In a recent Forbes article, I finally read the exact procedure that United States grocery store eggs go through in order to get cleaned for selling:
The USDA requires producers to wash eggs with warm water at least 20°F warmer than the internal temperature of the eggs and at a minimum of 90°F. A detergent that won’t impart any foreign odors to the eggs must also be used. After washing, the eggs must be rinsed with a warm water spray containing a chemical sanitizer to remove any remaining bacteria. They are then dried to remove excess moisture.
This last step is crucial because bacteria cannot penetrate a thoroughly dry egg shell. Add a thin layer of moisture, however, and not only is there a medium that promotes bacterial growth, but the water also provides an excellent vehicle for pathogens such as salmonella and other critters to pass through via the tens of thousands of pores on the surface of the egg shell.
In my chicken workshops, there are always questions about how to properly clean eggs.
There are as many ways to clean eggs as there are chicken owners, is my answer. Some people use soap, others don’t. Some don’t even clean the eggs and just let them sit until they are ready to be used – still others use expensive “chicken-egg cleaners” to make the eggs look spotless.
I, personally, collect the eggs and wait until I have enough to justify cleaning them (usually at least a dozen, which in the summertime is pretty much every day.)
I then water-test them in warm (not hot water) – if they float they get discarded, if they sit on the bottom of the bucket they are kept.
While they are sitting in the warm water, all “dirt” gets soft and so all I do to clean them is to lightly rub a sponge over the egg and then rinse it under cool water. These cleaned eggs then go into the fridge.
I don’t use soap and I don’t use sanitizer (if truth be known I have never even bought a bottle of that hand-sanitizer stuff that everyone thinks should be in every classroom.)
I’ve always said that if you use common sense then you shouldn’t have a problem with backyard eggs, and that common sense includes:
- Water testing all eggs
- Washing the eggs with warm water
- Refrigerating all eggs that have been washed
- Cracking all eggs into a separate bowl (not into any baking mixture) in case it is a bad one
- And finally, washing your own hands with soap and warm water *every* time you have handled any eggs
Chickens and eggs have been around forever. Our ancestors didn’t have access to sanitizers when they went to use and store their eggs.
But they did have access to a big dose of common sense and for many, many years, that appears to have been enough.
Wendy Thomas writes about the lessons learned while raising children and chickens in New Hampshire. Contact her at Wendy@SimpleThrift.com
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