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Eggs are a delicious source of protein that are easy for nearly anyone to raise. In fact, I believe every small homestead needs chickens. But raising chickens usually poses one big question: How long do eggs last? That, my friend, depends on a lot of factors. Let’s talk about those today!
Chicken eggs are delicious, nutritious, and good for you. Each egg only has 70 calories, 7 grams of protein, and 5 grams of fat. They also have iron, vitamins, minerals, and carotenoids. And, they even have some disease-fighting nutrients which help keep you healthy.
How long do farm fresh eggs last?
Farm fresh eggs don’t necessarily last longer, but since you gather them yourself, they are the freshest you can get. If you raise chickens, you have a steady supply of these nutritious butt nuggets.
Farm fresh eggs have a protective coating over them, called the bloom. When this bloom is washed off, it can allow bacteria to leach into the egg through the pores in the shell. After an egg is washed, it has to be refrigerated.
I have found that clean but unwashed eggs can be stored on the counter for a month. If put in the fridge, they are good for about 2 months.
If you have chickens and collect their eggs daily, it’s a good idea to write the date collected on the egg with a pencil. That way you know when they are too old for consumption and should be disposed of.
How long do store-bought eggs last?
Store-bought eggs, at least in the U.S., are all washed, and thus, have to be stored in the refrigerator. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends storing eggs at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below, and to use them within 3 weeks of purchase. This is a very conservative, cover-your-butt recommendation.
The Egg Safety Center has a little looser recommendations, saying they are safe to eat within 4 to 5 weeks. This is still a bit conservative for my way of thinking, but I guess better to be safe than sorry.
Make sure you keep your store-bought eggs in the original carton, so you know when they were packaged. This makes it easiest to know when they should be thrown out.
How can you tell if your eggs are still good?
There are a few ways to tell if your eggs are still good. Go with your gut on this. If you’re not comfortable with the results of any of these, throw the questionable ones away.
Smell the egg.
If the egg smells bad through the shell, just throw it out. You don’t want to crack that egg open “just to make sure”. Trust me on this one!
Inspect the egg.
Inspect the egg. Check to make sure there are no cracks in the shell. Cracks in the eggshell invite bacteria to invade. If it looks powdery, it could be mold. If it’s slimy, this could indicate bacteria or salmonella.
“Candle” the egg.
If you have roosters, chances are you could have fertilized eggs. Normally this isn’t a problem at all. Fertilized eggs look, feel, and taste the same as unfertilized. However, if they are kept in a fairly warm environment (over 85 degrees), they may have some development occur. If your eggs could be fertilized, and have been kept somewhat warm, it’s a good idea to candle them to be certain there isn’t any embryotic development.
To candle an egg, go into a dark room with a flashlight. We use the flashlight on our cell phones. Shine the flashlight into the rounded end of the egg. Then turn the egg and rotate it slightly so you can see all angles inside the egg. If there is development going on, you may see veins in the egg. These will show up like a reddish spider web throughout the egg. You may also see a dark spot, which may be an embryo.
If your egg shows signs of development through candling, just throw it out. Because it hasn’t been kept at a constant 100 degrees (which is necessary to incubate eggs), it doesn’t really have a chance at being viable. It will just be gross. Just trust me here!
Do a float test.
The egg float test is an easy test to check for egg freshness. Fill a large bowl with water, and carefully drop in the eggs you want to check. The freshest eggs will be resting firmly on their sides on the bottom, and the older eggs will float at the top.
The science of this test goes like this: Eggs have a pocket of air near the pointy top of the egg. Fresh eggs will have a very small pocket. As the egg sits, that pocket will get bigger and bigger.
In a float test, the very fresh eggs will sit on their sides on the bottom of the bowl. If an egg is at the bottom but pointing up, it’s not as fresh, but still perfectly usable within a reasonable amount of time. If the egg is floating at the top, it’s best to toss it.
Crack the egg into a bowl.
If your egg passes all the other tests and you’re still not 100% certain, crack the eggs, one by one, into a bowl. Examine the yolks. Fresh yolks will be fairly compact, round, and domed. Older yolks will be wider and flatter. Then smell the eggs. If they smell normal, you’re probably good to go!
How do I make my eggs last longer?
There are a lot of reasons you might want to make your eggs last longer. If you raise chickens, you will probably have more than you can handle in the spring and summer. Then in the winter you might not get very many (although I do have a post on keeping your chickens laying in winter).
If you have a small family, you might have a really hard time using up all of your eggs in the recommended time. This is when it’s very important to figure out how to prolong your egg shelf life.
Most homesteaders like to preserve their excess egg bounty in the warmer months to help get them through the cold months. Here are some common options.
This is an easy way to have eggs that you can bake with or scramble for up to a year after they’ve been laid. But don’t freeze them in the shell! The best way to freeze eggs is by cracking them, one by one, into a bowl. Give each egg a good scramble with a fork, and put into one slot of an ice cube tray. When the tray is full, put it in the freezer. Once frozen, take the eggs out of the ice cube tray and put them in a freezer bag. Each egg cube will be one egg, to use as needed.
Now this one might not appeal to some people, but it’s definitely worth trying if you never have. Pickling eggs keeps them good in the fridge for up to 4 months. Of course, you can’t scramble these or bake with them, but you’ll have a nice, protein-rich snack ready in the fridge for months. Here is a great recipe for pickled eggs.
Water glass them.
Water glassing is the way our ancestors stored their excess eggs for fresh use throughout the year. It may seem difficult, but it’s really not. It uses hydrated lime, also known as calcium hydroxide, pickling lime, or slaked lime, mixed with water. The eggs are stored in the mixed liquid in a jar or bucket with a lid. Water glassed eggs can last up to a year or more, and can be used just like fresh eggs from the hen house.
It’s pretty easy (though time-intensive) to dehydrate eggs at home. You can use a dehydrator, but many sources say that leaves it open to risks of salmonella. An oven set to 165 degrees Fahrenheit might be your best bet. Properly stored in an air-deprived environment, dehydrated eggs can last 5 to 10 years, but they are best used in baking rather than scrambled.
Freeze dry them.
If you’re lucky enough to have a freeze dryer, you should absolutely check into freeze drying eggs. Freeze dried eggs, stored properly, should last 10 to 15 years. And like dehydrated, freeze dried eggs are best used in baking.
What do you do with extra eggs?
Do you ever have extra eggs? Do you have more tips to share on storing the extras? Please share in the comments so we can all learn from each other!
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