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Eggs

I guess I was sheltered. I always thought raw eggs needed to be refrigerated unless they were used right away. I was really surprised the first (and second and third) time I entered a market and discovered this….

Look Mom, no electricity required!

Just to be clear, these are egg cartons, filled with real eggs from real hens.  The cartons are wrapped in plastic and stacked on the floor in the market.  If you look carefully, you’ll see that the boxes contain a picture of a happy, smiling egg walking around waving.  The picture does not contain a sickly egg groaning and dragging itself across the floor.  The picture is clearly a healthy egg and, in fact, these eggs are fine.

Hmm, maybe these eggs are okay because they are wrapped in plastic…

Wrong! Take a look at this….

Egg cartons on shelves with no plastic

More eggs stacked in cartons, but this time there is no plastic. If you look carefully, you’ll see that there is some sort of device above the eggs. I’m not sure what the heck that is. It didn’t look important, but maybe it is some sort of high-tech anti-bacterial disruption field generator that keeps the eggs fresh.

More eggs just sitting around in the hot room-temperature air

You can’t get more basic than this.  Here in Israel, eggs are placed in cartons and stacked at room-temperature for sale.

If you think about it, this even seems reasonable.  Eggs must have a built in mechanism to prevent bacterial contamination. After all, the hen lays the egg and then sits on it for three weeks before the chick hatches. I bet that’s not a clean environment and it certainly isn’t a cool environment. If bacteria could easily infect the eggs, the chicks would not survive.

Even so, it still seems bizarre to me.  Eggs should be in refrigerators, right? Apparently that’s not the case.

I had to do a bit of research to figure this out. I discovered that there is a thin film surrounding each egg that protects it from contamination.  In the United States, the eggs are washed (and perhaps bleached or colored) so that they look nice. The washing removes the film and, as a result, exposes the egg to contamination.  That’s why eggs need to be refrigerated in the States — so that they will look pretty. In the United States, unrefrigerated eggs look nice, but they can kill you.

I wonder how much energy is used to process the raw eggs and then refrigerate them in the trucks and in the warehouses and in the stores. I guess people in California need to fear electricity rationing on their expensive, high-definition, televisions so that the egg shells can look pretty.

It seems like Al Gore should be doing something about this. I can picture him trying to explain it:

We have a vicious cycle. Pretty eggs are causing climate change because of all the electricity needed for cooling. As the Earth becomes hotter, we need to use even more electricity to cool the pretty eggs. Break the cycle by purchasing carbon-free dirty eggs from my company that I don’t own. Keep in mind, I don’t directly receive any money from your purchase. This is about saving the Earth… one egg at a time.

Anyway, we buy the eggs at room temperature and promptly put them in the refrigerator at home. I am, after all, an American.

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Categories: Food, Israel Tags: , , ,
  1. connie
    2010-10-29 at 5:24 am

    Hey Rob, you really can leave your eggs on the counter for 3 weeks unrefrigerated. One of my patient’s dad has a farm where they sell hundreds of fresh eggs to health food stores and bakers. He said you can leave them on your counter for 3 weeks. However, once you put them in the refrig, you must keep them there.

    • 2010-10-29 at 7:55 am

      Our refrigerator has one of the dozen egg holder things, so we use it. I also think that some people keep their eggs for significantly longer than 3 weeks unrefrigerated — maybe two months.

  2. gary gross
    2010-11-01 at 6:52 am

    Shalom Rob:

    Eggs come from the hens oviduct. The oviducts are after all clean and free of bacteria and virus unless the hen is sick. Chickens are natural carriers of Salmonella poularum. The industry trys to eliminate carriers and of course in large industrial egg laying operations sanitizers are used on the caging and processing equipment. I don’t think antibiotics are used because that would result in bacterial resistance very rapidly. In any case the egg shell surface may become contaminated with Salmonella and hense the processing equipment. The inside of the eqg would more rarely be infected with bacteria. Eggs last many weeks at room temperatures like 27C. Every thing rots in heat and humidity. If you wash the eqq shell in clean water some of the bacteria and most of the toxins from bacterial growth would be removed. So your suppossed to do that before cracking open a fresh egg. Also cooking an egg kills the bacteria and toxins if present.
    In addition eggs refrigerated last longer (no brainer). I suspect in Israel and other places where the Giant et. al. is not the local market people shop more often for their fresh food.

    Gary

    • 2010-11-01 at 8:15 am

      !אני נביא

      I knew you would explain this. Thanks for the detailed explanation. I wonder what else I missed by not becoming a veterinarian. 🙂

      That’s a really good point about washing the eggs before cracking.

      Thanks!

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