When you’re collecting fresh eggs from your backyard chickens, you’ll wonder how long you can safely store them. And you’ll wonder if storing them in different places (like the fridge or countertop) affects how long they last.
Fresh eggs can be stored safely at cool room temperature for a month plus or in a fridge for several months. Storing fresh eggs longer than this can be safe, but may decrease overall flavor and quality. Fresh eggs need to be stored differently depending on if they’re washed, unwashed, coated, or soiled. Here’s what you need to know.
Ready to know why that is – and how you can make your eggs last longer no matter where you want to store them? Keep reading – and I’ll translate what all the studies say for you.
How Long Fresh Eggs are Safe to Store and Eat
Generally speaking, most fresh eggs are totally safe to store and consume for up to several months, depending on how you store them. On the counter, you could store fresh eggs for a month before you may notice any change in the quality or taste of your eggs.
If you refrigerate your eggs, you could safely store them for several months – and it would take even longer to notice any changes in flavor or taste. But you know what? This will be a lot easier to see in a table.
Table: How Long Fresh Eggs are Safe to Eat by Type and Location
Once you’ve collected your fresh chicken eggs, this is about how long you can expect them to last.
|Countertop, Warm Room||Countertop, Cool Room||In the Fridge|
|Fresh eggs with the cuticle (bloom) intact||About a month, though 2 weeks is safer.||About a month.||Several months.|
|Fresh eggs – washed and no protective cuticle||Up to 2 weeks, though 1 week is safer.||Up to 2 weeks.||Several months.|
|Fresh egg treated with an edible coating||Up to a month.||About a month.||Several months.|
|Obviously soiled fresh egg||Up to a week.||Up to 2 weeks.||Wash it first – then it’ll last several months.|
|Store-bought egg||The FDA recommends no more than 2 hours.||The FDA still says no more than 2 hours.||Research shows store-bought eggs are usually safe for several weeks past the use-by date.|
Please keep in mind that these are general guidelines – not hard-and-fast rules for how long your eggs will stay safe. There are a few factors that impact how long you can safely store (and eat) fresh eggs.
Factors that Affect How Long Eggs are Safe to Store (and Eat)
In my experience and research, I’ve found that how long eggs are safe to store and eat depends on several important factors.
- Salmonella (a nasty bacteria that can cause even nastier food poisoning with flu-like symptoms) and
- Americans are one of the only countries to refrigerate eggs.
- Moving eggs from one location (and temperature) to another. Example: storing eggs on the counter for a few days and then moving them to the fridge versus storing them in the fridge first – and then moving them to the counter.
- If the protective layer is still in place – or if it has been washed off when the egg was cleaned.
So let’s go through each of these. And they all build off of each other, so… you’ll want to read all of these sections!
Salmonella (and other bacteria)
In the United States, Salmonella is a common bacteria found on and around chickens. As such, eggs may become contaminated. The odds of an egg being contaminated inside when laid are low – one study I read said that you’d probably only ever encounter one in 84 years. You’re far more likely to eat an egg that was contaminated because the salmonella was allowed to grow due to improper cleaning or storage.
Even so, salmonella is in chicken dung – and in chicken coops. So if you’ve got a visibly soiled egg, it’s probably safe to assume that it is covered in bacteria, too. And if the bacteria are left in an environment that it likes, it will grow like crazy. Salmonella bacteria like room temperature, which is why the FDA recommends keeping eggs in the fridge. Fridge temperatures slow bacterial growth.
But eggs have a natural protective layer against bacteria. When eggs are laid, that protective layer gets added during the last parts of the laying process. I’ve noticed that most people call it a protective bloom – or just bloom for short. I used to call it that, too. However, after reading crazy amounts of scientific journals, I’ve learned that it’s actually called a cuticle.
In any case, this protective barrier (whether you want to call it the cuticle or a bloom) protects the porous eggshell – and prevents bacteria from getting into the egg. The cuticle also prevents the egg from losing nutrients and water, but we’ll address this in a minute.
In other countries, laying chickens are vaccinated for salmonella, so it’s less of an issue.
Other bacteria and germs may also be an issue, although the studies I read concluded that salmonella was the biggest one to worry about – and that most other bacteria weren’t even worth worrying about. Keep in mind that’s on a large-scale production level, though.
Even so, as long as you’re keeping your chickens’ areas clean, the risk of bacteria (and salmonella in particular) should decrease dramatically.
Americans are among the few who keep eggs in the fridge.
The first time I learned that most European countries keep eggs on the counter, I didn’t believe it. It seemed so foreign to me! My European friends have told me that they can keep eggs on the counter for several months – with no issue whatsoever – well, except that older eggs don’t taste as yummy as fresher ones.
