Do Pastured Eggs Need to Be Refrigerated?

If you get your eggs from your local farmer you may notice they have some, um, greenish brown streak marks on them still. Maybe even a feather or two as well. If you can recall, it is very different than what an industrial egg from the grocery store looks like, all clean and uniform in size (even the so-called “free range” or “cage free” eggs).

What’s the big difference? Prior to the 1940’s eggs were kept on the counter because there were no refrigerators! What has changed?

Before I go any further I am going to just state the obvious because I feel it is necessary… Nature is so amazing and it’s incredible to me that everything is created to have a purpose!

Ok, now that I got my soulful-hippie two cents out of the way, we can discuss what actually happens when an egg comes out of the hen.

Pastured Egg

An egg shell is very porous and has anywhere from 3-6,000 pores covering the entire surface! (source) When the hen lays an egg her body does one last thing to protect the egg before hitting the air: she deposits a natural anti-bacterial mucus membrane called the bloom. The bloom comes out wet on the egg but then dries quickly, filling in all those little pores on the egg to protect it against things like bacteria and outside gases or chemicals.

The bloom also serves a purpose of keeping the egg fresh on the inside. The bloom keeps the moisture contained leaving a much bigger, firmer and more bright orange yolk.  The albumen, the soft, jelly-like substance surrounding the yolk, is slightly hazy looking. (source) This is a reaction with carbon dioxide and proves the egg to be fresh.

Something else to consider is, in nature, it takes about 2 weeks for the hen to lay the eggs and then “set” (incubate) on them. During this time period, the eggs have not been refrigerated and will eventually hatch into vibrant little chicks.

Then why is refrigeration necessary in a large egg producing factory?

Industrial Egg

Let’s take what we learned about an egg and put it into the industrial setting. We now know the surface of an egg is extremely porous and when we consider the way things are “managed” in an industrial environment, it can be quite frightening to think about eating an industrial egg.

We are all aware that in large egg producing factories hens are living in crowded and unhealthy conditions, breathing in the ammonia fumes all day, every day and have little to no sunlight. Common sense will tell us that sick hens equals sick eggs.

Within 7 days of when the sickly hens (who may or may not have salmonella) lay their sickly eggs, workers take the eggs and wash them to get all the dirt and feathers off of them. Some companies take it a step further and rinse the eggs with a chemical wash.

No bloom + chemical wash = chemicals seeping into the egg

No bueno!!

Companies may also spray the egg with their own protective coating (mineral or GE vegetable oil) to make them appear satisfactory to the consumer. (source) If the eggs you buy at the grocery store appear to be shiny that’s why! Once washed, rinsed and/or sprayed the eggs then HAVE to be placed in a refrigerator to protect them from being infected with bacteria. I’ve read that several companies actually pasteurize the whole egg to ensure there is no bacterial growth going on. From the time of being laid to the time it actually hits your belly, the egg may sit for weeks! Talk about a nutrient depleted egg!

Remember how I mentioned the bloom serves a purpose of keeping the egg fresh? Well, with industrial eggs since the bloom is washed off, the pores are then exposed. This creates open airways to allow any kind of bacteria (think salmonella) to enter. Not only that, the quality and freshness of the egg drops. This is why if you crack an industrial egg open, the yolk is small and pale yellow. The albumen loses it’s haziness and becomes translucent. All are indications of an egg that has lost its freshness.

So Do Eggs Need to be Refrigerated?

Scenario 1: Okay let’s say you buy eggs from the farm with the blooms still intact and you put them in the fridge immediately. No worries! But let’s say you take those same farm fresh bloom-intact refrigerated eggs and let them sit out to the point they start to sweat. At that time, it’s imperative to use the eggs as soon as possible because when the egg sweats it loses the bloom. I also wouldn’t recommend putting them back in the fridge because since the egg has no bloom it is now at the point where the quality and freshness are quickly degrading.

Scenario 2: Now let’s say you buy eggs from the farm with the blooms still intact and instead of putting them in the refrigerator immediately, you leave them on the counter. No worries! But if you wash the eggs, you must use the eggs as soon as possible. Again, the bloom comes off as soon as any liquid hits it.

Scenario 3: You buy free range eggs from the grocery store….. wait. I don’t recommend this scenario to anyone because industrial eggs are bad news! BUT if you have to buy them, always keep them refrigerated… no matter what! If you take them out, use them immediately!

The Ideal Temperature

With backyard eggs or eggs from a trustworthy farm source, you can get away with leaving them on your counter for a couple months if they are stored around 65°F to 70°F. If you are nervous they may not be fresh, you can do the float test to see if they are okay to eat or not. With factory farm eggs, it’s necessary to keep them at a temperature of 40°F (USDA guidelines) so no bacterial growth occurs.

