The lay down on dirty eggs…
Every year, when a new player’s wife comes to town, one of the first questions I hear is, “What’s with the dirty eggs and why are milk and eggs not refrigerated?” I fondly remember opening my first carton of dirty eggs. I saw a bird feather stuck to the egg with a little smudge of something suspect. “Ewwww,” I thought. “Dirty eggs!”
This unsanitary, gross display of food handling would never happen in the USA, because we are the best at everything! So why do we have dirty eggs in the EU? It is something that I think all expats have wondered at least once or twice. So, I set out to research this dirty egg business.
The Egg –
Farmers produce eggs. Okay, technically not the farmers but the hens. Once the eggs are laid, the hen places a coating on the eggshell to protect it from the environment, bacteria, salmonella, and pathogens. The hens do this because eggs are very porous, and without this coating the eggs are susceptible to contracting bacteria. Think of it as a type of water, and air, proofing.
Eggcellent Fact – There are as many as 17,000 tiny pores on the shell of the egg.
The Clean Eggs –
The eggs in the USA have to be washed in a minimum of 90 degree water. The eggs are washed and sprayed down with detergent. This washing removes the dirt, bacteria, and the protective coating from the eggs. Then the eggs are sprayed with a chemical sanitizer to kill any left over bacteria that snuck through the washing process.
After washing and sanitizing, the eggs must be immediately dried. If they are not dried, the shells can soak up water, or bacteria, through the pores in the shell.
After drying, the eggs must be refrigerated at all times. The cold temperatures are used to inhibit the growth of bacteria on the eggs and help lengthen shelf life. Once eggs are refrigerated, they cannot be un-refrigerated for any length of time.
The best part about this is we never have to know how dirty the farm or hens living conditions are because the eggs are chemically sanitized, and pretty, when they reach the store. Better yet, that nasty protective coating has been completely washed off the eggs.
The Dirty Eggs –
Now, Let’s talk about the cleaning process in the EU. The EFSA, or European Food Safety Authority, believes that the best way to have uncontaminated eggs is to make sure the hens, and their living space, are clean. If all the living spaces are clean, the eggs should not be dirty or need chemical sanitizing.
They also believe that washing off the natural coating around the egg is not the best way to protect the public from salmonella or bacteria. Since the coating around the egg is protecting it from foreign bacteria and salmonella, they do not need to refrigerate them because refrigeration is used to ward off bacterial growth that comes from moisture or warm temperatures; however, with this natural coating, bacteria on or around the egg will not get through the shell.
Now, putting the eggs in the fridge will improve their shelf life, just like in the USA, but it is not necessary. Remember, what you see is what you get – the eggs have never been cleaned with detergent, or sanitized with chemicals, to make them look pretty. I guess you can call them… naturally pretty.
Eggcellent Fact – Did you know that an egg, without its protective coating, can absorb odors through its pores?
Since I’m a nerd, and need visual proof of everything, I decided to do a dirty egg experiment. Let’s take an egg that has been sanitized and lost its protective coating (USA) vs. an egg that has not been sanitized but still has its natural coating (EU).
Let’s drop them into a bowl of food coloring. Think of the food coloring as bacteria that can enter into your egg, and let’s see what happens.
The USA egg let quite a bit of blue food coloring into the egg through the shell, which is the same way bacteria and salmonella poisoning can enter an egg. You can see the blue coloring inside the shell and in the egg itself.
The EU egg actually had no blue food coloring in the shell or on the egg. The writing on the EU shell also ran off as if it had a repellent against the ink, unlike the USA egg.
If you are a geek like me, you can try this at home; however, you must have one, Grade A, USA egg (washed and dried) and one fresh farm egg that has not been cleaned or processed.
Most of the EU & UK have mandated that all chickens and hens have salmonella immunization to protect the community from a salmonella outbreak. These immunizations have almost eliminated salmonella outbreaks across the board in Europe; however, this is not mandatory in the USA.
Hmmmm… why is that? No matter how you like your eggs, scrambled, over easy, or with a side of bacon, your dirty eggs from Europe just might be cleaner and safer than those pretty, shiny eggs in the USA.
Lesson learned – Never judge an egg by its shell.
What do you think about the warm, dirty eggs of the EU? I would love to hear your comments. If you want to know the story on the unrefrigerated, warm milk in the EU, click this link —> Warm Milk. Cheers!
This post is part of #SundayTraveler. Check out all the great stories in the Traveler Link Up!
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