Sunday, March 10, 2013

Farm-fresh eggs: To wash or not to wash

Nice clean eggs, ready to be weighed and packed.

I would not have believed how much strong feeling this particular subject stirs up. Some people assert that eggs should always be washed, preferably sanitized too. Others insist that any washing or cleaning is somehow detrimental to the quality of the egg.

If I tell you what I think, will you promise not to send me nasty e-mails or (horror of horrors) un-friend me on Facebook? Okay, here goes. First let me say that since we got our egg dealer's license in 2008, we have been obliged to follow the guidelines of the Washington State Department of Agriculture's Food Safety Program. I have also done a lot of research on this subject, and I must say I think the WSDA's guidelines are quite sensible.

Because eggs are perishable, and under certain circumstances, subject to bacterial infection, the idea is to collect, clean, dry and refrigerate them as quickly as possible. We use warm water and an old soft toothbrush to clean them. The water should be warmer than the eggs. Why? Because the shell of an egg is porous. The theory is, if there is mud or chicken poop or whatever on the egg shell, and you wash the egg in cold water, the contents of the egg will shrink away from the shell, bringing with it anything lingering on the outside of the shell. Since some eggs have just been laid when they are picked up, and a hen's body temperature is 103°F, we try for a wash-water temperature of around 110°F.

But, you never-wash-an-egg advocates are shouting, washing the egg removes the "bloom!" I know, I know. And I am going to take my social-networking life in my hands and ask you, "So what?"

The "bloom," as I understand it, is some kind of coating that is applied to the outside of the egg's shell right before it exits the hen's body. I have occasionally picked up an egg that has been so freshly laid that it is still wet; presumably this is the "bloom." The argument I always hear about the "bloom" is that removing it results in a shorter shelf life for the egg. First of all, unless that coating is somehow completely sealing the entire eggshell, I don't see how this can be true. Remember that the shell is porous; probably if it was coated thickly with wax or something, the contents of the egg wouldn't evaporate. I don't know what the makeup of the "bloom" is, but I doubt it is actually sealing the egg to that extent. 

And frankly, if simple washing in warm water is enough to remove it, how well do you really think it's sealing the egg shell?

In addition, we deliver our eggs several times a week to our customers. We know they are being consumed when they are quite fresh. So honestly, shelf life is of no real concern to us.

Even if we weren't subject to the WSDA requirements, we would still be cleaning our eggs. Occasionally I see an egg that is so clean that I don't bother washing it. This is perfectly acceptable under WSDA rules. However, I rarely find an egg to be so pristine that it can't be improved by at least a light cleaning. I can see no advantage in leaving mud, chicken poop or bedding stuck to an egg, for fear of compromising the "bloom." And since we are talking food safety here, honestly now, why take chances?


  1. I always wash the eggs except when there is an absolutely pristine beauty. That one I save for myself. :-)


  2. We gift most of our excess eggs to friends (who usually give us equally nice things in return) and I always wash them in hot soapy water and rinse in hot water with a bit of vinegar in it. I do hope those that insist on not washing eggs clean them before using in some way--because sometimes our eggs come liberally topped with the other thing that naturally comes out of a chicken! No poo in my omelette, please.

  3. I'm wouldn't recommend washing your eggs in soap unless it's specifically formulated for eggs. We pick up eggs several times a day and clean them promptly, so we rarely have any problem getting them clean easily using just warm water, as the WSDA recommends. The wash water should be warm, but not hot (see explanation above); you don't want it so warm that the egg actually starts cooking.

  4. By the way, it is important not to immerse or soak your eggs in wash or rinse water. It's best to clean eggs under warm running water. We let our eggs dry briefly on a metal cooling rack, then wipe off remaining water with a clean paper towel before weighing and packing.

  5. Great advice! Love the bloom, but no poop in my omlette please.

  6. I think the best possible scenario is keeping the nest boxes as clean and dry as possible. We find that during the winter this is difficult, as the hens come into the nest boxes with wet, muddy feet. Also, inevitably hens sometimes lay eggs somewhere other than in the nest box; either on the floor of the coop (usually this is under the roosts) or outside. So, in the end it makes sense to me to try to collect eggs regularly and clean them gently.

  7. Many of us present nearly all of the extra offspring in order to close friends (who usually give us just as good things in turn) and i also usually rinse these people in warm water and soap along with rinse off in some hot water with a bit of white wine vinegar within it. I really do hope those who insist on not cleansing ovum clean up these people just before making use of in a few way--because at times our own eggs appear liberally capped with the some other issue that will obviously is released of your chicken! Zero poo inside my omelette, make sure you.
    Rs To Gold
    Diablo 3 Gold
    buy blade and soul gold