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Why is egg refrigeration mainly a US thing?

http://io9.com/americans-why-do-you-k...

The way I was brought up (and from a family that raised chickens at one point, mostly before I showed up) the idea of not refrigerating eggs blows my mind.

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  1. Cheap energy and germophobia.

    Store bought eggs are fine on the counter in 90 F Florida summers for a minimum of 2 weeks.

    Per 5 summers on the boat.

    1. Most US eggs come from factory farms. Since the government can't make two sets of laws for different farms, they only have regulations to make eggs from factory farms safer, and smaller family farms have to comply.

      1. In the US, eggs are washed and sanitized. The washing removes the cuticle, a protective layer on the outside of the shell.

        6 Replies
        1. re: GH1618

          this.^^^^^

          1. re: GH1618

            True, but that information was given in the link in the original post.

            1. re: Ovaltine

              So I see. Here's another reason: the refrigerator is a convenient place to keep them where they are safe from breakage. I don't have another convenient place to store eggs.

              I used to buy a tier of eggs (18) from a commercial crate that was kept unrefrigerated out in the open at a nearby market. I thought it was a good deal until I had to discard an entire batch which was unpalateable. Now I'm happy to get fresh, premium eggs from my supermarket and keep them refrigerated until use.

              1. re: GH1618

                asian markets around here often sell duck and chicken eggs unrefrigerated. while i realize it's customary in asia, they are most likely selling american eggs so it seems odd to me.

                1. re: GH1618

                  Once upon a time I used to buy 'organic' eggs from the healthfood shop. The price was good... but they didn't keep very long because they were unrefrigerated in the store. More than a few of them were deceased when I came to use them so I gave up on them and went back to refrigerated grocery store eggs.

                  1. re: Kajikit

                    These days there are "organic" eggs available in many supermarkets which are refrigerated along with all the others.

            2. I don't use eggs enough to leave them out. I refrigerate them and bring them close to room temp before cooking. I ignore expiration dates. I don't know if it is true, but I was taught by a breakfast chef that when you crack open a flat of eggs and the yolks break, use them up as scrambled eggs. If cracking an egg the yolk is in tact, it is fine - even thought the date says its a few weeks past expiration.

              I'm lucky to have local farm fresh eggs available. They are required to put an expiration date. I ate one the other day that was 3 weeks past, and it was delicious.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Bellachefa

                My understanding is that yolks break when they are too cold and put into warm cooking environments. That is why it's best to let an egg come to room temp before cooking a fried egg, for example.

                I have done the float test, that seems to be a standard for the freshness of eggs.
                However, I note more and more frequently nowadays how brittle the shells are on store eggs.
                This is a symptom of not enough grit in a chickens diet.

                1. re: cronker

                  It's calcium. It's older hens.

              2. I've never refrigerated eggs where I grew up (Germany, where they also are not refrigerated in supermarkets or at farmers markets), and I don't refrigerate them here in the US.

                That said, I buy my eggs at the farmers market, so they're pretty fresh to begin with, or get them from a friend who has her own hens.

                1. There's another question worth asking from the article. Why doesn't the US require chickens to be immunized against Salmonella?

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: FoodPopulist

                    That's a very good question.

                    I guess the FDA multi-year investigation of the issue didn't include observing what happened in the UK when they instituted an immunization program and reduced salmonella outbreak from eggs by 96% over 10 years.

                  2. I think the answer to the question in the OP is simply that Americans see a problem that we don't see in Europe. I regard it as just another cultural difference between the two continents - reading Chowhound I often see food hygiene issues raised by Americans that would be absolute non-issues here.

                    By the by, what's the practice in Canada? Do they follow their southern neighbours in this?

                    8 Replies
                    1. re: Harters

                      We refrigerate eggs in Canada.

                      I've never heard of not refrigerating eggs! Wow.

                      Hmmm......

                      1. re: magic

                        Thanks for verifying this. The question of Canada came up in this Reddit thread just a few days ago:

                        http://ww.reddit.com/r/pics/comments/...

                        1. re: ennuisans

                          My pleasure, ennuisans.

                          They are most certainly sold from refrigerators and stored in fridges at home.

                          I'm sure there are some that might not, but in my experience it's unheard of to keep eggs outside a fridge in Canada.

                          But I like to let mine come up to room temp before using, if I can.

