Are Unwashed Eggs Safe To Eat? What You Need To Know

Published: May 2, 2023

man holding five different types of eggs with chickens in the background
Credit: / @danieltuttle

Eggs are an exceptional and essential edible in everyday eating. They're a versatile, protein-packed powerhouse that can be whipped into various delectable dishes.

But before you crack open that shell, have you ever wondered if unwashed eggs are safe to consume? 

In this article, we'll delve into the details of egg-washing practices, how they affect the quality and safety of our favorite breakfast staple, and what precautions you should take when dealing with unwashed eggs.

What Bacteria Are Found on Unwashed Eggs?

One of the primary concerns with eating unwashed eggs is the risk of salmonella contamination.

Salmonella bacteria can be found in the environment, especially where chickens are raised and engage in their natural foraging techniques to search for food. This may lead chicken farmers to wonder if they should wash their freshly laid eggs before consuming them or not.

In addition to salmonella, other harmful bacteria like E.coli and Campylobacter can also be present on unwashed eggshells. Egg washing is a common practice in commercial egg production facilities as it helps maintain egg safety by removing any dirt, feces, or potential contaminants from the shell's surface.

However, some experts argue that washing eggs at home might not always be necessary and could even increase the chance of bacterial penetration through the porous eggshell if done improperly. 

It's essential to understand what factors contribute to bacterial growth on unwashed eggs and follow proper handling guidelines to ensure both freshness and safety when enjoying your delicious breakfasts made from homegrown eggs.

How Are Unwashed Eggs Different From Store-Bought Eggs?

stacks of eggs in cardboard trays
Credit: / @marjan_blan

Did you know that eggs produced in the United States are washed before they hit store shelves?

This is quite different from free-range eggs, which often come unwashed. The main reason behind this contrast lies in the way backyard chickens and commercial egg-laying hens are raised.

Free-range eggs typically come from smaller-scale organic farming setups where hens have more space to roam and forage for food, leading to a lower risk of contamination. Understanding these differences between unwashed and store-bought eggs helps when addressing concerns about egg safety and food safety.

For instance, unwashed eggs may have a protective coating called 'bloom' or 'cuticle,' which acts as a natural barrier against bacteria entering the eggshell. Although washing eggs removes this layer, it also cleans off any dirt or fecal matter that could potentially contaminate your food.

So while there might be some risks associated with consuming unwashed free-range eggs, if proper handling practices like refrigeration and cooking thoroughly are followed, they can still provide safe nourishment packed with nutrients.

What Are The Potential Risks Of Eating Unwashed Eggs?

One main concern when it comes to consuming unwashed eggs is pathogen contamination, particularly from harmful bacteria such as Salmonella and Campylobacter. These pathogens can be present on the eggshell due to contact with fecal matter or other contaminated materials in the hen's environment.

Although it may seem counterintuitive, washing eggs immediately after they are laid could increase the risk of contamination since water can force bacteria through the porous shell and into the egg itself. This is why proper egg washing, storage, selection, and preparation play a crucial role in ensuring your safety while enjoying these versatile food staples.

How Can You Safely Handle And Consume Unwashed Eggs?

overhead photo of a family having dinner together
Credit: @vladimirov

To ensure egg safety while handling and consuming unwashed eggs, it's essential to follow some basic guidelines.

First and foremost, always store the eggs in a cool place, ideally at optimal temperatures below 40°F (4.4°C). This can be achieved by keeping them in a refrigerator or another designated area for egg storage.

Next, make sure to wash your hands thoroughly before and after handling the eggs to minimize any possible contamination from bacteria like Salmonella.

When selecting eggs for consumption, choose those that have clean shells and no visible signs of cracks or damage; this helps prevent unwanted microorganisms from entering through weakened areas of the shell during handling or cooking processes.

When preparing the eggs for consumption, avoid cracking them on hard surfaces; instead, use a clean surface or edge of a bowl to prevent shell fragments from coming into contact with the egg contents.

When it comes to cooking unwashed eggs, it is crucial to cook them properly to reduce any risks associated with consuming raw or undercooked eggs. Cooking methods such as boiling, frying, scrambling or baking are recommended since they will help kill potentially harmful bacteria that may be present on the shells.

Additionally, you must wash all utensils and surfaces used during food preparation with hot soapy water immediately after use.

Finally, be aware when preparing dishes containing raw or lightly cooked eggs by keeping them separate from other ingredients until ready to cook and using separate utensils for each component where possible.

What Are The Benefits Of Eating Unwashed Eggs?

Now that you know the steps to handle and consume unwashed eggs safely, let's dive into the reasons why many people prefer them over their washed counterparts.

Organic nutrition, farm freshness, and environmental sustainability – these are just a few of the benefits associated with eating unwashed eggs.

Interestingly, a study by Mother Earth News found that free-range chickens produce eggs with less cholesterol and saturated fat and more vitamins A, E, and omega-3 fatty acids than conventional store-bought eggs.

Unwashed eggs offer a taste variation that can be more flavorful than commercially-produced ones due to their nutrient retention.

The natural egg bloom helps preserve nutrients inside the egg by acting as a protective barrier against bacteria and contaminants.

This also ties in with environmental sustainability, as washing eggs requires water and energy resources which may not always be efficiently used or adequately available.

By consuming unwashed eggs from local farms, conscious choices are made towards supporting sustainable practices while enjoying fresh, organic nutrition straight from the source.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do Unwashed Eggs Compare To Washed Eggs In Terms Of Nutritional Content And Quality?

When it comes to nutritional content and quality, there isn't a significant difference between unwashed and washed eggs.

However, handling precautions must be taken with unwashed eggs due to the potential for bacteria on the shell.

Organic eggs are often sold unwashed because they retain their protective bloom natural coating, which helps prevent contamination from entering through the porous shell.

Nevertheless, this doesn't eliminate the possibility of salmonella risk if the egg has been exposed to contaminated feces during its production process.

Can Unwashed Eggs Be Used In Recipes That Call For Raw Eggs?

When using unwashed eggs in recipes that call for raw eggs, such as Caesar dressing or homemade mayonnaise, it's essential to consider the potential risk of bacterial contamination.

To minimize risks when consuming raw egg dishes, always source your eggs from reputable suppliers with high hygiene practices and wash any visibly dirty shells thoroughly before use.

Do Unwashed Eggs Have A Longer Or Shorter Shelf Life Compared To Washed, Store-Bought Eggs?

Dancing on the delicate line between freshness and spoilage, unwashed eggs can have a longer shelf life compared to their washed counterparts found in stores.

Thanks to the protective bloom and cuticle layers, these little gems can last for weeks if stored and handled correctly.


Unwashed eggs can be just as nutritious and high-quality as their washed counterparts. The main difference lies in the bloom on unwashed eggs which helps to keep bacteria at bay.

Trusting your egg source, proper storage, handling, and cooking will significantly reduce any potential bacterial contamination risks and maintain the quality and safety of unwashed eggs.

So go ahead and enjoy those farm-fresh beauties with confidence!

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