As chicken keepers, we all enjoy the luxury of freshly laid eggs.
It is something you take for granted when you have your supply.
Have you ever wondered how long eggs will stay fresh?
Or how long those store-bought ‘fresh eggs’ have been there?
Today we will look at how long eggs stay fresh and how to test how fresh an egg is.
We will give you some other fresh egg trivia and compare them to store-bought eggs!
How Long Do Fresh Eggs Last?
Egg suppliers have thirty days to get their nicely packaged eggs from farm to store.
Eggs can be sold as ‘fresh’ for up to sixty days!
When you buy a carton of eggs from the store, it will have a packaging date, a plant number, and possibly a sell-by date (some states do not require a sell-by date).
The packaging date is a three-digit code from January 1st as 001 to December 31st as 365.
For example, it’s June, and you buy a carton of eggs stamped 060.
You know these eggs were packaged in March.
Eggs should be eaten within three to five weeks of purchase.
The sell-by date may have expired by then, but they should be ok to eat as long as they are cooked and refrigerated.
Is There a Difference Between Store Bought and Pastured Eggs?
Currently, industrial chicken farming has chickens caged or in huge ‘warehouses’ where they don’t see the light of day.
Fortunately, this practice of caging is gradually being eliminated.
They are fed standard chicken feed- no more, no less.
They have not had the benefit of a varied diet or sunshine that is so important.
Pastured chickens can peck at the grass, bugs, etc., obtaining many nutrients from the earth and the sun.
The eggs from these lucky pasture-raised hens are packed full of nutrients.
Pasture-raised hens’ eggs are lower in cholesterol and fats but higher in vitamins A, D &E, beta-carotene, and omega-3 fatty acids-all the good stuff!
When you think about a hen’s natural diet, they love to forage for seeds, greens, bugs, earthworms, etc., and sunbathe- all of this is converted into that tasty egg you collect daily.
How to Spot the Difference
When you crack an egg, it’s relatively easy to spot the difference between a fresh egg and an older one.
- A fresh egg will have a thick white part, making the yolk ‘stand up.
- Very fresh eggs will have a cloudy white.
- The egg is past its prime if the white is thin and spreads.
- Flattened or friable yolk- older egg.
The more ‘upright’ the yolk is, the fresher the egg.
The egg that spreads across the pan and the yolk that breaks easily are indicators that this is a tired, old egg.
Egg Freshness Test
So how do you test an egg for freshness?
It’s really simple and can be done easily and quickly.
You will need a bowl filled with enough water to cover an upright egg.
Then, place your egg gently into the water; if it stays on the bottom, it’s fresh.
If it rises to the top and floats- it’s old.
You likely will have some eggs halfway between fresh and old; just remember, the nearer the bottom, the fresher it is!
The oldest egg in my fridge is about ten days old- it, too, sank to the bottom.
Apparently, at three months, they will ‘stand up on the bottom- so how old must a floater be?
Not something I would want to eat!
You can also ‘listen’ to the egg.
Hold the egg up to your ear and gently shake it.
If you hear sloshing, then toss that egg away! It has become ‘muddled’ and is no good.
Do You Need to Refrigerate Eggs?
In the UK and Europe, they don’t refrigerate their eggs.
I can remember my Grandma’s eggs sitting out on the table Grandma didn’t have a fridge!
We ate them and never had a bad egg.
Here in the US, it’s slightly different, and here’s why.
In the UK/Europe, there has been mass vaccination of hens to prevent the spread of food-borne illnesses to humans.
The last outbreak of salmonella linked to poultry was in 2014, when 160 people were affected.
In the US eggs are power-washed and sanitized before packing to rid the shell of bacteria.
They are then refrigerated and need to remain refrigerated since the ‘bloom’ of the egg has been removed.
The last outbreak of salmonella related to poultry was in 2016, when 611 people were affected.
A recent survey in 2012 found that eggs from hens confined in cages had a 7.7 times greater risk of harboring salmonella than non-caged hens.
So, in human safety terms, you need to refrigerate eggs in the US.
Of course, the risk of salmonella increases if you cram thousands of birds into a very small space, but it is still possible to get salmonella from your hens or eggs in a small backyard operation.
Hand washing is your best source of defense against illness.
And please don’t kiss your hens- who knows what they have been up to in the compost heap!
How to Properly Clean and Store Your Eggs
Keeping your nest boxes clean and changing the bedding frequently will help to keep eggs clean.
Try to make sure that hens don’t sleep in them overnight, as they tend to poop a lot when they sleep.
Ideally, you would not have to clean your eggs prior to storing, but now and then, you will get a mucky egg- so how do you clean it?
First, brush or scrub lightly with a dry scrubby pad or a medium bristle toothbrush.
If the muck doesn’t come off, you will need to use hot water (around 110F) to wet the area and scrub/pick off the muck.
Once it is clean- refrigerate.
Why hot water?
The egg’s shell is porous, so if you use cold water, the egg’s contents will contract, pulling in bacteria.
When you use hot water, the contents expand, blocking out any stray bacteria looking for a home.
If you are storing your fresh eggs in the fridge, they should be on the bottom shelf to retain their freshness and be packaged with the pointed end downwards.
Make sure the egg box has free airflow around it.
If it touches the sides of the fridge, the eggs may freeze.
How long will they stay fresh?
Ideally, you should eat or sell all your eggs within two months.
If you have eggs that are older then try the float test.
They should still be good up to around 100 days.
Of course, the ‘fresh’ taste will have evaporated by then, so use them in baking.
What Keeps Eggs Fresh?
Every egg your hens lay arrives perfectly packaged in a protective film called the bloom.
This gummy, thin layer seals an egg and prevents bacteria from getting inside.
Eggs have teeny tiny pores on them; through these small holes, bad bacteria can get in and spoil the egg.
If you’d like to keep your eggs out of the refrigerator, do not wash them, as it opens them up to the threat of bacteria.
As soon as you wash and remove the bloom from your egg, it must be refrigerated to be kept fresh.
How Long Are Chicken Eggs Good For? Summary
Eggs kept on the counter at room temperature ‘age’ quicker than refrigerated ones.
One day on the counter equals one week in the fridge.
If you only have a small number of hens and eat the eggs daily, you should not have a spoilage problem.
If you find a stray egg in the coop and aren’t sure how old it is, simply perform the fresh test we discussed in this article!
We hope you have enjoyed this free-range ramble through fresh eggs.
They are both nutritious and delicious, and there is no comparison between your home-laid eggs and store-bought eggs in terms of freshness or flavor.
Many folks enjoy the variety in a box of farm eggs- blue, green, brown, and white.
I must admit I prefer the color and shape variety, do you?
Remember to thank your girls for the goodness they supply to you!