To Wash Or Not To Wash Chicken Eggs?

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Welcome ladies and gentlemen to PET | TAO.FM.

I’m your host Dr. Casey Damron, 20 year practicing veterinarian and co-founder of PET | TAO Holistic Pet Products. You’re reading episode one of my new podcast FARM | TAO.

In today’s episode, we’re going to discuss chicken eggs and specifically, should you wash those farm-raised chicken eggs.

I’ve had this question several times over the past few years from my clients and never really thought a whole lot about it. So, I started looking into it a little bit and learned that there are some good reasons to wash and some good reasons not to wash those eggs.

Why Wash Farm-raised Eggs?

Well, farm-raised eggs are becoming more and more popular as people like the allure of the farm-to-table mentality and getting those locally raised eggs.

A lot of people think they taste a lot better.

This may be a matter of opinion.

One thing is true, it’s been proven that those farm-raised eggs do have some nutritional benefits over their commercial counterparts, including more Omega-3 fatty acids, lower cholesterol levels, and maybe some increased vitamins and minerals.

The question becomes, should you wash those eggs or not?

Well, why would we want to wash the eggs?

Well, there are various reasons for that.

I’m sure you’ve all seen some farm-raised eggs with maybe a feather on one of the eggs or a little bit of dirt or mud on there, possibly even some feces from the chickens, occasionally you’ll see remnants from broken eggs, that sort of thing.

The worry is that bacteria on the shell may enter the egg and affect us once we consume the egg or possibly be on the egg while we handle it before preparing the eggs for our consumption.

There’s a lot of good reasons to clean that.

We all know that the commercial side certainly cleans the eggs.

They’re all pristine once you get those from the store, but there’s also a good reason not to wash those eggs.

How to Wash Chicken Eggs

The bloom is the natural protective mechanism that’s on the egg.

If you’ve ever handled a farm-raised egg, you might notice there’s kind of a chalky feeling to the egg.

That’s the bloom.

The bloom acts to prevent bacteria from entering the porous shell and entering the inner contents of the egg.

This bloom is important but sometimes we still need to clean those eggs.

The most appropriate thing to do would be to try to do it without water.

Try dry cleaning it first with an abrasive cloth or possibly even sandpaper if needed.

Just try to rub the dirt and debris off without actually running water over it.

However, sometimes that won’t work especially if there are egg remnants on that shell.

A lot of times you must use water.

A couple of things to keep in mind if you do use water to wash chicken eggs.

Use running water.

Try not to soak the egg at all.

That will soften the shell and allow the bacteria to enter the shell even more rapidly. Also, use warm water.

If you use cold water, it’ll cause the contents of the egg to shrink, therefore kind of creating a vacuum that will pull any contaminants or bacteria on the shell directly into the egg.

The bottom line is to try to clean the egg first with an abrasive cloth.

If that won’t work, then use running warm water.

As a last resort, soak the egg in warm water to clean any of the debris away.

What About Commercial Eggs?

Well, they certainly wash every egg that goes into those cartons but they also apply some disinfectants and oils at the end of the process, which basically increases the shelf life of the eggs.

That may lead to the question of, how does this washing affect the storage times?

Well, on the commercial side they may have as long as 30 days from the time the egg is laid until it has to reach the store, then the store will have another 30 days, roughly, to actually sell the product, and then once you get that product home the USDA recommends that you consume that egg within four to five weeks of having it at home under refrigeration.

Commercial vs. Fresh

Certainly, you can get away with keeping these eggs under refrigeration even if they have been washed but the farm-raised eggs don’t have all those disinfectants and oils applied so it certainly will diminish the storage time of the egg.

You can still safely put it in the refrigerator and safely use it within several weeks of actually harvesting the eggs.

One thing we should think about is how do we avoid the problem in the first place with the eggs so we don’t have to get into this dilemma of whether or not we’re washing away the bloom, which is the protective mechanism.

Well, this goes back to good husbandry, and that can eliminate a lot of the problems that we see.

If you keep the nest boxes clean and fresh straw or shavings down this can go a long way into keeping some of that mud, debris, and feces off the eggs.

Try to keep the coop and run clean and dry so that they’re not running around in the mud and potentially getting mud on themselves and on their feet.

Keep the roosting areas above the nest boxes.

Since they tend to roost in the highest place that they can, you don’t want the nesting box to be the highest point in the coop because then they’ll try to sleep in there and that just leads to further contamination.

Good husbandry is something that’s easily overlooked, but it can go a long way into keeping your animals happy and healthy and your food supply safe.

There are some really good reasons not to wash those eggs but if you must, just consider that it will diminish the time that they may stay fresh.

Certainly, keep those eggs refrigerated if they have been washed.

If you like any of the information that you’ve read today, you can certainly find a lot more useful information on the FARM | TAO podcast archive.

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