The more I learn about chickens, the more I think they are truly remarkable creatures. Just before laying an egg, the hen adds a protective layer called “egg bloom” or cuticle to the outside of the egg. This coating seals the shell pores, prevents bacteria from getting inside the shell, and reduces moisture loss from the egg – all designed to make the egg last longer.
Unfortunately, because of conditions at some large egg operations, commercial eggs are washed right after collection to make them appear clean and presentable. Of course, this destroys the protective egg bloom. To try replacing natural bloom, some commercial packers spray shells with a thin film of mineral oil – that’s why grocery store eggs sometimes appear shiny.
An advantage of backyard chickens is that we can assure sanitary conditions; so the natural protective bloom can be preserved. Most eggs come out spotless and with a clean nest box, washing after collection is unnecessary. Eggs that have their protective bloom will last for months, but washing them right before cooking is a good idea.
Occasionally, an egg will come out a little dirty, or feathers and nest box shavings will stick to the fresh (still wet) bloom. If shavings or feathers have gotten stuck, we simply brush them off while any eggs that are truly dirty we wash and reserve for immediate use. The bloom should never be washed off any eggs that are planned to be used for incubation and hatching; these eggs need all of their natural protection.
The fact that Mother Nature has provided for natural egg preservation, and our commercial food production methods immediately remove it, makes no sense. I wonder if there are any large producers smart enough not to remove the “bloom”?