                          1. re: magic

                            I am that Canadian you speak of. We eat a lot if boiled eggs. They peel better if you age 'em on the counter for a few days. We generally have some in the fridge and some on the counter, which we plan to boil... Eventually. We have not had any issues.

                            1. re: julesrules

                              Oh I'm sure there are Canadians that do not regirigerate.

                              I'm just saying that Canadian practice, like the US, is to refrigerate eggs.

                              Maybe I'll start leaving some outside the fridge if there is some benefit to doing so.

                              1. re: magic

                                check your eggs, first.

                                If they've been power-washed like most American eggs, the protective coating that the hen deposits on the egg has been removed, leaving the porous surface of the egg completely unprotected. There is some research that indicates that removing the natural coating may allow pathogens into the egg, or that the high-pressure wash may actually force contaminants through the shell.

                                If you've got natural eggs that have been rinsed but not pressure-washed, then keep them on the counter.

                                (Even though I kept my French eggs on the counter, I don't trust industrially-washed eggs to be protected from the gremlins that can pass through the now-vulnerable shell)

                                1. re: sunshine842

                                  I was wondering about that myself, yes.

                                  Thanks for the input :) !

                      2. re: Harters

                        Most Canadians refrigerate their eggs and they are always sold refrigerated in the grocery stores. I leave mine out if my fridge is too full or if I am baking a lot. It freaks my husband out...

                      3. I've always been fascinated on my trips overseas. Eggs are never refridgerated. As such, since I do so much cooking and baking, my eggs are always on the counter. Never had salmonella.

                        1. I was shopping in a supermarket in Rome and couldn't find eggs. I asked and was directed to a particular aisle. I still couldn't find eggs, no matter how hard I tried. You know why? Because it was a regular grocery aisle - not refrigerated.

                          I don't know what's right or what's better but that is how it's done over there.

                          1. A strong refrigerator lobby.

                            1. I have chickens. I keep a carton out on the counter often, and several cartons in the fridge for longer storage.

                              I also let the girls sit on them for a few days before collecting when it's cold outside. It makes them feel good about themselves :)

                              5 Replies
                              1. re: sedimental

                                Do you get many double yolks? Or do the hens produce without the aid of a cock?

                                1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

                                  Yes, sometimes doubles, sometimes extra large eggs, sometimes small ones. Everyone has a different personality and "production value". No rooster.

                                  When I was collecting the other day, I did hear Henrietta say to Eggnus......"she is trying to take my babies!" They don't understand, eggs will never be babies, even if they sit on them forever :( So, I let them think they will be mothers, by letting them sit on them for a few days and "sneaking" them out when they are busy looking for bugs. I tell them that they are career women..... bug finding executives....not stay at home moms ;)

                                2. re: sedimental

                                  haha! hens and their self-esteem issues!

                                  1. re: hotoynoodle

                                    Well how would you feel if people called you chicken every day?

                                    1. re: ennuisans

                                      if i walked like a duck...

                                3. For what it's worth, Julia Child said in an episode of "Julia and Jacques" always to refrigerate eggs, and Jacques Pepin didn't disagree. Since he was a French chef, and she was THE French chef, maybe foreigners aren't unanimous about how to keep eggs. Good enough for me.

                                  5 Replies
                                  1. re: John Francis

                                    I'd imagine they were speaking more as chefs rather then home cooks. Having a flat or two of eggs on hand and having a farmers dozen are two different things.

                                    1. re: Bellachefa

                                      Indeed.

                                      Let's also please discuss how Julia Child was American, Pepin has been in the US since the late 1950's, and the show was produced by an American production company for an American audience and governed by American liability laws.

                                      In all the French supermarkets and private homes I've been in, I've yet to ever see an egg refrigerated.

                                      When it gets very hot, folks will throw them in the fridge til the chaleur passes, but as soon as the weather returns to normal, the eggs go back on the counter.

                                      1. re: Bellachefa

                                        Definitely not. Julia Child was never a chef, and her programs including "Julia and Jacques" were directly aimed at home cooks.

                                        sunshine842 observes that Pépin has lived and worked in the U.S. since the late 1950s. However, his indoctrination (it's more than just training) was in France - read "The Apprentice." As for liability, it doesn't apply, since nothing obliged Julia to say anything at all about how to keep our eggs. She said it because she believed it and thought it was important, and Jacques did not dissent. That's good enough for me. Why shouldn't it be?

                                        1. re: John Francis

                                          You believe that? Really?

