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Cold Eggs, Clean Eggs, Healthy Eggs, Boiled Eggs

I’ve heard many stories and maybe you have too about about how old farmers and people who grew up on farms, handled their eggs.  Old timers would tell me how they would bring them in and leave them on the counter and others would tell me they would put them in their store room and they would last months in storage.  I heard that not cleaning your eggs was better for keeping them fresh.  Yet, the USDA told me I was required to wash my eggs in bleach water and refrigerate.  I just assumed we knew more about food safety now than those old timers.   Then I was in Costa Rica for about a month and the first time I needed to buy eggs at the store, I couldn’t find them.  After walking up and down the refrigeration section for about 15 minutes, I finally decided I needed pull together my best Spanish and ask where the eggs were and to my surprise, and the reason I couldn’t find the eggs; The eggs weren’t refrigerated!   The eggs were on the counter next to the check out!   I thought you had to refrigerate eggs and here, the entire country of Costa Rica, didn’t refrigerate their eggs.  So, I then decided I need to do some research on eggs and here are some answers I found to eggs safety,  egg nutrition and egg grading.

Do eggs need refrigeration?  Living in the US in our day and age, our automatic answer is YES.  The confusion comes when you visit a Latin American or European country and can’t find eggs in the refrigeration section of the store because there, eggs are not refrigerated.  So why do we refrigerate in the US?  Well, because eggs last longer with refrigeration.  The dangerous bacteria in eggs grow faster at warm temperatures so without refrigeration, the bacteria in eggs will grow faster.  You could leave them out for weeks and they would probably still be okay, but they will go bad faster.  So if you want to keep your eggs fresher longer, it is a very good idea to refrigerate them.  Then why do other countries not refrigerate and why is it actually illegal in many countries to refrigerate their eggs?  Well because refrigeration is expensive, and, they have not had any reason to change what they have been doing for centuries.   In countries where they do not refrigerate the eggs, the supply chain is also not allowed to refrigerate the eggs because if refrigeration were to happen at any point, the cold eggs would warm up and condensation would form on the egg[JS1] s causing the eggs to mold and go bad. 

Do eggs last longer if they haven’t been washed?

Fresh eggs have a film on the outside of the shell called the cuticle that protects them and if left intact. It is the eggs natural defense to keep bacteria out and help the egg stay fresh longer.  So why do we wash our eggs?  Fear.  The biggest bacteria fear is salmonella.  Salmonella can live in the ovaries of the chickens and when the eggs are laid the salmonella is on the inside of the shell.  The US, Japan, Australia, and Scandinavian countries all wash their eggs.  In the US, eggs are washed, sanitized and dried before packing to remove any bacteria on the shell.  It is required to wash and sanitize your eggs in the US but in the EU it is actually illegal to wash the eggs. Strange, right?  Why?  Bad Experience.  England received a bad batch of eggs that were washed in Austria.  So, they don’t wash their eggs to keep the cuticle intact but they do require their chickens to be vaccinated against salmonella.  Also, not washing eggs hold the farmer to having cleaner conditions for the chickens and requires faster collection.  Farmers would not be able to sell dirty eggs.

So there are to be two methods used by countries both seem to be working;
1.) wash, sanitize, dry and refrigerate eggs or 2.) vaccinate chickens for salmonella, do not wash the eggs and leave at room temperature.

How do you tell if an egg is good or bad?

The easiest way is to put the eggs in water.  If the egg floats, its bad throw it out.  If it stands on end, it is suspect, check it before using.  If the egg lays flat on bottom it is good.  As the egg ages it starts to decompose and the decomposition causes a build up of gas.

Why is there a red spot in my egg?  Sometimes there are red spots in eggs, it can be because the egg was fertile but blood spots can also appear in unfertile eggs.  I have had chickens without a rooster and I had quite a few blood spots in my eggs.  The blood spots can be genetic and have been bred out of commercial eggs.  Although, not the most appetizing, it is harmless, and can just be removed.

How do you hard boil an egg so it peals easy?  Use a pressure cooker and pressure cook for eight minutes. Then, ice water.  This is literally they only way to do this consistently. 

