Taking a Crack at Keeping Eggs Fresh
Eggs are enjoyed in too many forms and foods to list here—they are that prominent in our diet. But there’s been some lingering questions about how best to store them.
In the early 1970s, U.S. egg producers and processors began washing and refrigerating their eggs following concerns about spoilage and foodborne illness. But the approach never caught on in Europe, where eggs are kept at room temperature, even on store shelves.
The rationale was that chicken eggs are coated with a thin, protective cuticle or membrane that prevents Salmonella and other harmful bacteria from penetrating the shell. Hence, the shells shouldn’t be washed.
ARS researchers in Athens, GA, decided to settle the matter with a study that compared the two storage methods, plus two others, using 5,400 eggs.
In short, the U.S. approach worked best, ensuring the highest quality eggs after 15 weeks of storage. Furthermore, the egg’s cuticle is meant to control respiration and naturally degrades after laying, diminishing any protective effect.
Besides helping keep overseas markets open to U.S. eggs with science-based evidence, the ARS team’s published findings reaffirmed the benefits of egg washing and refrigerated storage.