                                          First off, Julia graduated from Le Cordon Bleu and studied with a number of master chefs around the world. The fact that she didn't work a commercial kitchen doesn't mean that she had more serious cooking chops than a lot of people working commercial kitchens.

                                          Second, liability most assuredly DOES apply, because people can AND DO sue for what's said on a television program, so the program producers (and their attorneys) most assuredly DO mandate what can and cannot be said on a broadcast.

                                          Believing otherwise in this day and age is pure naivete.

                                          1. re: sunshine842

                                            He did not say Child did not have serious chops, he agreed that she was not a chef. Julia Child said so herself. A chef runs a kitchen as a captain runs a ship.

                                    2. So, is it a chicken and the egg scenario whereby most refrigerators nowadays come with egg racks in the door?

                                      (Sorry about the bad joke. I'll get my hat.)

                                      1. I don't know why this remains a matter of controversy. In Europe there's no need to refrigerate eggs in stores because the protective coating isn't washed off by the producers. In the US it is, therefore the eggs require refrigeration to inhibit pathogen growth. In the US context refrigeration is the right thing to do and in Europe non refrigeration is also appropriate. Context is all.

                                        8 Replies
                                        1. re: stilldontknow

                                          Aren't you missing the fact that the US regulatory agencies think it is safer to wash the protective coating, while European regulatory agencies think the opposite? Agencies in both continents are tasked with promoting food safety and have come to opposite conclusions on what to do.

                                          1. re: calumin

                                            but the difference in regulations results in the situation stilldontknow describes.

                                            1. re: sunshine842

                                              I'm not sure that's correct. The decrease in salmonella illness due to egg consumption in the UK was not related to washing policies, but due to the push to immunize hens against salmonella.

                                              1. re: calumin

                                                Vaccination of hens is certainly the major reason for pretty much eliminating salmonella in eggs here. I have no idea if other European countries also vaccinate.

                                                Seems clear that the washing issue is the signifciant difference in so far as fridging eggs is concerned, in the supermarket or at home.

                                                1. re: Harters

                                                  No, an unwashed egg isn't going to help if the chicken has salmonella and passes it on to the egg. In that case, you are more likely to get sick regardless of washing policies.

                                                  In the US, we are more inclined to think that the eggs we buy may be contaminated. As a result the FDA gives us lots of warnings about how we put our health at risk by eating raw eggs, and tells us how to cook away the bacterial presence.

                                                  Given that in the US we have a higher tolerance for harmful bacteria in poultry-related products, the idea that we would compound that by leaving eggs out of the refrigerator goes counter to the FDA mindset of how to educate consumers.

                                                  In the UK the policy is to do more to prevent the bacterial threat before the product comes to market.

                                            2. re: calumin

                                              I have no experience with European regulations, but the impression I'm getting is that European regs are more likely to put the burden on the producer for safe food, while US regs subscribe more to letting the buyer beware. If that's the case it's a pretty significant philosophical difference.

                                              1. re: ennuisans

                                                I wouldn't agree with that at all.

                                                Europe sells not only unwashed eggs, but raw milk, raw-milk cheeses and butter, and has a robust artisanal food movement involving all sorts of moulds, fungi, and microbes.

                                                It's more that the US is far more hung up on complete sterilization and industrialization of everything -- the EU is far more focused on *real* food (yes, they're losing focus in places).

                                                1. re: ennuisans

                                                  I think you are probably both right.

                                                  Certainly, in the UK, the legal onus is on a producer to ensure that their product is safe and "fit for purpose". There's no difference, as such, if the product is a bicycle or a cheese.

                                                  That said, in food terms, sunshine is entirely right that we appear to be less "scared" of food issues that seem to terrify many Americans (I base my comment on reading many Chowhound "safety" threads" - and, yes, I know I'm generalising)

                                            3. I'm an American in the US, and I've had an interest in this issue for a long time. I've used eggs as old as 4-5 months from the date of purchase (in a vacation home that I visit infrequently), and the eggs were fine. I cracked them into a cup individually to make sure there were no off odors or color before scrambling them. They looked and tasted just fine!

                                              Eggs that old are best used as ingredients in another dish or as scrambled eggs...I doubt they would have held up to poaching or frying with yolk intact. But I will say that I would never leave them out of the refrigerator that long and use them, whether the cuticle is present or not.

                                              Otherwise, I think American eggs should be fine out of the fridge for at least a week. I've left them out that long with no problems.