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Understanding the Protective Coating on Farm Fresh Eggs

If you’re fortunate enough to have access to local farm fresh eggs,  you may have heard “don’t wash your farm eggs” until you’re ready to use them.  Understanding why you should wait to wash those eggs, how to store farm fresh eggs, and how to properly wash them is key to ensuring you get the best flavor and health benefits from your farm fresh eggs.

 

The Protective Coating
Farm eggs have a natural protective coating known as the “bloom”. This protective layer is a thin, invisible membrane that covers the eggshell and protects the egg in several ways:

 

Bacterial Defense
The bloom acts as a barrier that helps prevent harmful bacteria from penetrating the eggshell. It provides a first line of defense against contamination, reducing the risk of infection from bacteria like Salmonella and E. coli.

 

Moisture Regulation
The bloom helps to regulate the moisture levels within the egg. It prevents excessive moisture loss from the egg, keeping it fresh for longer. When the bloom is washed away, the egg becomes more susceptible to drying out and losing its quality.

 

Preserving Freshness
Farm fresh eggs have a longer shelf life than commercially produced eggs. This is, in part, due to the protective bloom, which seals the egg and helps keep it fresh for an extended period. When washed, this protective layer is compromised, and the egg may not last as long.

 

When to Wash Farm Eggs

The best time to wash farm eggs is just before you intend to use them. Rinse them under warm, running water and gently rub off any dirt or debris with your hands. By doing this just before cooking or baking, you minimize the chances of contamination without stripping away the protective bloom too early.

 

Farm eggs, with their natural protective bloom, offer many advantages over commercially produced eggs. The bloom serves as a guardian against bacteria, helps maintain moisture levels, and extends the shelf life of these fresh eggs. By refraining from washing farm eggs immediately after collection and cleaning them only just before use, you can enjoy their many benefits while reducing the risk of contamination and maintaining their freshness. So the next time you’re tempted to give your farm eggs a thorough wash, remember the importance of the egg’s protective coating, and save the cleaning for the moment you’re ready to enjoy delicious farm fresh eggs in your favorite dishes.

 

How to wash farm eggs

Washing farm eggs should be done with care to minimize the risk of contamination while preserving the egg’s protective bloom. Here’s the proper way to wash farm eggs before using:
 
Inspect the Eggs
Before washing, carefully inspect each egg. Discard any eggs with visible cracks, as they are more likely to be contaminated and are not safe to use.
 
Gently Wipe or Brush Dirt:
If the eggs are lightly soiled with dirt or debris, use a soft brush or a cloth to gently wipe off the dirt. Do this under running water if possible to help wash away any loosened particles. Be gentle to avoid damaging the eggshell or removing the bloom.
 
Rinse the Eggs:
Rinse each egg thoroughly under warm, running water, ensuring that all contaminants are removed.
 
Dry the Eggs:
Place the clean eggs on a clean towel or paper towels to air dry or pat them dry gently. Ensure that the eggs are completely dry before storing them, as moisture can promote bacterial growth.
 
Refrigerate or Store:
Once the eggs are dry, refrigerate them promptly if you are not using them immediately. Washed eggs should be stored in the refrigerator to maintain freshness and prevent the growth of harmful bacteria.

 

We recommend that you wash eggs just before use. Washing farm-fresh eggs too early can remove the protective bloom, which helps keep the eggs fresh and free from contamination.  Avoid using abrasive scrubbers or harsh detergents, as they can damage the eggshell and strip away the bloom.  Always use clean and sanitized equipment when handling eggs, as cleanliness is crucial in preventing contamination.

 

How long do farm eggs stay fresh (washed vs unwashed)

The freshness of farm fresh eggs, whether washed or unwashed, can vary based on several factors, including storage conditions and the age of the eggs at the time of purchase or collection. Here’s a general guideline for the shelf life of farm eggs:
 
UNWASHED Farm Eggs
Farm-fresh unwashed eggs will stay fresh for a longer period than washed eggs because they retain their natural protective bloom. When stored properly in a cool and consistent environment, unwashed farm eggs can remain fresh for several weeks to a few months. The exact duration depends on various factors, such as the initial egg quality and how well they are stored.
 
WASHED Farm Eggs
Washing eggs, particularly if done improperly or too early, can remove the protective bloom. As a result, washed farm eggs may have a much shorter shelf life compared to unwashed eggs. In such cases, they may remain fresh for several weeks, but it’s essential to use them more promptly than unwashed eggs to reduce the risk of bacterial contamination. It’s generally advisable to wash eggs just before use to maintain their freshness.

 

To maximize the freshness and shelf life of both washed and unwashed farm eggs, here are some key storage tips:

 

  • Refrigeration: Store eggs in the refrigerator at a consistent temperature of around 40°F (4°C). The cooler temperature helps slow down the growth of harmful bacteria and prolongs freshness.
  • Use an Egg Carton: Place eggs in an egg carton with the pointed end down. This helps maintain their integrity and prevents moisture loss.
  • Avoid Temperature Fluctuations: Keep the temperature in your refrigerator stable. Avoid placing eggs on the refrigerator door, where temperature fluctuations are more significant.
  • Minimize Exposure to Odors: Eggs can absorb odors from other foods in the refrigerator. Store them away from strong-smelling items to maintain their flavor.
  • Check for Freshness: If you are unsure about the freshness of an egg, perform the float test. Fill a bowl with water and gently place the egg in it. Fresh eggs will sink and lay flat on the bottom, while older eggs will stand upright or float. Discard any eggs that float, as they are no longer fresh.
It’s important to note that freshness can vary among eggs even from the same source, so using good practices like proper storage and regular checks for egg freshness are key to enjoying farm eggs at their best. Additionally, local regulations and guidelines may impact how long farm eggs can be stored and sold, so always follow the recommendations of the egg producer or local health authorities when in doubt.

 

What are the health benefits of farm eggs vs commercial eggs?

The health benefits of farm eggs over commercial store-bought eggs are based on several factors, including the diet and living conditions of the hens and the freshness of the eggs.

 

  • Diet Quality: Hens on small farms usually have access to a more diverse diet that includes more insects, plants, and organic matter. This can result in eggs with much different nutritional profiles and flavors. Most people prefer the taste of farm eggs for this reason.
  • Lower Stress: Hens on small farms often have more space and lower stress levels compared to commercial egg layers. Lower stress for the hens results in healthier eggs.
  • Lower Contaminants: Small farms may use fewer or no antibiotics and pesticides, resulting in eggs with lower levels of these substances.

 

Here are some tips for obtaining the healthiest eggs:
  • Choose Fresh Eggs: The fresher the egg, the better it will taste and the more nutrients it will retain. Not washing your farm eggs until ready to use will keep them fresh longer and help retain more nutrients.
  • Look for High-Quality Sources: Choose eggs from small farms that follow good animal welfare practices and a low stress environment for laying hens.
  • Diverse Diet: Buy eggs from small farms where hens have a diverse diet that includes more insects, plants, and organic matter.
  • Practice Food Safety: Handle and cook fresh eggs safely to reduce the risk of foodborne illnesses.

 
So next time you hear someone say “don’t wash your farm eggs”, you’ll know why it matters and how to handle your farm fresh eggs to retain nutrition and help them stay fresh as long as possible.