Just how fresh are those eggs?

By on November 5, 2012
egg

Did you know that many of the eggs that you purchase by the dozen in your local grocery store are already weeks old before they hit the shelf?  It may seem odd to us in the U.S., but in most countries you don’t get your eggs from the refrigerated section of the store, they are instead on a shelf right next to the bread.

An egg freshly hatched from the hen will last for several weeks without refrigeration due to a special coating that is on the outer shell.  Most eggs that we get from the stores keep this coating, called “bloom,” until they are ready to be packaged.

This bloom is removed for sanitary reasons as it can hold some fairly nasty bacteria, but the major downside is that it cuts the shelf life of that egg into a fraction of what it could be.

So how does this bloom help to keep the egg fresh?

The bloom acts as an oxygen inhibitor and keeps it from breathing. The slower the egg breathes the longer its shelf life.

So if you are able to get farm fresh, unwashed eggs, you should be able to store them outside the refrigerator for several days without reducing the quality of the eggs. Even your store bought eggs may be safe well past their expiration dates.

There is even a simple test that will tell you just how fresh an egg is and all you need is a bowl of water.

When you get ready to use your eggs, fill a bowl of water with two teaspoons of salt and gently place the egg into the water.

If the egg:

-Sinks to the bottom and stays there, it is about three to six days old.

-Sinks, but floats at an angle, it’s more than a week old.

-Sinks, but then stands on end, it’s about two weeks old.

-Floats, it’s too old and should be discarded

Eggs react this way in water because of the air sac present in all eggs. The shell of an egg is a semi permeable membrane that allows oxygen to enter the shell but not leave it.  As the egg ages this air sac begins to increase in size.  The larger the air sack the more buoyant the egg.



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20 Comments

  1. Bob R

    The reason the air sac increases in size over time is due to a slow evaporation of water from the egg white through micropores in the shell. Without this gradual loss of water, it would be impossible for air, or any gas, to enter the shell. Basically, the air is replacing the water that evaporates through the shell.

    My qualifications for making this statement? I teach a course on the Fundamentals of Food at a very major midwestern university and we cover this topic.

  2. James Echols

    My uncle is DR procurement officer for the US Army and they store enough eggs to feed the entire US based army, in a cave in Virginia, for seven years. The rotate stock daily, newest in, oldest out. The seven year old eggs are then sent to camps all over the US for consumption. They have a lower moisture content and the yokes are slightly off color wise, but otherwise are fine to eat.
    I agree that your method is great if you are going to bake with the eggs, but for just consumption, eggs will last way longer than a few weeks.

    James

    • JJM

      James – 7 years is difficult to believe. Perhaps dehydrated egg powder? They are certainly not merely put on a shelf inside a cool cave. If 7 years is real – find out and advise us what are the storage processes that preppers can use.

  3. Thank you for this info. I have yard chickens that supply more than enough eggs for one person so I try to share them. I have discovered many people are ignorant of the longevity of fresh eggs or the fact of the health issues in fresh eggs versus store eggs. Uninformed people are so ‘consumer brain washed by marketers. As you mentioned eggs breath just like the skin on our body and the egg is open to its environment. Store eggs are washed in harsh chemicals that make it absoutely necessary to keep them refrigerated to prevent consumer poisoning or at least less health issues.

  4. Bob R

    Janet;

    I quick rinse with water of fresh eggs is all that is needed when they are collected, but a quick rinse with soapy water is recommended just prior to cracking them open to prevent fecal bacteria and residue from getting in to whatever egg dish you are making.

  5. William

    …as it can hold some fairly nasty bacteria. So is a simple washing of the egg prior to cracking open sufficient or are we suppose to perform extra steps before eating?

    • Bob R

      William;

      It is fine to use a mild soapy solution in luke-warm water just before cracking — not hot water or you will run the risk of starting to cook the egg white if the water is too hot (140 degrees F and above). Pasteurized eggs are held at about 130 degrees F for 1 to 2 hours which results in a slight haze of the white.

  6. If you want to store your eggs, as soon as you purchase them you rub them with vegetable oil and they will keep for many months. also if you would like to store cheese dip it in a wax coating it it will keep indefinatly .

    • Bob R

      Terry and New At This;

      Commercial eggs are washed after collection (federal law), which removes the natural protective coating as well as “animal goo”. To slow down the evaporative loss I talked about above, the eggs are then coated with vegetable oil. Coating them again with vegetable oil will not prolong their shelf life. The only benefit to doing it yourself is if you wash store-bought eggs once you get them home, and then recoat them with vegetable oil to replace what was lost in the washing process.

    • ron

      terry, you mentioned coating the eggs with a lite coat of oil and
      i did read the samething somewhere. sounds like a good idea to lenghten
      the self life, thanks.

  7. New at This

    What is the story about coating eggs in mineral oil?
    And how long do farm fresh eggs last anyway?

    • New at This

      Thanks for the info Terry!

  8. cedric

    I seriously doubt the government has any eggs that are 7 years old worth eating! I may be proven wrong but that just sounds like the craziest thing ever. I found on the usda government website that a egg in the shell should last 3-5 weeks refrigerated. check it out here:

    http://www.fsis.usda.gov/fact_sheets/Focus_On_Shell_Eggs/index.asp#31

    “How do time and refrigeration affect egg quality?
    The egg, as laid at 105 °F, normally has no air cell. As the egg cools, an air cell forms usually in the large end of the egg and develops between the two shell membranes. The air cell is formed as a result of the different rates of contraction between the shell and its contents.

