As chicken keepers, we all enjoy the luxury of freshly laid eggs.
It is something you take for granted when you have your own supply.
Have you ever wondered how long eggs will stay fresh for? Or how long those store bought ‘fresh eggs’ have been there?
Today we are going to look at exactly how long eggs stay fresh for and also how to test how fresh an egg is.
Along the way we will give you some other fresh egg trivia and compare them to store bought eggs!
How Fresh is ‘Fresh’?
Egg suppliers have a thirty day period 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 starting with 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 have been refrigerated.
Is There a Difference between Store Bought and Pastured Eggs?
Absolutely! 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.
Although they are fed correctly, the nutritional value of the eggs laid are inferior in quality to hens that have been raised on pasture. 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 of their nutrients from the earth and the sun. The eggs from these lucky pasture raised hens are packed full of nutrients.
In fact pasture raised hens’ eggs are lower in cholesterol and fats, but higher in vitamin A, D &E, beta-carotene and omega 3 fatty acids- all the good stuff!
When you think about a hens natural diet, they love to forage for seeds, greens, bugs, earthworms etc. and they love to sunbathe- all of this is converted into that tasty egg that 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 very fresh egg will have a thick white part, making the yolk ‘stand up’.
- Very fresh eggs will have a cloudy white.
- If the white is thin and spreads, then the egg is past its prime.
- Flattened or friable yolk- older egg.
The more ‘upright’ the yolk is, the fresher the egg. The egg that spreads across the pan, the yolk that breaks easily are both 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 and 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 that will be halfway between fresh and old, just remember the nearer the bottom the fresher it is! The oldest egg in my fridge is just 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- in fact, Grandma didn’t had 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 prior to packing in order 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 every now and then you will get a mucky egg- so how do you clean it?
You should first brush or scrub lightly with a dry scrubby pad or a medium bristle toothbrush. If the muck won’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 shell of the egg is actually porous, so if you use cold water the contents of the egg will contract, pulling in bacteria. When you use hot water the contents expand so blocking out any stray bacteria that are 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 should 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. It is this gummy, thin, layer that seals an egg and prevents bacteria from getting inside.
Eggs have teeny tiny pores on them, and it is through these small holes that 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.
Eggs kept on the counter at room temperature ‘age’ quicker than those that are refrigerated. 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, 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!
Read Can Chickens Fly? 5 Myths Debunked