Farm-fresh eggs are highly sought after right now with grocery store egg prices skyrocketing and many stores having empty egg shelves altogether. Most chicken keepers that I know aren’t able to keep up with the demand, BUT if you happen to have an excess of eggs, you will need to know how to store them so they don’t go to waste. Let’s talk about the best ways to store fresh eggs straight from the backyard flock.
How to Store Fresh Eggs from the Homestead
When you have an overabundance of fresh eggs, what do you do? You can sell them, give them to family & friends, store them short-term as your family eats them, or preserve them for long-term use. Before we get into storage methods, let’s discuss why fresh eggs are different from store-bought eggs.
What Makes Farm Fresh Eggs Different From Store-Bought Eggs?
Why is storing fresh eggs any different from storing eggs that you might buy at the grocery store? This is because eggs from backyard chickens differ in several aspects from store-bought eggs.
#1 Age of Eggs
Eggs you purchase from the refrigerator at the store can be anywhere between 6 weeks and 2 months old. You can tell what date the eggs were packed by looking at the Julian date stamped on the carton. This still won’t tell you how long it has been since the eggs were laid.
Farm-fresh eggs are usually used or sold within the same week that they are laid. For example, I do an egg delivery each Friday with eggs that are laid on Monday-Thursday.
#2 Nutritional Value
The nutrient content of eggs is greatly influenced by the diet of the chickens so this can vary from farm to farm, but the nutrient value of farm-fresh eggs has been proven to consistently be richer than that of store-bought eggs.
#3 Protective Bloom Coating
This is the number one difference (when it comes to storage) between fresh and store-bought eggs. Before an egg is laid, the hen secrets a gelatinous substance that surrounds the egg. As the egg is exposed to air, this substance dries and coats the shell. This protective coating is called bloom.
When this natural coating is intact, bacteria are unable to penetrate the shell because the pores are filled up with and protected by the bloom. Once an egg is washed, the bloom is removed thus subjecting the egg to the possibility of bacteria moving back and forth into and out of the eggshell. Bloom makes it possible to store unwashed eggs at room temperature for weeks without issue.
This protective layer is not present on store-bought eggs (at least in the United States) so they have to be stored in the refrigerator.
Should You Wash Fresh Eggs?
Eggs from backyard chickens do not typically require washing until just before you are ready to eat them. As long as the birds have clean areas to lay the eggs will come out clean (in most instances).
Every now and then, however, especially when it is raining, the birds may bring mud in on their feet transferring a bit of a mess to the eggs. These eggs can be dry wiped without affecting the bloom. You can wash very messy eggs and place them in the refrigerator to be used sooner than the unwashed eggs.
Some customers may prefer washed eggs. If so, you can wash them at the same time, place them in the fridge, and inform your customer that they have to keep the eggs cold for them to last up to 8 weeks and that washing reduces the shelf life of the eggs significantly.
How to Wash Eggs
When washing your fresh eggs, fill a bowl with warm water- about 20 degrees F warmer than the eggs- and submerge them. Leave the eggs in the water for 30 seconds or so and then take them out and wipe them down. The mud, dirt, and poo will wipe right off.
This removes the bloom so they will need to be refrigerated or used immediately.
Using warm water to wash eggs will help prevent the movement of bacteria through the shell. Cold water could shock the egg, creating a vacuum that would suck bacteria right inside.
How to Store Unwashed Eggs
Unwashed eggs are easy peasy to store. Simply remove any feathers, straw, and loose dirt from the shell, and then place the eggs pointy side down on an egg skelter or another egg organizer. An egg skelter is a great option because the oldest eggs will always be at the bottom making it easier to use the older eggs first. These eggs can be stored at room temperature for 2-3 weeks (sometimes even longer).
Storing with the pointy end down can help keep the eggs fresh for a longer amount of time. This is because the egg contains an air sac that will become larger as the egg gets older. Storing pointy side down keeps the air sac consistently at the top which helps to keep the yolk centered and provides an extra level of separation between the yolk and the outer shell.
Unwashed fresh eggs can also be stored in the refrigerator for up to 6 months.
How to Store Washed Eggs
When eggs are washed the bloom is removed so they must be placed directly in the refrigerator or used immediately. They can last in the refrigerator for up to 2 months.
How to Store Eggs Long-Term
When egg production is up and you can’t use, sell, or give them away fast enough then you can use a long-term storage method. These egg preservation methods are also great to supplement your family’s diet when the chickens’ laying slows down in the wintertime.
Water Glassing Eggs
This is a very popular way to preserve eggs right now. To water glass eggs, simply add lime and water to a large jar and submerge your eggs. Place a lid on top and enjoy these eggs up to 18 months later.
Freezing eggs might just be the easiest form of egg preservation. Eggs can simply be frozen in ice cube trays (I like using the silicone trays with the large wells). Crack the raw eggs straight into the wells of the tray or whisk them up first then store them in an airtight container (preferably vacuum sealed) until you are ready to cook them up.
Did you know that eggs can be dehydrated? Whisk up some raw eggs, pour them onto the liquid tray of your dehydrator and get those eggs dried out for later! They can be reconstituted with a little water and they are good to go! Check out this post for details on how to make egg dehydration work.
Freeze drying is an amazing option for preserving eggs if you have access to a freeze dryer. Preserving eggs this way will allow you to store them for upwards of 20 years without losing their nutritional value.
Pickled eggs can be kept in the refrigerator for months! You will need to take hard-boiled eggs and them place them in a jar with pickling & flavoring ingredients. There are many different flavoring options so you won’t get bored with this one!
Can You Reuse Egg Cartons When Storing Eggs?
It has been stated that resuing an egg carton can transfer viruses and bacteria from one batch of eggs to the next. This is actually a non-issue and egg cartons can definitely be reused safely. Read this post from my friend Amy to learn more.