If you’re an American, you probably keep your eggs in the fridge, right? And, you wouldn’t think of doing it any other way. A quick question – did you know that the US is one of the only countries where chicken eggs are kept refrigerated? Well yes, and in Europe, for instance, eggs are often stored right on the counter, at room temperature. But then, US eggs would be illegal in Europe due to an egg-washing process that may actually make them more susceptible to contamination with bacteria like Salmonella.
According to the experts, if an egg is infected with salmonella, the bacteria will multiply more quickly if the egg is stored at room temperature instead of in the refrigerator, particularly if they’re stored for longer than 21 days. This is the main reason why, in the US, the public health agencies advise keeping your eggs in the fridge. But, the real truth is that the way most eggs are raised in the US – in industrial concentrated animal feeding operations or CAFOs – the risk of salmonella contamination rises. In CAFOs, egg-laying hens are often crammed into tiny quarters with less space to stand upon than the computer screen you are looking at. Disease is rampant, and the birds ARE filthy — not because of their nature, but because we have removed them from their natural habitat and compromised their innate resistance to disease.
During the egg-washing process, the eggs are scrubbed, rinsed, dried, and spritzed with a chlorine mist, its protective cuticle may be compromised. This is a natural barrier that comes from the mother hen that lays the egg, and it acts as a shield against bacteria. Yes, and you’ll be more amazed when we tell you that this “shield” even contains antimicrobial properties.
BOTTOM LINE – it doesn’t matter what you may have heard! Eggs that are fresh and have an intact cuticle do not need to be refrigerated, as long as you are going to consume them within a relatively short period of time. In the US, refrigeration of eggs became the cultural norm when mass production caused eggs to travel long distances and sit in storage for weeks to months before arriving at your superstore. The general lack of cleanliness of CAFOs has increased the likelihood that your eggs have come into contact with pathogens, amplifying the need for disinfection and refrigeration. As we said, you should know that IF your eggs are very fresh, and IF their cuticle is intact, you do not have to refrigerate them.