Cleaning farm eggs. How do you keep farm fresh eggs? Storing farm fresh eggs.
Want to know more about cleaning farm fresh eggs? You’re in the right spot!
Raising chickens is one of the best hobbies you can have. Not only are chickens fun to keep, but they will reward you almost daily with eggs.
If you’ve never tasted or seen a farm fresh egg, then you’ll be surprised to learn that they can taste and look different from eggs that you buy in the grocery.
Eggs from the grocery are usually perfectly white and have a dull, pale shell. Crack it open and the yolk is usually bright yellow.
Compare this to the farm egg: the shells are various shades of cream, brown, blue, green, rose and white. The shell isn’t always perfectly clean and it has a bit of a sheen to it. Crack it open and you’ll find a darker, orange-colored yolk.
For those of you with backyard chickens, you may be wondering if it’s necessary for eggs to be squeaky clean like the ones you buy in the grocery. Do you need to keep your fresh eggs clean or are they better off the way that they are when you get them from the coop?
How do you keep farm fresh eggs?
The first question that needs to be addressed is how to keep farm fresh eggs.
When you buy eggs from the grocery, they are cleaned and kept in a refrigerator. Does that mean that you have to keep your eggs like this? NO!
In the old days, everyone had backyard chickens and possibly a milk cow or pig. But do you know what no one had?
That means that they didn’t keep their eggs cool. In fact, the eggs that they ate were often subject to summer heat or cold winter days.
With that being said, this doesn’t mean that everything that was done a century ago is ok. We know so much more about germs and being clean that it would be silly to think that some old practices are acceptable. But, it’s aslo important to remember that some of the old school methods are ok, and keeping eggs out is one of them.
Should you clean farm fresh eggs?
You may be thinking that you can’t stand the idea of not cleaning a farm egg. If that’s you, then by all means, wash your eggs.
However, there is some benefit to keeping eggs fresh and not cleaning them.
Why is there poop on my chicken eggs?
Let’s talk a little about chicken anatomy.
Eggs are released from a reproductive structure called the oviduct. Poop and waste materials exit from the intestines. Both of these structures are connected to the vent, which is the opening from which both eggs and feces leave the chicken’s body.
The oviduct enlarges as the egg passes through, which pinches off the intestine, making it almost impossible for feces and eggs to leave the vent at the same time.
If you see feces on your eggs, it means that you need to do a little better of a job at keeping your coop and nesting boxes clean.
Didn’t see that coming did you?
Since you know that its basically impossible for eggs and poop to exit the chicken at the same time, let’s talk about why there is poop on your eggs.
Hens may move around in the nesting box once the egg is laid. If her feet are dirty, she may get some of that on her eggs. If the bedding in the nesting box is dirty, it will stick to the egg.
When fresh eggs are laid, they are moist for a minute or so after they are laid. Once the moist egg lands in the nesting box and bedding, it can come into contact with materials that stick to it.
This is why you’ll sometimes find shavings, straw, feathers and poop stuck to your eggs.
The film on fresh eggs- the ‘bloom’
When the hen lays an egg, her body puts what is called a ‘bloom’ on the egg.
If you look at a fresh egg that hasn’t been cleaned, you’ll notice that it has a dull sheen to it. It feels slightly slick also. If you get it wet, if feels slippery whereas a clean egg has a rougher texture.
This bloom is a protective coating that seals the shell up and keeps bacteria out.
Think about what the purpose of an egg is according to nature: an egg is the vessel from which a new chick will enter the world.
The shell of an egg is porous and subject to letting bacteria in, which is not good for the developing chick. The bloom seals the egg and keeps the inside of the egg free of bacteria.
The bloom also increases the shelf life of the egg because it keeps out harmful bacteria that can cause the egg to spoil. If you wash the eggs, the bloom is removed.
This is why eggs sold in the grocery store are kept refrigerated. They have been washed to look pretty and therefore do not have the protective coating anymore. The eggs have to be kept refrigerated to prevent bacteria from entering the egg.
What is the shelf life for fresh eggs?
Freshly laid eggs can sit out at room temperature for about a month before being moved to the refrigerator. The exception to this is if you wash them. In that case, immediately store them in the fridge.
In case you’re wondering, eggs that are bought in the grocery store are usually at least a month old before they make it to the grocery!
If you choose to store fresh eggs at room temperature, note that they generally taste better the fresher they are.
Eggs stored in the fridge can have shelf life of up to six months before they start to lose their freshness.
You can always gently write the date that the egg was laid to keep up with the age of eggs in a carton.
