We gather eggs everyday. The children bring them in, I wash them, place them in an egg container, and straight to the frige they go. I try to keep the containers dated so we know how old the egg is that I am feeding my family. As a responsible American mom, I try to take sterile care in matters of food.
Recently, while watching Downton Abbey (my obsession de jour), I caught a glimpse of the kitchen during an episode with Daisy and Mrs. Patmore preparing breakfast. In the frame, I noticed that in the center of the island, they have an egg keeper. Eggs, out in the open, room temperature. Granted, this period program is set in the early 1900's. Still, the image caused me to explore the necessity of egg refrigeration.
In the US, most of us buy refrigerated, store bought eggs. We naturally assume that eggs are supposed to be refrigerated. However, in most countries around the world, it is very common - even today, to purchase unrefrigerated eggs at the grocery.
I asked my Columbian friend about her eggsperience growing up in Columbia.
Well maybe it is fine for people in other countries to leave their eggs room temp. But this is AMEEERca. The USDA describes our American egg processing in detail. This grading manual offers us more than we ever wanted to know about the eggs we purchase from the grocery.
But wait, eggs sold at The Farmers Market are often sold unrefrigerated. So what's the deal?
There is a forum I frequent over at backyardchickens.com. Many yard bird aficionados agree that it is not necessary to refrigerate eggs. To clarify - farm to table eggs. One farmer said he actually leaves the eggs out on the counter for a month before packaging them and putting them in the fridge! Many contend that the reason the process set forth by USDA, requires egg refrigeration, is because the washing/sterilization of the egg damages the cuticle, a protective mucoprotein layer on the egg shell which keeps out contaminating micro-organisms and bacteria.
This whole process led me to an experiment.
Two weeks ago, I gathered eggs for two days. I have left these eggs on my kitchen countertop.
Cooked unrefrigerated eggs at 11:15am, June 28th 2013, and again at 9am, June 29th 2013. If I were to contract salmonella, it would show up within 12-72 hours after infection. It would last from 4-7 days.
I have not yet fed the eggs to my children, and certainly not my husband, who won't even eat the refrigerated ones after a week. Little does he know that store bought eggs are often a month old by the time they get to the shelf!
For now, I will continue testing this theory on myself. A royal food taster, so to speak. I will update in a week or so, assuming I am still alive.