Proper cleaning and storing of eggs is important for human health
“It’s a good time to talk about food safety, egg han- dling and storage now that our backyard flocks are lay- ing eggs,” says Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service Poultry Specialist Dr. Craig Coufal.
In a Texas A&M AgriLife publication, Coufal notes handling, cleaning and storing eggs safely is important to prevent food- borne illnesses related to poultry.
Collecting clean eggs
First and foremost, Coufal says clean eggs start in the coop. He recommends having a regular sanitation practice, which includes removing chicken waste, sanitizing roosts and nest boxes and replacing nesting litter regularly.
“It’s a good idea to prevent hens from roosting in the nest boxes at night to reduce waste accumulation,” Coufal says. “Clean out nest boxes regularly to reduce egg contamination. Well-maintained nests also reduce egg breakage.”
Coufal also recommends eggs be collected as often as possible.
“Prompt collection of eggs reduces the likelihood they will be broken or become dirty. Collecting eggs twice a day or once a day at minimum, will translate into cleaner, fresher eggs,” he explains. “The quicker we get those eggs cleaned and stored in the refrigerator, the better.”
“Eggs are porous and have active bacteria on the outside, so they should not be dipped or soaked in soapy water,” says Coufal.
He notes there are many ways to properly wash an egg, but the temperature of the water used to wash the egg is the key factor.
“The wash water must be warmer than the eggs,” he states. “Avoid using dish soap or scented cleaning solutions as they can affect the taste of the egg.”
After washing, Coufal says eggs should be rinsed with clean water that is slightly warmer than the wash water and notes eggs should be allowed to air dry before being stored.
“This is an easy process that can reduce the chances of foodborne illnesses,” he states.
When it comes to storing eggs, Coufal says eggs should be refrigerated as soon as possible, since refrigeration preserves quality and reduces the potential for bacterial growth.
“There is a lot of discussion about keeping eggs at room temperature versus refrigerating them,” Coufal explains. “Eggs will naturally degrade more rapidly at room temperature. An egg stored at room temperature might be edible for only three weeks, compared to 15 weeks if it is stored in the fridge.” Coufal mentions the optimum temperature for eggs to be stored is at or below 45 degrees.
Controlling salmonella contamination
According to the Center for Disease Prevention and Control, there were 1,134 people infected with outbreak strains of salmonella in 2019.
“The majority of salmonella cases involved contact with chicks or ducklings, but handling eggs can also spread the bacteria that naturally occurs in the intestinal tract of chickens,” explains Coufal.
“Proper sanitation is the best defense from salmonella,” he adds. “Washing the eggs and properly washing hands and tools used to handle eggs or chickens will help prevent contamination.”
Hannah Bugas is the managing editor for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to roundup@ wylr.net.