If you are still worried and consider yourself somewhat of a germ-o-phobe a good general rule of thumb to follow is to keep the eggs the way in which you received them.  If they were refrigerated, keep them refrigerated. If they were sitting out at the farm store, leave them on your counter! And always ask the person you are purchasing the eggs from if they have washed them or not.

A good solution to ensuring you receive the freshest of the fresh eggs is to have your own backyard chickens! I would LOVE a few hens so Andrew and I could walk out into the comfort of our own yard and gather nutrient dense eggs!

How do you keep your eggs? Do you have your own chickens?

This post is part of: Real Food Wednesday

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  1. I JUST googled this specific topic last week. I was hoping I could keep them on the counter, but I’ll stick them in the fridge.

  2. I buy farm eggs w bloom still in tact, thanks to my girl loriel for hooking me up w a reliable source in Tampa! I do put them in the fridge immediately, without washing, until im ready to use. I wash then use/eat. 🙂 thanks again cousin loriel, lots of love to the fam, and keep the info coming!!

  3. I put my egg’s in the fridge I think it’s best egg’s don’t last long at my house ever one eating them

  4. Yeah, um, no. I’d rather skip the eggs than put unwashed fecal material in my fridge. Really, why would you want to eat the reproductive discards of an animal who has pooped it out her butt?

    1. Oh, I don’t know… Omelets, cakes, breads, quiches… Biotin, Vitamin B-12, choline, Omega-3, Vitamin D, healthy fats… Eggs are a true superfood, and a tasty one at that.

    2. If your nest boxes are kept clean and the bedding in the coop is clean and dry, there is no fecal matter on the eggs. We only wash ours if they come in with something on them. They last for a long time with no refrigeration. I would much rather eat one of the eggs from my farm rather than one I would buy at the store. Those chickens are locked in cages that are too small for the amount of chickens. They are unhealthy, etc. If you choose not to eat eggs, that is your right. Isn’t great that we all have a right to our own opinion?! 🙂

    3. “Reproductive discards”????? “pooped it out her butt”????? I think you may need to research a little biology before making idiotic and stupid comments!

      1. The amazing thing about chickens is that there is only one hole that it all comes out… I have 100 organic free range hens, we don’t wash or fridge until they go out the door. I couldn’t imagine very many people enjoying dirty eggs (poop stains feathers) I wouldn’t want the cartons returned either. Yes at times eggs can be very clean, the bloom not a big deal, but any thing else a risk in my book.

    4. Chickens do not “poop” eggs out, when the egg comes down the oviduct to the cloaca, the opening of the oviduct, the “poop” door, is closed off, and the egg comes out without touching any of the rectum of the chicken…

  5. Thanks for posting this article! I’ve known for a long time that if you get them straight from the farm and they haven’t been washed, you don’t need to refrigerate them. However, if you buy them at a farmer’s market, make sure to ask the farmer if they’ve washed them first. It seems like they do more often these days. 🙂

  6. Good info, I had wondered if it was possible.

    “pooped it out her butt” bwahahaha 😀 thanks for the laugh!

  7. We have chickens on our farm and we do NOT wash the eggs for reason’s you have listed above. We do however, put them in the refrigerator but only out of habit rather than need. Our eggs are rarely soiled as we keep the nests clean. Those that do by chance get soiled are wash and eaten right away by us, not sold to our customers. All our customers are aware and have been educated on this matter.

  8. I have had chickens for years and we do not wash the eggs rather we run them under cold water and wipe off the streaks and any stray feathers. We have never become ill and I was told years ago that soap removes the bloom not just water. I do not see the harm in keeping unrefigerated eggs out of the fridge until they are ready to be used.

  9. We don’t purchase eggs. Instead we go out to the hen house and pick them from under the hen or out of the unattended nests. We don’t wash them other than to gently swab off the manure (if there is any) from the parts of the shell affected. We don’t keep them in the fridge until…..at least a week later. We do collect eggs several times each day.
    We have roosters so when we do let a hen set we have chicks. They don’t set a clutch until it is 10 or more eggs, so several days go by before the eggs are “set ” and developing.

  10. Sounds like a great reason to keep your own laying hens!! And those little hen shaped wire baskets are so cute, with eggs in them on the counter. lol

  11. “..several companies actually pasteurize the whole egg ..”

    How is that possible without hard boiling them?

