You might be surprised to learn that eggs aren’t refrigerated in every country. Why aren’t eggs refrigerated everywhere? Do eggs need to be refrigerated? In this post, you’ll learn about safe egg storage.
Eggs need to be refrigerated to slow the growth of salmonella on washed eggs. Washing eggs removes the protective cuticle, allowing salmonella bacteria to enter the porous shell.
And if the hens aren’t vaccinated against salmonella, unrefrigerated eggs can reach dangerous levels in 3 weeks.
Did you forget your eggs on the counter? Here’s how long eggs can sit out.
Why Aren’t Eggs Refrigerated Everywhere?
The short answer is that eggs aren’t refrigerated in Latin America because it isn’t necessary. It’s different in Latin America compared to the United States and Canada – and why both systems work.
Our family lived in Ecuador for many years, and when we first went to the supermarket in our new city of Cuenca Ecuador, we were surprised to see how the eggs were stored: on the shelf (unrefrigerated) across from the potato chips.
From supermarkets to the local tienda, eggs are stored at room temperature. At first, we were concerned about the safety of this. But we reasoned that if it works for millions of Ecuadorians, it will work for us too. And it did.
So, do eggs need to be refrigerated?
If you’re asking this question then you are probably from the United States, Canada, Australia, or Japan. Why? Because these places are members of a small club of countries that refrigerate their eggs.
Did you know? Did you know that in most other countries of the world, eggs are stored at room temperature, alongside non-perishable food?
The cleanliness and quality of eggs in Ecuador weren’t consistent. We’ve bought eggs that range from completely covered in poop and blood to eggs that were spotless and perfectly shaped.
The eggs, as pictured above, are not typical of eggs in Ecuador. While the eggs sold at the corner tienda (convenience store) commonly have chicken poop on them, they seldom have feathers.
Most of the photos in this post are from our travel blog (GringosAbroad) which is now Storyteller Travel.
Why Some Countries Refrigerate Their Eggs And Others Don’t
Here’s a great breakdown of why some countries refrigerate their eggs and even more don’t.
Do Eggs Need to Be Refrigerated?
The short answer is no, eggs don’t have to be refrigerated. But it depends on a few factors.
At issue is salmonella poisoning (salmonellosis).
How Eggs Get Contaminated with Salmonella
Eggs get contaminated by salmonella in two 2 ways:
- Internally, by an infected hen
- Externally, by manure (chicken poop)
In the United States and Canada (among other countries), to avoid seeing poop on our eggs, we wash and dry them to prevent any possible contamination from external sources of salmonella.
While this helps fix one problem, there are downsides. Eggs have a cuticle – a natural, protective barrier of proteins and other molecules that keep bacteria like salmonella from getting through the porous shell and contaminating the yolk and white. When the egg is washed, it removes both the chicken poop and the protective cuticle, according to lifehacker.com
In parts of Europe, and many other parts of the world, egg washing is banned. This maintains the protective cuticle and keeps the egg from becoming contaminated by an outside source. They work hard to keep the egg clean (poop-free) after it is laid.
They also vaccinate their hens against salmonella, preventing the egg from being contaminated while they are forming.
From what I’ve read, it is more likely that American (and Canadian) eggs will have salmonella because not all hens are vaccinated against it. As a result, we have to keep the eggs refrigerated (from farm to store to our homes) to slow the growth of the salmonella bacteria. NY Times reported in 2010 that one-half to two-thirds of American farmers voluntarily inoculate their flocks.
How Refrigerating Your Eggs Helps Keep You Healthy
Studies have shown that bacteria on contaminated eggs (internal or external) reach dangerous levels after 3 weeks at room temperature.
But if you refrigerate that same egg, the bacteria will hardly grow at all even after 6 weeks.
What I’ve found, anecdotally, is that most North American families that buy eggs at a supermarket refrigerate their eggs. And most families in the US and Canada that raise chickens do not. They understand the protective value of the cuticle and not washing them with water before consumption.
How to Store Eggs Safely
During our time in Ecuador, we stored our unwashed eggs in the fridge. We figured that this would slow any bacteria growth that was on the egg. And it was our custom as Canadians.
And while that worked fine, there is an argument for not refrigerating unwashed eggs. Because they are contaminated with abundant bacteria, any condensation on the egg could cause a significant problem.
As with any cool object in a humid environment, water will condense on a refrigerated egg that’s left on the counter. This excessive moisture can cause bacteria overgrowth and could allow contamination of the egg, through the outer shell.
- “Once you start refrigeration, you have to have it through the whole value chain, from farm to store. Because if you stop — if the eggs are cold and you put them in a warm environment — they’re going to start sweating,” says Vincent Guyonnet, a poultry veterinarian and scientific adviser to the International Egg Commission.
- “No one wants sweaty eggs. They can get moldy. Another perk of consistent refrigeration is shelf life: It jumps from about 21 days to almost 50 days.” – via npr.org
Learn more in our Farm to Table Guide
5 Tips For Storing Eggs in Latin America
Here are some tips to keep you healthy while eating eggs in Latin America.
- Don’t wash your eggs until you are ready to use them.
- Keep unrefrigerated eggs at room temperature.
- Don’t leave refrigerated eggs at room temperature. Condensation can cause problems with bacterial growth.
- Buy your eggs from a busy tienda. Tiendas that don’t sell much volume might have old stock. And while that’s okay for chips and pop – it could be a problem for eggs.
- Float test your eggs to see how fresh they are. “If you aren’t sure how old an egg is, you can submerge it in water. The freshest eggs will remain at the bottom of the container, while old eggs will float. Floaters should either be discarded or opened far from your nose.” – via BackyardChickens.com
Did you know … that chickens lay eggs and poop from the same hole? I know this sounds awful. But it isn’t as bad as it sounds.
And for the final word, here’s a video that answers the question:
Should You Store Eggs in the Fridge?
More reading: How long does chicken liver last?
Do you refrigerate eggs in your home country? Do you have a tip or story to share? Please join us in the comments!
- About the Author
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Bryan Haines is a co-founder and writer on Tasty Plate – and is working to make it the best food blog in the world.
While living in South America, Bryan enjoyed learning about new foods and preparation methods. Back in Nova Scotia, he enjoys growing food in the backyard. And then preparing it with traditional (and non-traditional) methods and ingredients.
He is also co-founder of Storyteller Media, a company he started with his wife, Dena.