If you’re like a lot of people raising chickens, you do it for the eggs. The nutritional value is significant for nutrients like protein, potassium, and magnesium. So, how long are backyard eggs good, exactly?
Let’s find out.
How the Lifespan of Eggs are Determined
Nature helps to ensure that eggs will survive the ordeal of being laid. The shell is rigid and reasonably durable. The hen also deposits a coating on them called the bloom that protects them from bacteria, particularly, Salmonella which poses a significant health risk for humans.
So far, so good.
The answer to the question of how long are backyard eggs good depends on what happens afterward. Let’s start with the second most pressing question after which came first, the chicken or the egg.
To Refrigerate or Not to Refrigerate?
The center of this debate is the United States versus the EU’s way of treating commercial eggs. The implications are worth considering even for the individual raising chicken. Again, Salmonella is the rub.
There have been 76 outbreaks in the United States with origins in live poultry, i.e., chickens. America deals with this issue by pasteurizing eggs as per the 1970 Egg Products Inspection Act. Exposure to heat kills the bacteria that can cause this sometimes deadly health condition.
The downside is that it gets rid of nature’s solution with the bloom. Therefore, we have to refrigerate our eggs to keep them safe to eat for the four to five weeks in the fridge. The lower temps stem the growth of these microbes to keep them safe to eat.
The fact remains that many poultry producers raise chickens in controlled conditions that maximize production but put the birds in close quarters. Diseases can run like wildfires through a conventional setup, especially if the sanitary state isn’t up to snuff.
That’s why there are so many agencies involved in different stages of production to monitor the safety of raw eggs.
The EU takes a different approach. Instead, they vaccinate chickens, which provides the necessary protection against this pathogen. So, if you shop in the UK, you’ll see eggs in the aisles and not in the dairy section.
As long as the stores — and you — keep them under 68 degrees Fahrenheit, you’re good to go. They do not pasteurize or wash the eggs so that the bloom stays intact. That’s why the storage requirements are different.
But you may ask how long are backyard eggs good with or without this treatment?
Backyard Egg Production
Most US poultry farmers have small flocks of under 10 birds. The USDA inspection requirements apply to much larger facilities than the few that you will keep. However, many local communities have regulations in place if you sell the eggs.
The chances are that you’re not pasteurizing them. The consequences of that course of action don’t apply to you. That means the bloom is intact, providing nature’s protection against bacteria.
You are probably washing the eggs, especially if they’re dirty. Be sure to use warm or hot water to avoid shrinking the porous surface of the shells to keep the nasties outside of the interior of the eggs.
If you do wash them, put them in the fridge to prolong their shelf life.
Alternatively, you can take the proactive approach and keep the hens nesting areas clean. Change their bedding often to help prevent Salmonella exposure by limiting their contact with poultry feces.
We’d also recommend giving your chickens space. Have a coop with at least 3 square feet per bird and an outdoor run to encourage them to go outside and forage while protecting them from predators. It’ll round out their diet with protein sources like grubs to give them better immunity against disease and pathogens.
Indirectly, you’ll increase the time that backyard eggs remain safe to eat.
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How to Know if Things Have Gone South
The quickest way to judge the quality and taste of your backyard eggs is the float test. The ones that are still good will sink whereas the bad ones will float. Think of it as the viable ones having more good stuff inside of them while the bad ones have lost it.
The key to the differences between American and EU’s ways to handle the risk of bacteria differ and therein lies the answer to the safety of eggs.
When feasible, we like to put our trust in nature. She’s got it covered with the bloom on the eggshells to keep the yolks and whites safe from the bacteria that could cause foodborne illnesses.
The question of how long are backyard eggs good depends on your care of both the birds and the measures you take to clean them along with storage.