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How Clean Are Your Eggs?

How Clean Are Your Eggs?

Do you routinely wash your eggs before you break them and cook them? I certainly don’t, and that is why I was so baffled when, after visiting a local farm and walking away with a dozen fresh eggs, the farmer said, “you might want to rinse those off before using them.” Huh? I had never really thought to “rinse” my eggs, but I popped open the cardboard carton and saw 12 beautifully-shaped brown eggs with little flecks of hay and barnyard detritus on them. The farmer essentially said there was nothing on the eggs that would kill me, but hey, they have been sitting in a barn and among chickens, neither the brightest nor the cleanest animals on the farm. So, I did indeed rinse my eggs.

Granted most consumers get their eggs, not from the farm, but from the supermarket where they have been mechanically packed into Styrofoam cartons and seemingly rid of any semblance of farm life. But according to a report released by The Humane Society yesterday, which consisted of an undercover investigation into Kreider Farms, a major factory farm that produces 4.5 million eggs each day for supermarkets like ShopRite, those pristine white eggs fall far short of being clean – inside and out. In the investigation, as first reported by New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof, The Humane Society uncovers fetid workplace conditions and numerous health code violations, in addition to multiple instances of extreme animal cruelty. Some of the filthy conditions uncovered include mice running down egg conveyer belts, barn floors thick with flies, manure and eggs testing positive for salmonella, and stifling levels of ammonia in the air.

It should be noted that last year (2011), the main egg industry trade association, United Egg Producers, in an unlikely union, joined forces with the Humane Society of the United States in an agreement to support new federal standards that would provide more space for hens and getting rid of those objectionable battery cages. However, Kreider Farms (the subject of the investigation) is conveniently not a member of the United Egg Producers, and therefore not bound to the new standards.

So even if you were to wash these conventional eggs with soap and water, then rinse in vinegar (which may help, but probably not) attaining that pure egg nutrition will be next to impossible.

Knowing what we all know about factory farms that maintain substandard conditions for hens and employees, have you sworn off conventional eggs? If you have gone local or organic, can you tell the difference? And lastly, does anyone else wash his or her eggs?

Read more: Animal Rights, Blogs, Diet & Nutrition, Following Food, Food, Nature & Wildlife, Raw, , , , , , ,

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Eric Steinman

Eric Steinman is a freelance writer based in Rhinebeck, NY. He regularly writes about food, music, art, architecture, and culture and is a regular contributor to Bon Appétit among other publications.

162 comments

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8:09PM PST on Jan 28, 2014

Thank you.

1:43AM PST on Jan 21, 2014

Of course, most people eating eggs are going to cook them which does get rid of bacteria anyway, however for those worried, a splash of vinegar on the egg shells never hurts.

Interesting, Heidi A. I prefer organic eggs as well.

Dianne Lynn E. Yes, even fruit flies can stomp on one's tangerines and grapes.

8:01PM PST on Jan 20, 2014

update, i may have found a solution to my chickies laying their eggs in dirty places. i put a dish pan (got it from the dollar store) in their laying area, it is a little larger than one of the spots so i have to move the partition a little. then i added some shavings to the dish pan. prior to that i was putting shavings down but they would scratch and kick them into the larger perching area. it has only been two days but both of the girls laid their eggs in the dish pan and they were nice and clean, sitting in a nest of pine shavings. yipee!

7:51PM PST on Jan 20, 2014

All the years I've lived I've never thought about washing eggs. I imagine if I had gotten them from a farm I probably would have thought about it, you just figure coming from the grocery store they were clean, at least they look clean. So guess I'll start washing eggs......

6:21AM PST on Jan 17, 2014

i never washed store bought eggs as they always looked clean. after seeing a peta video on the factory farms and the random killing of all the male chicks i had to stop eating eggs except when i was able to purchase them from local farms. one of the first things i did when i got settled in tennessee was to get 2 chicks. they just started laying about a month ago and each give me an egg a day which is plenty for me. i have a store bought coop for them, that i purchased at the hardware store, that has a small laying area, a larger area for them to perch and a small enclosed outside area but now that they are full grown it is more crowded than i would like.

come spring i will have someone build a larger enclosure for them - i saw a very clever use of a trampoline where the legs were covered in chicken wire, turning it into a coop that could be somewhat easily moved around the yard.

anyway, my girls never leave their eggs in the laying area but always leave them where they end up with at least some guano on them so i have to always wash them first. if they left them in the hay or shavings and they looked clean, i would not bother. i have also heard that the shell has a protective coating that will keep them fresh for months but because they are clearly dirty when i bring them in the house i really have no choice but to wash them before putting them in the fridge or using them.

if anyone here has any suggestions for encouraging my chickens to lay their eggs in the laying

1:48PM PST on Jan 6, 2013

of course

1:36AM PDT on Oct 10, 2012

", neither the brightest nor the cleanest animals on the farm. So, I did indeed rinse my eggs." get real writer these animals are SUFFERING for your BENEFIT!

5:44AM PDT on Sep 6, 2012

I run my own free range hens but always give the shells a quick rinse/wipe over before using. Just something I've always done and not all my girls lay in the clean nesting boxes but like to find their own little places, in pots, hollows under tree trunks etc. So I just feel better knowing they are clean.

8:21AM PDT on Jul 31, 2012

Never bother washing my eggs as the inside is protected by a natural bacteria "skin".
Cooking properly gets rid of the bacteria anyway.
Ate farm fresh eggs for years without washing and have not died yet.
Anyone worried about factory farm eggs containing antibiotics and what not can always find a reliable free range farm-although for some without transportation and otherwise that may not be easy depending on where one lives.

11:46PM PDT on Jun 24, 2012

I switched to organic/free range chickens long ago for nutritional reasons. The free range chicken eggs have the correct ratio of omega-3 to omega- 6, whereas conventional eggs have 19 times more omega-6 than omega- 3.

For those of you who don't understand Omega-6, it is identified with Diabetes, Obesity and Cardiovascular disease as much a sugar and white processed flour. It is found in very high levels in almost all processed foods and is derived from cheap, common oils-soy oil, cottonseed oil,corn oil and of course Wesson which is a mixture of the cheapest oils available at the time of manufacturing.

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