Why are the Eggs Dirty in Europe ?


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.

Dirty Eggs Germany Expat


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.
Dirty Eggs Germany Expat

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?

Dirty Eggs Germany Expat

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).

Dirty Eggs Germany Expat

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.

Dirty eggs in Europe and Germany

<– USA (left) EU (right) –>

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.

Dirty eggs in euorpe expat

USA egg with blue in the shell and on the egg

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.

Dirty eggs in europe expats

EU egg with no blue in the shell or on the 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?  egg and baconNo 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 MilkCheers!

This post is part of #SundayTraveler. Check out all the great stories in the Traveler Link Up!







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  1. Wow, great post. The US is known for the clean freakiness but this is way too exaggerated. We always buy fresh eggs directly from farmers to avoid those kind of things but this is really good to know. Great article.
  2. I had a similar thought when I first moved to New Zealand (although I NEVER thought USA had the best or cleanest food). This is really interesting. And sort of gross. About halfway through this article I mentally added eggs to the long list of things I will avoid if I go back for a visit. But then your nerdy experiment, eww. Thanks for a clear and concise answer. Rhonda Albom recently posted...Waterfall Gully: A Hike Through Shakespear Park in New ZealandMy Profile
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  4. Hmm! Thanks for clearing that up! I've always heard different sides on the "refrigerate or not" debate. The egg industry in the US is pretty darn awful. I always buy my eggs from farmers markets and they have a ton of dirt on them. Thats how I know I can trust them! Haha.
  5. Bahahaha! I looked the same thing up when I moved to Asia and had the same reaction. I read an article that said both are 100% safe to eat, as long as you continue the process. So if they are cleaned, they must stay refrigerated. If they aren't cleaned, keep them uncleaned until you use them. :)
  6. What a great post! I remember wondering the same thing the first time I moved to Europe. I still find it strange that eggs and milk are on a shelf and not in the fridge, but I've grown pretty use to it. Love the experiment and the visual way of showing the difference.
  7. This is a fascinating read! i try to buy as natural as I can, but i think there is just no way in the USA because of all the laws and stuff. I definitely prefer the "dirty eggs" in Europe and South America because I know they came natural straight from the chicken! This is another huge reason why I want to get out of the State!!!
  8. As a European I love posts like this, and I also learned something too! I had no idea this even crossed peoples minds! :)
  9. Between this and the milk you've answered some of lifes mysteries for my new EU life. Thanks Stacey. I am kind of sad (and grossed out) to think that the USA does not require those shots!!! Thanks for linking up with us for #SundayTraveler again.
  10. Ohmygosh! That's terrifying! It never ceases to amaze me how you American folk do things differently. Where I live, we also get milk straight from the farm. Pre- pasteurisation. It's delicious ;)
  11. I'm from Europe and I had no idea you cleaned your eggs like this in the US! For me it just makes sense that the "dirtier" they are, the fresher and better they are. We use to get our eggs at our neighbours when I was younger, I'd go to his backyard and pick it up from the chicks. I can say I've learned something today!
  12. I love this. As a vet we learned all this at uni, and now it's just frustrating when people get upset at a little bit of feather against a wax coating and clean living conditions. That said, you have to be careful those clean-egg-producing conditions are also humane - some of the designs for cleanliness leave a bit to be desired there.
  13. Even though we are in the USA, we prefer to eat farm eggs instead of grocery store eggs. The farm eggs cost more and are less pretty, but they taste so much better. I think that I would also like the dirty eggs.
    • I agree we also really like the fresh eggs and we will even drink farm fresh milk if we can find it - my kids love it. :) Thank you for stopping by!
  14. Quite the science experiment, Stacey! Living in Africa has accustomed me to the "dirty" eggs, but I never even considered that it could be a protective coating. Can't wait to share this with my wife.
    • Hahah Dave - yes I know my kids were like Geez mom are you a dork or what LOL - but now you can eat them and feel good about it. I bet your wife also wants to know about the boxed milk over here - I have a cool story on that too - :) Thank you for reading.
    • Well I dont know a lot about it - nor do I have any at home LOL - However from my reading I think it would slow down the oxidation process of the eggs in turn slowing down the aging of the eggs - not sure how much different it would be from the natural protective coating that is already on the eggs in Europe, but I think it would help the aging of the eggs in the US ~ I knowt is being researched in Germany and will be interesting to see all they use it for.
    • Best way to have them I think hahha straight from the "lady parts" - but if you are used to cleaned and chemically sanitized grocery store eggs from North America- sometimes they can make Expats a little nervous - :)