(This is the full and complete version of this blog post. It was uploaded as incomplete this past Tuesday by accident.)
These are my personal guidelines that I follow for donation or sale of extra chicken eggs from my back yard, with reference to USDA guidelines.
Do check your state/region/country requirements – which may well supersede anything I say here, which works for where I live.
The first set pertain to eggs that get washed. The second set pertain to eggs that are not going to be washed prior to donation – and this is to assist those in countries where eggs are not washed by mandate prior to sale. Or to friends of mine who prefer to receive unwashed eggs. It is assumed that these knowledgeable friends wash theirs just prior to use! I don’t pre-wash most of my own personal-use eggs until they’re ready to be used, but there are a couple of exceptions which I will get to in this post.
- Collect the eggs from your happy hens. Place in collecting basket or apron, and bring to your kitchen.
- Sort eggs upon home arrival. Essentially clean and uncracked eggs will be reserved as gifts / donations / or potentially for sale. Cracked eggs (hairline or otherwise) must be removed from potential gifting, donating, or selling. (I look at them closely and decide if I want to eat them myself – these must go in the fridge and be cooked thoroughly within the next couple of days. I will NOT share them!) Dirty cracked eggs are immediately composted. Dirty eggs that are not cracked – these are ones that usually were laid during rainy conditions, and are mud and muck caked. If more than a slight surface dirt, I won’t sell, donate or gift those, either. Sometimes I have scrambled them and served them back to the chickens – preferably the cockerels or immature hens so they don’t associate Egg with Food! But, depending, I may eat them myself, well-cooked. (Omelets or hard boiled, or in baked goods.)
- I gather up eggs by the dozen (or half dozen), and wash them prior to my taking them to donate or sell. Follow the instructions on the liquid bottle of egg cleanser, or the instructions on the cleansing wipes. I prefer the wipes. I will use one wipe for approximately 6 eggs – and then rinse with tap-temperature water. After cleaning, which process removes the protective cuticle that surrounds the shell, I return the batch to the refrigerator until I sally out with them…. I DON”T use these products for eggs I eat myself – it is simply extra precaution for eggs you are providing to others. People who obtain unwashed eggs from you can simply wash them just prior to their eating of them.
- Don’t wash any eggs you plan to incubate for growing baby chicks.
- ALWAYS refrigerate eggs after washing. ALWAYS refrigerate any cracked eggs, washed or not.
- DON’T wash your eggs and leave them out after washing. The protective cuticle that you’ve washed off (whether using just water or the products mentioned) was there to keep air and microbes from migrating into the porous structure of the egg shell.
- If you prefer not to refrigerate your eggs: Note that if you lack air conditioning and the temperatures rise into the upper 80s F (30 C or thereabouts) – chicks may start developing in the eggs (assuming you have a rooster). Refrigerate anyway or eat within a couple days. Also, if the hens are laying for you in winter in unheated coops, if they aren’t fresh-laid and you bring them inside – and condensation develops – put them in the fridge. The condensation will affect the egg coating adversely.
- (Sometimes extreme cold will lead the eggs to freezing, and they will crack with ice expansion from within. When thawed, this yields perfectly fine whites but weirdly textured yolks. Still edible, however. They just won’t scramble very well.)
The USDA specifications detail sell-by and use-by dates. Sell-by is 30 days after filling a carton of a dozen eggs – I guess this gives the egg farmer a couple days of leeway here. Use by adds 15 more days to this – 45 days total. They tend to skew conservatively on dating.
There may be different regulations in other countries. If in doubt, do the float test – eggs that float to the top should be discarded into compost (or wherever). If they simply try to float but still remain under near the bottom, they’re fine. But should be used soon.