Keeping eggs in refrigerators is a very common practice in the United States, but it is not shared by many other countries around the world. The general perception is that eggs that are not kept cold can make us sick, and while this is partly true, the reasons may surprise you. Why do some eggs seem to do just fine on a country kitchen counter while the ones that we get from the store need to be refrigerated? Let’s take a closer look, and we can put some of the confusion associated with using farm-fresh and non-refrigerated eggs during a survival situation to rest once and for all.
Salmonella, Industry and the Government
The biggest reason that we keep our eggs in the fridge is to prevent the growth and spread of salmonella bacteria. However, eggs do not naturally attract salmonella. In fact, egg shells have a protective coating that is designed to prevent toxins, including salmonella, from entering the porous membrane and into the embryo. However, because the egg industry follows some really unsanitary practices, it is very easy for salmonella and other bacteria to get on eggs after they’re laid.
The government requires that commercially-produced eggs be washed before distribution. This requirement stems from the fact that industrial hen-houses are overcrowded and ripe for the transmission and spread of disease. Eggs that are mass-produced are first washed, which destroys the protective membrane on the shell and then coated with oil. Since this membrane is destroyed, it is easy for bacteria to enter and contaminate the egg. Refrigeration inhibits the growth of bacteria, and cooking kills off any potential stragglers.
However, once eggs become cooled, they need to remain at a consistent temperature in order to prevent spoilage or the formation of mold from the shells “sweating”. Refrigeration also significantly extends the shelf life of eggs, and they can be stored for up to a month from laying to consumption. Some could argue that this practice benefits the poultry industry because they can produce more eggs and generate higher profits. This is true. Others argue that it benefits consumers because eggs last longer, and this is also true.
Farm Fresh Eggs
The reality is that eggs laid by farm or yard-raised chickens are perfectly safe to keep at room temperature before consuming them. It’s also important to know that salmonella is not present in all eggs or transmitted from all chickens. It’s just a risk that needs to be contained in the commercial industry to prevent illness and reduce the chances of companies getting sued.
All that you need to do to protect yourself from salmonella and other food-borne illnesses from eggs is to wash them, and your hands, after they have been handled. You can keep them for up to two weeks at room temperature without worrying about them spoiling as well. There is generally no difference between the quality of eggs that are refrigerated or pulled from the basket on the counter.
Don’t think twice about using your own chickens and eggs as you develop your self-sufficient lifestyle. Just follow some basic sanitation guidelines and enjoy what nature can give you even if you don’t have a refrigerator.