Are Farm Fresh eggs healthier than store bought?

This is taking in the assumption that the chickens laying the farm fresh eggs are free ranged or pastured.  Small farmers could raise chickens the same as the large producers although most do not.  One important difference between the two is you can talk to the small farmer and even visit the farm to see how their eggs are produced.  From the research I have seen, there are two factors that play into the nutrition of the egg; the first is environmental and the second is genetic.  Chicken’s raised on pasture or free ranging have healthier fats, 1/3 the cholesterol and have more nutrients that those raised entirely on grain.  One study took the commercial chicken and raised it in the same environmental conditions as heritage breed chickens and the commercial chicken egg still had the highest levels of cholesterol and the least amount of nutrients and was less healthier all round.  Cheaper, generic eggs are from chicken’s in large egg factories.  These farms start with chickens that have been bread to produce an egg a day on their grain rations.  These chickens might see a peep of daylight in a sky light but will never venture outside.  Starting with heritage chickens and raising them the old-fashioned way in sunlight and open range does lead to a healthier produced egg.

A study done by Mother Earth News shows the nutrition of Farm Fresh Eggs compared to Commercially Produced Eggs.

• 1⁄3 less cholesterol
• 1⁄4 less saturated fat
• 2⁄3 more vitamin A
• 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids
• 3 times more vitamin E
• 7 times more beta carotene 

What do egg grades mean and how are they graded?

In commercial facilities eggs are machine graded but on the small farm they are usually candled by hand, which means the eggs are put in front of a bright light to illuminate the inside of the egg.  From this light you can see if an egg is fertile, if there are blood spots and how big the air pocket is in the egg. 

Text Box: Air Pocket – size is measured with the card shown below

The State of South Dakota gives us this handy chart:

A close up of text on a white background

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The bottom of this chart shows the air pocket sizes.  The air pocket in the egg has to be the same size or smaller than the quality to earn the grade.

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It’s Cold Outside!!!

The temperatures plummeted into the negatives this past week and this little guys momma gave birth to him in -11 deg F weather.  Last week it was warm, we even had 50 deg days but no she didn’t give birth last week.  It was this week in the freezing temperatures. the evening we found him, he was mostly dry but shaking and very cold.  We brought him into our garage to warm him up.  He’s in the garage in the picture above.  Unfortunately he frost bit his ears.  They will fall and we will have to keep an eye out for infection.  Being fairly new to the farm business we are learning and there is a lot to learn.  This is our first calf born in cold temperatures.   Being in the Black Hills at an higher altitude we try to calve later than the rest of South Dakota.   We shoot for April/May, the weather is much better, but…. we bought this cow and she was already pregnant, so…..  Here we are out in negative temperatures trying to save a baby calf.   After bringing him into the barn, we turned on the propane heater and tried to get mom into the shop but being an unfamiliar space she was having none of it.  We ended up having to build a temporary corral system and fenced her in right in front of the shop doors.  Then, I hid next to the garage door and waited about 10 min. and when she went in, I slammed the garage door shut.  I won!  She stayed with baby in the heated shop for the night.  When I say heated it was maybe 30 degrees above what it was outside and of course out of the wind.  The next morning we opened up the shop doors and momma went out to eat and baby eventually followed.  One of the first things I watch for after birth is baby nursing.  With the cold temperatures, he maybe did do nurse as much but I didn’t see him nurse and I was not sure if he had nursed yet.  After talking to the vet she had me give him a colostrum replacement.  The calf did not take the bottle so my son and I attempted to shove a tube down his esophagus to feed him the colostrum.  After he gagged once, we tried it again then he started swallowing it.  In a situation like this it is hard to tell if you are doing the right thing.   He spent the next two below freezing nights in the barn and it will be at least two weeks before we know if he will survive the cold spell.

Three lessons I learned:

1.) To warm up a baby calf use a heat source without a sent such as a hairdryer.  Using a propane heater can leave a scent on the calf and momma might reject the calf.

2.) Baby must have colostrum with in first 24 hrs of being born or it will not make it.  Most colostrum is absorbed within the first 8 hrs.

3.) I should get a camara so I can spy on the cows and not stress them out.