Eggs: Why Do We Need to Refrigerate Them?

eggs

If you're like everyone else in the United States, the idea of refrigerating your eggs seems completely normal. Why would we do it any other way? The crazy thing is, America is one of the few countries in the world where eggs are kept refrigerated. So why is our method of storing eggs different?

There are a number of factors that make it vital that we refrigerate eggs once we've purchased them...

  1. During the 1990s there was a mass outbreak of salmonella and farmers began vaccinating their hens to prevent spreading the disease through eggs or poultry. There has been a significant decrease in the number of documented salmonella cases: 15,000 in 1993 to only 459 in 2010.  In the United States, this hen vaccination is not mandatory. Instead, the FDA forces egg processors to adhere to certain sanitation practices, testing, and refrigeration.
  2. In large concentrated animal feeding operations, hens are put in close quarters with one another, thus increasing the possibility of salmonella contamination. As a result, USDA-graded eggs are washed during processing. During this washing process, the protective cuticle on the eggs outer shell is more often than not compromised. This is the layer of the egg that helps protect it from any bacteria. This industrial washing is banned throughout most of Europe.

The suggestion I give when looking to purchase eggs would be to buy local eggs, if at all possible. I realize that this may not always be possible so here are a few pointers when buying eggs at the grocery store:

  • Buy Grade A or AA eggs.
  • Be sure that the shells are clean and are not cracked.
  • Only purchase eggs that have been refrigerated in the store.
  • Do not run other errands before going home. Changing the eggs' temperature can lead to condensation which promotes the growth of bacteria.