When I visited my niece in Germany a couple summers ago, I had difficulty with one thing they do that we do not. She had her eggs out on the counter rather than stored in the refrigerator. I was taught to always keep eggs in the refrigerator because they'd go bad otherwise but in Germany, my niece told me the eggs do not need to be kept in the refrigerator.
In fact, most of the world does not refrigerate their eggs. Only the United States, Japan, Australia, and Scandinavians refrigerate eggs.
I wondered why things were so different. Americans and Europeans treat the possibility of getting salmonella poisoning differently. Salmonella is a common cause of bacterial poisoning and it is often found on the outside of chicken eggs due to deposited there via dirt of feces. Occasionally it ends up on the inside of the egg due to the salmonella ending up in the hen's ovaries.
Back in the 1970's the Americans developed egg washing so as soon as the egg is laid, it is sent through a machine that shampoos and rinses them so they are totally clean. In the process of getting rid of potential salmonella, the egg is stripped of a thin coating called the "cuticle". Without the cuticle, eggs can no longer keep salmonella out and water and oxygen in so the eggs are sprayed with an oil and immediately have to be refrigerated to keep them safe. Japan didn't wash their eggs until they experienced numerous cases of Salmonella and as a result they began washing their eggs.
On the other hand, Europe took a totally different position. They require chickens to be vaccinated against salmonella, and they prohibit egg washing so eggs retain the cuticle. They also discourage refrigerating eggs because when eggs come to room temperature, mildew can grow or become contaminated with bacteria.
It appears both methods keep eggs from spreading Salmonella but which ever method is used, everyone from the producer to the consumer must follow guideline consistently. When eggs are properly refrigerated it can extend shelf life from 21 to 50 days. There are many countries where having refrigeration is expensive and nonexistent so they have to store them at room temperature.
Which is better? Well, it is recommended eggs be brought to room temperature when used for baking. In addition, eggs can absorb any flavors or aromas from other foods stored in the refrigerator but its easy to combat this by keeping the fridge cleaned but all in all, it is what ever you are comfortable with. If you want eggs that have not been washed, check your local farmers markets for eggs which still have their cuticle remaining.
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