The only difference that you might notice in eggs over time is how the egg white looks. The egg white is made of proteins. Over time, these proteins break down and become runny.
When you crack an older egg, you’ll notice that the egg white is more liquid and runnier. The egg will seem to spread out more than a fresh egg.
In fresh eggs, the white part will remain close to the yolk and has a more jelly-like appearance.
Cleaning farm fresh eggs
There are a few ways that you can clean farm eggs. The method that you use is up to you and depends on how you want to store your eggs and if you will be selling them.
How do you clean a dirty egg?
You can wash your dirty eggs a few different ways.
Eggs can be dry cleaned or wet cleaned.
Wet Cleaning vs Dry Cleaning
Wet cleaning eggs usually takes off the bloom of the egg. If you remove the bloom, the eggs have to be refrigerated immediately.
Removing the bloom also reduces the shelf life of the egg.
If you want to try to keep the bloom in place, clean any debris off with a dry towel. This may not work for stubborn dirt, but it will remove feathers, bedding and loosely stuck on dirt.
Cleaning eggs with vinegar
Some people use vinegar to clean eggs. If you’re using vinegar to clean your eggs, it’s possible that you’re killing some of the harmful bacteria that can make their way into the eggs.
However, the shell is extremely porous once the bloom is removed. Not only might bacteria get into your eggs, but vinegar will as well.
Cleaning eggs with dish soap
I wouldn’t advise using dish soap to clean your eggs either for the same reason that I would avoid vinegar.
Once the bloom is gone from the egg, the shell becomes like a sponge and soaks up water, bacteria or dish soap. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to eat soapy eggs.
Hot water or cold water?
If you’re going to wash your eggs, the best way to do it it is with plain, warm water.
Don’t use cold water to wash your eggs.
Warm water will cause the inside of the egg to expand slightly, pushing against the shell. This makes it really hard for contaminants to get through the shell.
Cold water, on the other hand, causes the egg to shrink slightly inside of the shell. This slight shrinkage pulls water and contaminants into the egg like a vacuum.
Use water that is warm; roughly 90° F.
Once the eggs are cleaned, dry them off to prevent them from absorbing any water. Then put them immediately into the fridge.
I’ve seen online where some people will recommend soaking their eggs to clean them.
Don’t do this!
Think about it. Almost as soon as the egg hits the water, the bloom is lost, opening up the pores of the shell.
If you’re soaking your eggs, they are sitting in a pool of dirty water and they are going to absorb that dirty water into the shell.
The eggs will absorb water, bacteria and anything else that is floating around in the water.
For more information about cleaning farm eggs, watch this video:
What USDA has to say about cleaning fresh eggs
It’s interesting to note that eggs must be washed and sanitized before being sold in the U.S.
Why is that interesting?
Because the U.S. is one of the only countries in the world that requires eggs to be washed. Most other countries require that eggs cannot be washed before being sold.
In the UK, the law is the opposite. In fact, according to the egg marketing laws there, eggs that are sold in supermarkets must not be washed or cleaned in any way.
It encourages good husbandry on farms. Remember when I said that you need to keep the coop and nesting boxes cleaner if you were getting dirty eggs?
In the UK, farmers understand that it’s imperative that they produce the cleanest eggs possible because no one is going to purchase dirty eggs.
In Ireland, only unwashed eggs can get a grade AA or A. Eggs that are washed get a grade B and cannot be sold for human consumption.
If you visit the USDA website and read about cleaning eggs, here’s what they say:
USDA recommends that eggs are not washed. The reason that most commercial eggs are washed is because of the way that commercial hen houses are set up.
Hens live in cages stacked on top of one another, so it’s really hard to collect eggs that are clean to begin with.
Preparing eggs for sale
If you’re selling back yard eggs, then it’s important to understand what your customer wants in an egg.
You might be surprised that some people are open to buying eggs that aren’t washed. If you’re selling your eggs from home or at a farmer’s market then you can decide whether to wash them or not.
It may not be a bad idea to offer both until you can figure out what people want more of.
Clean eggs sell better
Also, remember, people are going to want to buy eggs that look clean. If you plan on selling unwashed eggs, remember that they need to look clean.
They shouldn’t have any poop or other debris on them.
Reducing salmonella risk
Eggs that are gathered from clean nesting boxes that are unwashed will rarely have problems with Salmonella.
In fact, eggs that are washed are more exposed to Salmonella since you’re opening up the pores of the eggs.