    1. –> https://www.safeeggs.com/eggs/pasteurized-eggs

      Above is a link that describes how the pasteurization process occurs. They say most companies do not pasteurize the whole egg but it most likely happened with liquid eggs. However, when they do pasteurize the whole egg this is what they have to say about it-

      “..we put our farm-fresh eggs through an all-natural water bath. It destroys bacteria and viruses without cooking the eggs. The constant movement of our eggs and water while in the bath is a key component in assuring the eggs don’t cook.”


  12. Good article. I tell people when I give them eggs, that I have not washed them–I knew you were not supposed to do it, but didn’t know why. I also do not refrigerate as it is already full of milk, no room for the eggs anyhow. I had always figured if the hen can let them sit for a long time and still hatch them, they would be fine–and I have had no problems.

  13. Great post that I can share with people who will buy our eggs this fall. We do not wash our eggs. However, I have used a piece of sandpaper to rub off some chicken excrement before putting into containers and putting in frig. I’m guessing this will also take the bloom off? Do you know? I use these eggs for our own consumption and don’t sell the ones I have to use sandpaper on. It’s very rare for this occurrence. I would appreciate your input. Thank you!

  14. I lived in Bergen for 11 yrs and when I went to the restaurants I couldn’t figure out why they couldn’t make an over easy egg. Either sunny side up or scrambled. That was until I went to the supermarkets and the eggs were just sitting in the aisle on pallets. It was next to impossible to turn one over in the skillet. Just about guaranteed the yoke would break. I was married there and when my wife came to the states she was amazed how easy it was to turn an egg. I hated the eggs there though they must have been safe.


  15. Good stuff to know. I’ve been getting some pastured eggs from a neighbor and I’ve had them THAT fresh. They do seem to last forever.

  16. >> The bloom keeps the moisture contained leaving a much bigger, firmer and more bright orange yolk.

    Nonsense! The orange color from pastured eggs comes from the increased amounts of Vitamin A those chickens get from eating grass, it has nothing to do with the moisture in the egg.

    I have been breeding poultry for more than 12 years now, and write for Backyard Poultry Magazine. Please, do not pass such incorrect information along.

    Folks, please put your eggs in the fridge. They will last longer that way. Yes, you can keep them on the counter for a while, but sooner or later they are going to get stale. The bloom is not airtight, and it will allow the eggs to grow stale. It just takes a little longer than it would without it.

    1. MizGreenJeans, you may write for a magazine, but even you don’t have your facts straight!

      Refrigeration of eggs is a modern invention — BECAUSE commercial eggs are reduced to a fragile state from the moment they begin to form, for reasons we all recognize & are too numerous to list here, but mainly to extend the life/prevent rapid degradation of a product being sold for profit!

      Also, home raised eggs don’t go ‘stale’ – they degrade VERY slowly, if left unwashed, which leaves the protective bloom intact. In turn, they can be stored upwards of 6 months to a full year in a cool, undisturbed state.

      If anyone feels the need to wash, rinse, or wipe them — then afterwards just use a bit of mineral or vegetable oil to wipe the outer shell, which will ‘reseal’ the eggs, acting like the natural bloom. This technique has been used for nearly the entirety of recorded human history – by using animal fats.

      The loss or degradation of the bloom, and resulting contamination through the shell’s pores are what cause an egg to ‘go bad’ – not the lack of refrigeration, which only minimally prolongs the nutrient value of the egg.

      I learned this firsthand from my grandparents who raised me on their farm, and have continued to raise poultry AND store my eggs in this manor [without refrigeration] for far, far longer than 12 years….and never once have I, or anyone else in my family, become ill from our eggs!

      Frankly, everyone needs to realize that comparing ‘homegrown’ to commercial eggs + how they should be handled & stored, is like discussing apples & oranges — they are two entirely different things. Personally, I don’t believe commercial eggs even merit belonging in an edible food group, just like all the other fake food on grocery shelves….

  17. We’re in Santiago Chile right now and you actually buy cartons of eggs off the shelf in the grocery store here. Then we take them home and keep them on the counter. So far so good! It was a surprise to us to find them this way in the grocery store! Of course you buy them at the farmers markets in the city the same way – non refrigerated and a little dirty, the bloom intact – but it was a surprise to see eggs like that in large store chains. But that’s the way it is here and it works great 🙂

  18. My parents used to keep chickens for about 10 years. (Something got in and killed them all a couple years ago and my mom decided she needed a break) Anyway, whenever an egg got poop on it we’d wash if off. Is that necessary? We always kept them in the fridge, because we thought that was where they needed to go.

    1. Unless it’s got a lot of poop on it and you feel as if the poop will fall off into the food when you crack it, you don’t need to wash them. I have been eating unwashed eggs for three years now and have not become sick from doing so.