However, after a lot of research – it’s due to differences in how our countries process laying chickens and eggs.
- Other countries vaccinate their chickens against salmonella. Most large-scale American egg farmers don’t. Chickens raised for slaughter are more likely to be immunized against salmonella.
- Other countries forbid egg-washing in order to protect the interior of eggs by using the natural cuticle. American eggs are washed to control the spread of salmonella.
- Other countries keep their eggs on the counter in a cool, dry spot. Americans generally refrigerate eggs to slow the growth of salmonella.
Since I’ve started collecting eggs, I’ve switched to storing the eggs we’ll use on the counter. I don’t know if my chickens have been immunized – nor do I know how to get that kind of a vaccine. I’ll have to research it more.
Moving eggs from one location (and/or temperature) to another.
Moving eggs from one spot to another can also impact the safety of storing fresh eggs.
If you’re moving eggs from the counter (after any length of time) into the fridge, you’re probably going to be just fine. The issue is when you’re taking eggs out of the fridge.
This is because, as the eggs warm, a thin layer of condensation will accumulate on the egg. This water will change how the egg absorbs stuff around it – whether the cuticle (or bloom) is intact or not.
So once you’re storing an egg in the fridge, it really needs to stay there until you use it. If you do need it at room temperature, don’t leave it out too long.
The FDA recommends no more than 2 hours at room temperature for an egg taken out of the fridge. When I’ve taken eggs out of the fridge, I try to use them up as soon as they’re warm enough to bake.
Cuticle (bloom): is it there or has it been washed off?
The last factor that will affect how long you can safely store your fresh eggs is whether you’ve washed off the cuticle or not.
If you do wash it off, your egg will be able to absorb things around it easier – including potential contaminants (like that salmonella bacteria).
However, if you’ve got an absolutely chicken poop-encrusted egg, then that really needs to be washed off. You could gently wipe it off with a damp rag or paper towel – to at least remove the poop. That shouldn’t wash off too much of the cuticle. Then, just use that egg first – no matter where you store it.
Oh, and one other thing if you’re getting a lot of visibly dirty eggs… go clean out the coop. Get that bacteria breeding ground cleaned up so you can have safe eggs!
Whether or not you wash off the cuticle (bloom) will be entirely up to you. I choose to leave it in place, as long as the egg is visibly clean.
What’s the Best Place to Store Fresh Eggs?
The best place to store fresh eggs is going to be up to you. If you can store them safely on the counter (preferably with the cuticle intact), then go for it. Or if you’d rather keep all salmonella at bay, then go ahead and store your eggs in the fridge.
Even so, let’s weigh a few pros and cons in either direction.
|Pros of Storing Eggs on the Counter||Cons of Room Temperature Storage|
|Easier to get to and see||May need to be used faster|
|They’re always ready for baking||May be an increased risk of salmonella on the shell|
|Never wonder if you’re out of eggs||People will think you’re weird|
Next, let’s weigh the pros and cons of storing eggs in the fridge.
|Pros of Storing Eggs in the Fridge||Cons of Fridge Stored Fresh Eggs|
|A decreased risk of salmonella on the eggshell||You may forget they’re there (at least I would)|
|People think you’re normal||Eggs will need to be taken out to get to room temp for baking|
|They last longer||You can’t see the pretty eggs when they’re in the fridge|
Okay, so maybe I’m a little biased in one direction… I’ll tell you how we keep our eggs in just a bit, though.
And if you’d like even more information on whether or not you should store eggs in the fridge, SciShow did a great video to watch on it.
It’s a pretty cool video – and we found a lot the same research, so I’m feeling pretty awesome about my research skills right now.
Should You Wash Fresh Eggs Before Storing Them?
Again, whether or not you wash your eggs is going to be your decision. It has pros and cons either way.
Pros of washing fresh chicken eggs include:
|Pros of Washing Eggs||Cons of Washed Eggs|
|Better control of salmonella||Egg quality can deteriorate faster|
|Cleaner looking eggs||No cuticle can mean the egg can absorb smells and tastes easier|
|Buyers may prefer washed eggs||More susceptible to temperature changes|
Leaving your eggs with the bloom (cuticle) intact does offset the cons – but it may come at the cost of an increased risk of salmonella being on the outside of the shell – or it may freak out your customers
Because while now you know an awful lot about eggs and how they can be safely stored, your egg buyers may need you to send them this link.
Will Coating Fresh Eggs Extend their Safe Shelf-Life?