Keep the nesting boxes and coop clean. This will keep your hen’s feet clean and the eggs clean. Clean eggs with a bloom intact are much less of a risk for Salmonella than eggs that are dirty or washed.
Preparing eggs for your own use
If you’re keeping your eggs for your family, then I would recommend not washing your eggs.
I don’t wash our eggs until I’m ready to use them. If I’m going to crack the egg and use it, I don’t wash the shell at all.
Do I need to wash fresh eggs before boiling them?
You don’t need to wash fresh eggs before you boil them if they are clean.
The bloom will dissolve almost as soon as it hits the water. If the eggs are dirty, then yes, wash them before boiling them.
Think about boiling eggs like soaking eggs to clean them. The eggs will absorb some of the water that they are floating in. If this water contains bacteria, it may also get absorbed.
When boiling eggs, bring the water to a boil before dropping eggs into it. This will help prevent anything from being absorbed by the shell.
Storing farm fresh eggs
If you choose not to wash your eggs, you’ll be able to keep them out on the counter or in the fridge.
Eggs that are washed should be immediately dried and put into a carton in the fridge. Date the eggs so that you know how fresh they are. Eat the older eggs first to make sure that you’re always keeping the freshest eggs possible.
At room temperature
It’s totally fine to keep your fresh eggs on the counter at room temperature as long as you don’t wash them.
You can keep them in a carton on the counter or in a bowl. My favorite method of keeping eggs on the counter is both functional and pretty.
Egg skelters hold eggs in a spiral design. Place the eggs into the skelter as you collect them. They roll towards the bottom. This keeps the fresher eggs at the top and the older eggs towards the bottom.
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Most skelters hold about two dozen eggs. It’s an attractive way to show off your hens’ hard work and keep your eggs on the counter.
Just remember, only put unwashed eggs in the skelter!
You can refrigerate your eggs if they are washed or unwashed. If they are washed, refrigeration is necessary to keep out dangerous bacteria, like Salmonella.
Unwashed eggs can also be kept in the fridge. In fact, eggs that are refrigerated and unwashed will last about seven times longer than eggs that are unwashed and left on the counter.
Any time that you’re storing eggs in a carton, store them with the smaller side down and the larger side up. The larger side has an air pocket. When the air pocket faces up, less moisture is lost from the egg, which helps it to stay fresh longer.
If you want to store eggs long-term, try freezing them or dehydrating them.
Freezing eggs is simple. You can freeze whole eggs, whites or yolks.
To freeze whole eggs, crack the eggs into a large container and mix them up. Spoon the mixture into freezer safe containers or ice cube trays.
If you freeze eggs in ice cube trays, you can pop the frozen egg out once it’s frozen and place the blocks of egg into a freezer bag or container.
Dehydrating eggs is another great option for long term storage. Dehydrating eggs turns them into powdered eggs, which are great for camping recipes or serious long-term storage.
Here’s how to dehydrate eggs:
- Crack eggs into a large bowl and whisk until slightly foamy.
- Pour the egg mixture over the fruit leather tray of a dehydrator.
- Dehydrate for 8-10 hours until the eggs are dried and flaky. The eggs should come off of the fruit leather trays very easily. There shouldn’t be any sticky areas.
- Remove the eggs and place them in a freezer safe container for 30 minutes – 1 hour.
- Remove the cooled eggs from the freezer and place in a food processor or a blender and blend until powdered.
- Eggs that stick to the side are not dehydrated enough and can go back into the dehydrator.
- Put the powdered eggs into a freezer safe container or freezer bag and into the freezer until they are needed.
You can also use eggs in casseroles and other freezer meals that can be frozen to use up your eggs.
Final thoughts on cleaning and storing farm fresh eggs
Farm fresh eggs don’t have to be cleaned or refrigerated. Eggs that are layed into a clean nesting box will be clean and don’t need to be washed.
Washing eggs removes the bloom. The bloom is a protective layer that will help to keep bacteria, water and other things from seeping into the shell.
As soon as the shell is wet, the bloom is lost and the shell will absorb things.
If you’re going to clean your eggs, avoid vinegar, soap, bleach or other cleaning solutions. Use warm water (over 90° F) to clean eggs. Don’t soak eggs to clean them.
Unwashed eggs can be stored longer than washed eggs. The bloom on unwashed eggs helps to keep out unwanted contaminants that can spoil the eggs.
If you want to keep eggs out on the counter, an egg skelter is a cute and functional way to keep fresh eggs out. Just make sure that the eggs in the skelter are unwashed.
To store eggs long-term, freeze them or dehydrate them.