  19. I can back up the author’s claims about refrigeration because here in Entre Rios, Argentina, supermarkets are not required to refrigerate their eggs. They let the eggs sit out for weeks until they are all sold. I buy the natural, unwashed eggs with the feathers stuck to them and never wash them once. I don’t get sick from eating them this way and have been eating up to six eggs a day for three years now.

  20. In England, where hubby is from, the eggs aren’t refrigerated, and I’m sure it’s been that way for thousands of years. But whether their eggs are washed or what, I do not know. I don’t wash or refrigerate the eggs from my hens. Once when we went away for 6 weeks starting the first of March, I left one egg out on the porch in a carton for my friend to take (she was feeding my animals). But she forgot, and I was surprised to see it when I returned home. I carefully broke it and smelled it…. fine! So I cooked it, along with a fresh one from that day, and to me, they both tasted identical! And I didn’t notice them looking different from each other either. I’ve never been sick from any egg either, or rarely from anything much.

  21. I buy eggs from both the store (“free range”) and the feed store whenever I get a chance. The eggs from the feed store have the bloom but are stored in the frig, so I keep all my eggs in the frig. You mentioned some factory eggs are coated in mineral oil. I’ve actually heard this is a good way to keep eggs for long-term storgae up to 9 months if needed (again refrigerated).

  22. Hiya people. I have 2 beautiful hens so have nice fresh eggs everyday. I have done a lot of reading up on keeping my girls happy and healthy and also, what to do with the eggs. Washing is a HUGE no no and unless the nest box is filthy, the eggs should not be that poopy at all. I give any occasional dirties a rub with some kitchen towel which is more adequate. I also keep them on a shelf separate from anything else in the fridge. Eggs can be kept out of the fridge up to 3 weeks or up to 6 weeks in the fridge, so it’s down to personal preference and how long they last in your house. It should also be pointed out that “fresh” eggs, bought in UK supermarkets, tend to already be up to 3 weeks old and I believe, usually tell you to keep refrigerated. To test egg freshness, place in water, if it sits on the bottom, it’s fresh, if it floats to the top, it’s not. Anything in between, freshish. The white bit is also more watery if the egg is unfresh. A nice deep orange yolk is a sign of a chicken fed good mixed diet, corn, layer feed and a good old free range forage around for bugs and anything else they can find. Eggs can also be boiled/ steamed and stored in the the fridge up to one week (as long as the shell has not become damaged or cracked as this allows bacteria to enter). You can also freeze eggs if you crack into a freezer bag (discarding the shell). I have checked this info with the government food hygiene standards 🙂 xxxxx

  23. I had 400 heritage chickens, and about 50 heritage ducks and we always rebloomed the table eggs we gathered. Since we used to sell eggs off the farm, the eggs had to be washed according to the USDA and our state. So every day, we washed the eggs using a disposable cloth and baking soda to take off the fecal matter, and stains. The fecal matter will eat through the bloom if it is left on since it is highly acidic. After washing the eggs, and allowing them to air dry for a few minutes, we rebloomed by rubbing organic extra virgin olive oil between the hands to slightly warm the oil and cover the eggs with it. The oil does reseal the shell. The eggs stay fresh for about 6 months when refrigerated. Yes, 6 months. In the old days, on farms in Europe, eggs were washed and then slathered thickly in fresh butter, and left out for weeks. There used to be a reblooming wax available a few years ago. But we found that the organic evoo works fabulously.

  24. We have somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 laying hens that feed our large family and while I don’t wash the eggs that aren’t visibly soiled, I have learned from personal experience to make sure we refrigerate them as quickly as possible if we’re in a season where the hens are laying enough that I know I can’t keep up with them in the kitchen.

    For example we had to have our gals cooped up for a few days a couple weeks ago. Since they free-range, they’ll often nest in the hay we put up for the cows. We searched and gathered all their eggs while they were in the coop. After they were released, they went back to their old habits of laying in the hay. My egg gatherers found a nest or two of eggs the other day and the no more than week or two old eggs are rotten as can be. My home isn’t air conditioned so I imagine the conditions in my home are the same as in the very well-ventilated barn.

    Also, if our hens set on unfertilized eggs, they do go rotten before the fertilized eggs hatch. We saw this up close and personal too while incubating eggs this spring- there was one egg that wasn’t fertilized and after a week and a half it was starting to ooze foul smelling liquid out of the pores. Granted, it was 99 degrees in there, but still the bloom doesn’t guarantee no spoilage at all.