Coating fresh eggs with one of several, generally-available substances like mineral oil, soybean oil, or beeswax can extend the shelf life of both washed and unwashed eggs. There are other commercial substances that can be used for coating eggs, but they’re harder (or impossible) to find unless you’re a commercial egg farmer.
Coating eggs isn’t something I’d known about before I started researching this topic!
If I were to start coating my eggs, my research led me to conclude that I’d pick beeswax, as it seems safest and least likely to affect the taste. My second and third choices would be soybean oil and then mineral oil.
Here’s How I Store My Fresh Chicken Eggs
Okay, so here’s how we store our fresh chicken eggs. As we collect our eggs, we inspect each one for visible dirt or chicken dung. If there isn’t any snow on the ground, I’ll wipe any visible mess off on the grass. Then, we bring the eggs inside.
Once inside, I’ll store clean-looking eggs (with the cuticle or bloom intact) in our egg tower. Visibly dirty eggs get wiped off with a damp paper towel – and then slid into the start of the egg tower so they get used first.
Then, depending on how much chicken poop I had to wipe off of our eggs, I’ll either use some hand sanitizer or wash my hands with soap and water. I don’t want salmonella anywhere it shouldn’t be – and it shouldn’t be in my house.
I also clean our chicken coop and run on a regular basis to keep manure, germs, and the mess under control. That way, our chickens can lay clean eggs in a clean nesting box. And then we’ve got clean eggs that we can store on our countertop safely.
They don’t usually make it past a few days or a week, though… so we don’t usually have to test the “about a month” guideline that I found in my research.
- Akter, Yeasmin, et al. “Effect of Storage Time and Temperature on the Quality Characteristics of Chicken Eggs.” Journal of Food, Agriculture, and Environment, WFL Publisher Science and Technology, 2014, www.researchgate.net/profile/Yeasmin_Akter/publication/284471186_Effect_of_storage_time_and_temperature_on_the_quality_characteristics_of_chicken_eggs/links/5653df8f08ae1ef929763361.pdf.
- Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. “SECG on Prevention of Salmonella Enteritidis in Shell Eggs.” U.S. Food and Drug Administration, FDA, www.fda.gov/regulatory-information/search-fda-guidance-documents/small-entity-compliance-guide-prevention-salmonella-enteritidis-shell-eggs-during-production.
- Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. “What You Need to Know About Egg Safety.” U.S. Food and Drug Administration, FDA, www.fda.gov/food/buy-store-serve-safe-food/what-you-need-know-about-egg-safety.
- Clauer, Phillip J. “Proper Handling of Eggs: From Hen to Consumption.” Virginia Tech, Animal and Poultry Sciences Department, vtechworks.lib.vt.edu/bitstream/handle/10919/48448/2902-1091_pdf.pdf?sequence=1.
- Ducatelle, Richard, et al. “Mechanisms of Egg Contamination by Salmonella Enteritidis.” Wiley Online Library, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, 21 Jan. 2009, onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1574-6976.2008.00161.x.
- “Eggs: Trade Regulations.” GOV.UK, www.gov.uk/guidance/eggs-trade-regulations.
- Garcia, Karen M., et al. “Selected Quality and Shelf Life of Eggs Coated with Mineral Oil with Different Viscosities.” Wiley Online Library, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, 25 Sept. 2009, onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1750-3841.2009.01341.x.
- Gonzalez, Robbie. “Americans – Why Do You Keep Refrigerating Your Eggs?” io9, io9, 16 Dec. 2015, io9.gizmodo.com/americans-why-do-you-keep-refrigerating-your-eggs-1465309529.
- Liu, Yu-Chi, et al. “Effects of Egg Washing and Storage Temperature on the Quality of Eggshell Cuticle and Eggs.” Food Chemistry, Elsevier, 11 May 2016, www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0308814616307361.
- McDonald, Kyle Patrick. “An Educational Video and Research Experiment on the Longevity of Chicken Eggs.” DigitalCommons@CalPoly, digitalcommons.calpoly.edu/agedsp/25/.
- Muñoz, Arantxa, et al. “Importance of Eggshell Cuticle Composition and Maturity for Avoiding Trans-Shell Salmonella Contamination in Chicken Eggs.” Food Control, Elsevier, 27 Feb. 2015, www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0956713515001103.
- Okamura, M, et al. “Effect of Fixed or Changing Temperatures during Prolonged Storage on the Growth of Salmonella Enterica Serovar Enteritidis Inoculated Artificially into Shell Eggs.” Epidemiology and Infection, Cambridge University Press, Sept. 2008, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2870917/.
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