    Over time, the white and yolk of an egg lose quality. The yolk absorbs water from the white. Moisture and carbon dioxide in the white evaporate through the pores, allowing more air to penetrate the shell, and the air cell becomes larger. If broken open, the egg’s contents would cover a wider area. The white would be thinner, losing some of its thickening and leavening powers. The yolk would be flatter, larger and more easily broken. The chalazae (kah-LAY-zuh), the twisted cord-like strands of egg white that anchor the yolk in the center of the white, would be less prominent and weaker, allowing the yolk to move off center. Refrigeration slows the loss of quality over time. ” – usda website

    • Bob R

      Cedric;

      I agree with your skepticism over the 7 year claim. I have an e-mail inquiry in with an Army colleague (he’s “in the know”) about this and will post his reply when I get it.

      The reason for the change in consistency of the egg white is due to the presence of an enzyme, lysozyme, which slowly breaks down the proteins in the white, thereby making it thinner in the older eggs. As a biochemist, I really have a very hard time believing that eggs could last for 7 years when one considers all the biochemical reactions taking place all the time. There’d be just way too much breakdown over time.

      Although I teach the government “party line” about storage duration, at my house we are a bit more lenient on how long we keep refrigerated eggs before use.

    • CtWalter

      Everything I know about the government and the Army leads me to believe that a cave-of-seven-years is not quite factual. The Army stores every thing in warehouses that I know of. But, I am more than sure they have 7+ year old powdered eggs just ready to fill the bellies of hungry privates…. I’ve eaten more than my share over a number of years…

      • mthundereagle

        i drove semi- truck for 32 yrs hauling produce from the west coast back east and other goods and items from the east back west. there are caverns in kansas, missouri,and illinois and virginia. where food is stored not only for military but for all states on the east coast. as the stores and warehouses on the east coast can only hold enough food for 3 days. i don’t know about the 7 yr time on eggs but i do know food is only taken out of there only during the start of the new growing season, so most of the food you buy in the stores isn’t really fresh as some might think. as most were packaged and stored for at least a year before.as far as i know by the dates on labels seen on pallets as they were loaded on truck i’,ve never seen anything over 3yrs old come out of the caverns. when growing season is over and things are harvested. about or less than half goes straight from the fields to the store/warehouses and rest is delivered to underground storage where it stays at a constant tempature year round.if i remember right the caverns stay right around 52 degrees both winter and summer. these caverns have several levels that go several miles underground.some levels have freezer units and some have refriderator units and some levels have no power at all just miles of very high racks with pallets and large boxes on them.

  9. I always wondered about the first caveman to eat an egg. I think he did it on a bet or a dare. His buddy Org says “Oog, I’ll bet you 3 of my special rocks that you won’t eat that round thing that came out of that chicken’s butt!? And the rest is history!

  10. CtWalter

    Bob R,
    Thanks for the several rational posts. There are often urban myths and silly putty truths floating around. Then someone else hear’s it and passes it on, and on and on…

    If eggs are nearing a good end of shelf life, they can be hard boiled and then kept even longer, a couple weeks if refigerated (more but that is to taste and they will spoil, trust your nose). Hard boiled can be pickled and kept a bit longer. In the ‘old-days’ jars of piclked eggs were kept unrefigerated, but I have not found a reliable recipe or process for doing that safely. Also, not processing them safely in home can result in some serious disease risks.

    One last thing about looking for ways to preserve any food. If you don’t like to eat it now, you will grow quickly tired of eating it during a ‘crisis’ and this creates stress when all or your faculties will be needed. Eggs can be preserved as ‘hundred year egg’ for months by burying them in a mix of lime, ash, salt, and cooked rice, but if yo would not eat them every day (and they have an incredibly strong taste and smell) why try to do that.

    Get chickens :)

    • Bob R

      Ct;

      Thanks for the kind words. If you knew me, you’d know that I march to the drummer that has the best and most reliable information — not just hewing to the party line. What I post, I either KNOW or have a good foundation for believing that it is true.

      Now, about those hard-boiled eggs. It’s best to consume hard boiled eggs within a week to 10 days after boiling them — not “a couple of weeks if refrigerated” as you stated. Here’s why. When you put eggs in the pot of boiling water, the shell expands rapidly from the hot water which runs the very real risk of producing micro-cracks in the shell. In addition, the bouncing around of the eggs during the boil can further introduce small cracks in the shell. Thus, after they are finished boiling and placed in the refrigerator, the protective aspect of the shell against introduction of micro-organisms (ie, bugs)increases dramatically, thereby reducing their shelf life.

      One of my most trusted sayings is “When in doubt, toss it out.” It’s a whole lot better to waste an otherwise good egg that to spend the next few weeks doubled over, puking your guts out and crapping your rear end off. I speak from experience, unfortunately (Salmonella from eating a fresh salad in Alexandria, Egypt during a banquet in my honor).

  11. BP

    How long will pickled eggs last, refrigerated or canned? Also why shouldn’t people dehydrate their own eggs?

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