Thursday, September 23, 2010

Eggs without refrigeration

I don't think I have ever seen eggs in a refrigerated section of any grocery store here in Brazil.  They are often stacked amongst the (unrefrigerated) produce or maybe on the counter near the meat.

It has been a mystery to me why the eggs are not refrigerated, but I've taken it on faith that it is not necessary - after all, every market is doing the same thing.

The best deal on eggs is usually at the open air markets or from egg vendors downtown tucked in the corner of an independent produce market.  In these cases the eggs are carefully wrapped in paper, no carton.  Works fine - and guess what?  Less consumption, less waste, lower price.

Today I finally tried to track down what keeps eggs from spoiling outside refrigeration.  It seems the brillant mother hen applies a fine film around the egg.  In the last portion of the chicken’s oviduct, a thin protein coating called “bloom” is applied to the shell to keep harmful bacteria or dust from entering the egg shell pores.

Back in the states this bloom is washed off (it makes the eggs appear dirty and may in fact contain some excrement) which then necessitates refrigeration to prevent spoilage.

The eggs we get from the open air markets and the egg vendors definitely have this bloom on the shells, but the eggs in the cartons in large grocery stores appear washed.

So I guess it is still a mystery why some are not refrigerated.  At any rate, when they get to our apartment they are promptly placed in the refrigerator.


The Reader said...

I find it A - fascinating that you tracked this info down, B - hilarious that you put your eggs in the fridge when you buy them, and C - roll my eyes ironic that the very thing that should be making them shelf stable may, or may not, still be on the ones we buy in cartons.

I have never seen eggs wrapped in paper, but when we buy from the meat guy at the market they come in sections of recycled egg carton, rubber-banded together.

We keep ours on the shelves and haven't had a problem yet.....

Ray Adkins said...

It is a simple matter of logistics for distribution and weather.
For example, most eggs consumed in the Western states of the US are produced in IOWA, to get these eggs to the WEST, most likely, the trucks carrying such eggs will cross "DESERT WEATHER" with extreme heat or "ROCKY MOUNTAIN" weather with extreme cold and frost, these changes in temperatures would most definitely spoil all the eggs being transported to California, Utah, Arizona, Nevada, Washington and Oregon, so they keep the eggs refrigerated to keep the same temperature throughout it's route to the consumer markets.
In BRAZIL, most eggs consumed in Sao Paulo or RIO are produced locally within a 3 hour drive from the consumer markets, so there is little temperature changes due to the mild Brazilian climate ( comparing to desert weather and frozen tundra weather ) eggs do not require refrigeration in Brazil.
We buy non refrigerated eggs in Rhode Island that are locally produced and locally distributed, the small farm is managed buy a teacher and her husband, both work in the city and they leave the eggs in a big basket in their opened garage, we pick as many eggs as we want, we need to bring our own containers and we pay 1 dollar per dozen eggs, she leaves a can with change money, you leave the money in the can and make your own change, it works fine, the good old honor system still exists in parts of New England.
We have the same system for potato, blueberry, strawberry, raspberry and maple syrup farms.
This is probably the way it was in America back in the day...
So, the main reason your Brazilian eggs are not refrigerated is because they are SUPER FRESH, produced within the week your are buying them and they came from a couple hundred kilometers from Rio.

Fiona said...

A really interesting post and I liked Ray's comment too. I still can't get over the fact that the tropical fruit I'm eating these days hasn't been trucked thousands of miles to get to me... it's right outside my front door.

Ray Adkins said...

I forgot to mention, I don't know if you are aware of the HUGE Egg's recall going on in the US right now, it is actually about some Farms in IOWA...salmonella poisoning.
In those cases the refrigeration didn't help a bit, the contaminated Eggs have sickened almost 2000 people in Western US, sending many to the hospital.
I flew to Brazil last week and traveled next to a FRENCH Expat lady from Paris. We talked a lot about the food contamination scare in the US and she actually educated me on the subject.
The French lady moved to Sao Paulo 9 years ago, she works for the Brazilian equivalent of the FDA and she told me Brazilian standards for food safety are higher and tougher than those of the US and even FRANCE. She also told me in the US and FRANCE the industry usually regulates itself on the matter and in Brazil the government has a strong grip on sanitary control of FOOD production and distribution.
It's no coincidence you RARELY if ever hear of people getting sick from eating at Brazilian restaurants or any news of contamination in the FOOD supply chain in Brazil.
Unfortunately, we have room for improvement in the US when it comes to FOOD SAFETY, remember the California Spinach recall, Florida tomatoes last year were also recalled, the Georgia Peanuts/Peanut Butter recall, Beef Recalls are frequent and now the Eggs scare.
We can just hope they will learn something from the past mistakes but the FDA employees are too cozy with the Industries they are supposed to monitor if you ask me, the only total safe way to avoid such problems would be to only eat Campbell's soup and microwave dinners :)

Jean said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jean said...

Good to know what to expect in Rio! When we lived in Paris, I never saw refrigerated eggs, but since that was the norm, I went along with it and quickly got used to it.

Jim said...

Reader - Putting them in the fridge is just so automatic... plus there is that shelf in the door with the little egg hollows calling out to be filled.

Ray - good info, as usual. Yes, I am learning that it is the changes in temperature that is the real threat. I've even read comments that the egg tray in the door of the fridge is a bad idea because with all the opening and closing of the door it places the eggs in fluxuating temperatures. (Although that seems very slight).

I had heard of the egg contamination recall. Good to know Brazil has a firm grip on food safety. Government regulation is not all bad!

Fiona - I LOVE IT that we can pick bananas from the front yard!

Jean - see you soon!

Mollie said...

Hi...I'm an ex-pat living in Rio Grande do Sul since 2008 as well. Always wondered about the egg thing as do the other ex-pats here. We discuss it frequently. Out of habit, we always refrigerate our eggs!! I also always wash my eggs with soap & water before cracking the shell or boiling them. When I went back to the US for a visit recently, I made an egg for breakfast one morning. I had to ask my mom if " I have to wash eggs in the US?" Been so long in Brazil that I've done this that I forgot if it was a "standard" US practice or not!! Heh heh. She looked at my like I was crazy for washing my eggs.....