How We Store Our Eggs — and Why: Exporting Eggs To Fill Supply Gaps

Through her study of U.S. and European egg storage approaches, Deana Jones, an Agricultural Research Service (ARS) food technologist in Athens, Georgia, says she hoped to clear up doubts and confusion prompted by differences in handling and storage practices. In the U.S., eggs are washed and refrigerated, whereas in Europe, they’re not. The differences prevent eggs from being more freely traded on international markets, which exacerbates the supply gaps and price hikes that occur — in both the United States and Europe — when there are disease outbreaks and egg recalls.

“Eggs are a major source of nutrition throughout the world, and in some areas, an egg shortage means people are less likely to get the protein they need to stay healthy,” Jones says.

Jones says the study was necessary because current washing and refrigeration standards were adopted in the 1970s, but egg production practices have changed since then.

“The feed is more controlled, the hens have been bred to be more consistent, and the eggs they produce are more uniform in terms of quality, shelf life and other factors,” she says. “We don’t want to be basing our decisions about egg storage on practices and production systems that are outdated and no longer in use.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspects egg-processing plants four times a year, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration requires egg producers to maintain storage temperatures of 45 ˚F, beginning 36 hours after the eggs are laid. Producers with fewer than 3,000 chickens are exempt from the federal regulations, so eggs sold at roadside stands and farmers’ markets may be covered by a patchwork of state laws and health codes.

The study can be found here.