eggs and be perfectly confident in eating the eggs raw, without the worry of getting sick.

What it all comes down to is quality of not only the product, but the processes behind raising the eggs, shipping them, testing them and storing them. So next time you have the urge to eat raw cookie dough, but have someone telling you it is not safe, remember that the majority of the time it is perfectly safe, and the chances of you getting sick are rare — especially if you used fresh Hickman’s eggs in your cookie dough.

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28 thoughts on “Why Eggs Must Be Kept Refrigerated In America

  1. I guess it’s like my grandpa always said…. “you eat a wheel-barrow full of dirt before you die!” Caution is a necessary part of life. Being OVERLY cautious though only reduces your ability to join in and enjoy life!!! Now I think I need sushi (and a raw egg on top of my steak tartare!!!). Thanks for the great article!!

  2. Good information, thank you! I have my own flock of chickens and keep the eggs out on the counter but I wasn’t aware of the reasoning behind why the store bought ones needed to be kept in the fridge.

  3. Fabulous article! I totally agree with all of it. So glad I have chickens and can provide safe, healthier eggs for my family with orange-yellow yolks and scrumptious flavors.

  4. Ok. It seems I need to talk to you about mobile formatting!!! When I view this list from my computer I see one pic. When I view from my phone I see another. Have you found a way (that I don’t know of yet) to format for desktop vs mobile??? SPILL!!!! 😉

  5. Interesting.. We leave all our eggs out.. If you are really worried about this extra cleansing that you say is happening on that side of the pond.. Perhaps do the old Irish trick of ‘buttering! Your eggs? Simply rub the eggs with butter.. It means they stay fresh for much longer too!

    • American eggs are usually treated with oil after the washing. There really aren’t any tricks Americans can use to extend the counter-life of eggs, because the process is mandated by health standards in the U.S. We can still get farm fresh eggs that haven’t gone through the process, but they are not as readily-available and a bit more expensive.

  6. I keep my eggs from my hens on the kitchen counter and I wash them right before I use them. Since mt girls are pasture raised the yolks have a brilliant orange color not seen in store bought eggs. Even the ones that say organic free range.

  7. I have always wondered this! I did notice that the eggs in Costa Rica were kept at room temperature and their shells seemed so much thicker when I cracked them. It must be the way we wash our eggs here in the US that makes the shells thinner? Very interesting post!

  8. A really helpful and interesting explanation. I leave my eggs on the benchtop in Australia and am always pleased to find the odd bit of dirt and feather on one. Now I know why! 🙂

  9. Question for you! I live in Ontario Canada, and I bought eggs from the grocery store (cold), and accidentally left them out for approximately 12 hours before I realized. I immediately put them back into the fridge. Would they be fine to eat or use in cooking?

    • Again, re-refrigerating eggs won’t necessarily make you sick, but the time spend in the “danger zone” of temperatures does increase the risk that salmonella or other foodborne illnesses had time to grow — if those diseases were present in the first place. Hardboiled and fully cooking those eggs to the proper temperature will kill and bacteria, but undercooked eggs will also have an increased risk of getting sick as well. Hope this helps.

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