    Anyway, I have found that, even with free-ranging with no feed supplementation 6 mos. out of the year, keeping hens isn’t as cheap as it would seem and I’d rather clutter my fridge than my counter with eggs and not run the risk of cracking a rotten stinker first thing in the morning. I hate to leave a contradictory comment (sorry!) but if farmers are charging a fair price for pastured eggs (which they often don’t) then I’d hate to see others have their purchases spoiled.

    1. It makes sense! That’s why I stated it is best to use your own judgement with eggs but leaving them on the counter for a few days or so may not hurt anything. Thank you for sharing your personal experience!

  25. This was a big topic at a cooking class. I keep any yard eggs I get on the counter. So it’s good to know a little bit more as to why one would refrigerate or not refrigerate their eggs! Thanks for doing the research and sharing the info!

  26. I buy pastured eggs from a local grocer (if I could find farm fresh eggs close by or raise chickens on my rental property I would – but I can’t – so don’t judge – I buy the highest quality store bought eggs I can) . . . . when I get them home the first thing I do is rub them with a thin coat of coconut oil – essentially adding back some of the protection from the bloom which has been washed off. Then I refrigerate them. I still have nice deep yellow orange yolks. So that’s an option for anyone else whose eggs have been washed prior to purchase.

  27. Great post. Thank you! We trade for our eggs (sourdough bread for eggs) with a dear friend. She doesn’t wash the eggs so they stay longer, but because of limitations on storage, she puts all her eggs directly into a fridge. So we store in the fridge. I’ve always been concerned that the fluctuation in temperature (going from the cold of the fridge to the counter) would do “damage” to the eggs.

  28. Good post! Thanks for the info. My mom always told me eggs didn’t need to be in the fridge if we were going to eat them within a few weeks. Good to know specifically why and how. It sure saves space in my fridge, but it’s hard to keep my kids from playing with fresh, colorful eggs sitting on the counter! 🙂 Definitely rather have that problem than HAVE to keep them in the fridge, though. 🙂

  29. I’m aware of the “bloom” but didn’t know what it was called. Thank you. I have 6 backyard hens and keep my eggs unwashed and on the counter in a wire egg basket. I wash them only immediately before use. Love them this way. Thanks for all the detailed information.

  30. Great info! My parents got some backyard hens this year (we can’t have them in our county) and we’ve really been enjoying the eggs. I believe my mom rinses the eggs before putting them in the fridge even though I told her it was unnecessary. I’ll have to share this with her 🙂

  31. I’d never actually thought about refrigerating certain types of eggs before, thanks so much for that info!

    I’ll definitely be taking that on board and also telling my clients know. Also I posted the link on my meet-up group page so heaps more people will now know about it 🙂

    Keep up the great posts!

  32. When I can, I buy my eggs from my nephews who raise hens for eggs. These I don’t worry about refrigerating unless counter space is at a premium. But whenever I buy store bought, I definitely refrigerate them.

  33. Missouri law requires that we refrigerate our eggs especially at farmers markets (and they spot check us) for compliance. On the farm sales are not licensed though.

  34. I raised chickens for years. Often i leave the eggs in the nest for a week at a time. Once i left them for two weeks and collected 150 eggs, not one was bad. I have read studies from univeristy of illinios that eggs will last from 4 to 7 months depending on whether or not they are washed, or not and fertile or not.. the longest lasting eggs are unwashed, unfertile eggs… at 7 months at 45 degrees, and 6 weeks at 70 degrees.

  35. My wife and I have a small flock (four girls), and our daughters love to go check for eggs a couple times a day. My four y/o loves it, even thanks the ladies for the egg as she tosses some treats in for them. We keep ours in the fridge, just because that is how we grew up, but I have known that they are counter safe. Love the rich yellow yolks!!!

  36. I never refrigerate eggs unless I have to wash them for some reason!
    But it takes 21 days or. 3 weeks
    not 2 weeks for chicks to hatch!

  37. Thank you for this info. We have our own chickens and I have always washed them when they come in .I will never do that again . I am also never going to eat a store bought egg. Gross .
    Thank you thank you ;-);-)

  38. Whoa, this blog is excellent and I love reading your posts. Keep up the fantastic work! You realize, lots of individuals are searching round for this information, you can assist them alot. I will share your site. Thank you.

  39. What a great article! My husband has been reading Storey’s Guide to raising chickens and he knew all this when I excitedly told him about your post. LOL! But I loved your real life views. Too much info is like not enough, you know? We have 2 farms that sell, but they keep them refrigerated so we do as well. Eggs don’t last long here : Between the 4 of us, we go through 12 to 18 eggs a week. Soon, we will have our own! We are just waiting for the kiddos to be a bit older so it ca be a family venture. 🙂

    Again, great post!

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