Keeping it cool and eggs fresh...
When we were planning Mark's business, egg storage was an important consideration. There are lots of regulations about cleaning and storing eggs to keep everyone safe. Forewarning...there is a lot of technical information presented in todays blog post but I just wanted you to have all the background knowledge. In some of my research, I learned that eggs stay freshest if stored at cool temperatures and high humidity. Most refrigerators have cool and dry conditions. I started to investigate about how we could increase humidity for the egg storage. I actually looked into maybe getting a wine refrigerator/cooler. Wine is best when stored at 50 C and 75% humidity. Eggs are best when stored at 45 C (or lower) and 80% humidity. Wine and eggs both need humidity to keep fresh and from drying out! (FYI: Wine cooler are also VERY expensive.)
See, when a hen lays an egg, a natural, protective coating is deposited on the outside of the shell. This is referred to as the "bloom". It is referred to as the egg cuticle and is a layer of protein that seals the porous shell. This prevents bacteria from entering the egg and causing infection. This protects a developing embryo if the egg has been fertilized. The bloom also keeps unfertilized eggs fresh longer by preventing moisture loss and keeping contaminates out.
When eggs are washed the bloom is also washed away, thus leaving the eggs more susceptible to spoiling – particularly when stored at room temperature. That is why it is considered a food safety best practice to store eggs that have been washed in the refrigerator – store-bought or home-raised. Because washed eggs are more porous, it is best to store them in an enclosed container within the refrigerator to reduce moisture loss and also the absorption of off-odors or bacteria. I bring all this up because we have to wash the eggs to be able to sell them off farm.
A few more words about egg anatomy and how to determine how fresh your eggs are...
Air inside the shell gives a chick the ability to breathe when needed during the development process. As the egg ages, evaporation takes place and the air cell becomes larger. The size of the air sac is one characteristic used to grade eggs. For example, a bigger egg sac means it is an older egg.
The egg white is comprised mostly of albumen and water. It contains approximately 40 different proteins and would provide food for the baby chick if this egg were fertilized and allowed to develop. The egg white also provides cushioning and protection for a developing embryo. As eggs age, their protein structure degrades. This causes older egg whites to become more runny, and the yolks to stand less round and tall.
In the center of the egg is its most familiar component: the yolk. The egg yolk is full of the vitamins and minerals, as well as cholesterol and fat, that the baby chick requires in order to develop properly. The color of the yolk depends greatly on the chicken’s diet. The egg yolk is held in place by the chalazae. Of note is the fact that the more visibly prominent the chalazae, the fresher the egg.
More on egg storage...
Once eggs are refrigerated, they should be kept in the refrigerator, washed or not. According to the USDA, “a cold egg left out at room temperature can sweat, facilitating the movement of bacteria into the egg and increasing the growth of bacteria”. Therefore, refrigerated eggs should not be left out for more than 2 hours at room temperature.
Store the eggs on a central shelf in the refrigerator. Many people think stashing their eggs on the inside of the door is more convenient. However, the main body of the refrigerator is better for preserving eggs because it allows them to maintain a more consistent temperature. To maximize their lifespan, keep your eggs at around 40 degrees F or cooler.
We have a refrigerator that we store eggs in before taking out on delivery or to the Co-op. BUT we are still hoping to expand the egg business (once the coops get built) and there will come a time when we will not be able to put all the eggs in one refrigerator.
Our house came with a root cellar. It is built into the side of a hill and under the garage. One side is exposed and there are 2 windows in it. I am not sure why there are windows (because normally in a root cellar you would want it to be dark) but I am glad there are because we were able to make some modifications to the root cellar to turn it into a walk in cooler for the egg storage!
Here is a pic of our root cellar before we converted it to a walk in cooler. We were fortunate that there was some shelving. The windows are on the right in the pic.
We needed to make the cellar smaller so that a window air conditioner could cool the area down. We mounted the air conditioner in the window and hooked up a Cool Bot. The Cool Bot tricks the air conditioner into running and cooling it down to 40 F in the cold room!
|Air conditioner on the left hooked up to Cool Bot on the right|
Because the root cellar is partially underground, the humidity in the root cellar is higher.
To increase the humidity more, we have several bins of wet sand in the cold room.
I was in hurry to get this blog post out...hopefully, most of this makes sense...let me know if you have any questions!
Have an eggcellent day!