What Is a Bloom?
Just before a hen lays her egg, her body adds the last and most protective coating to the shell: the bloom. The bloom is wet when applied and dries quickly when it drops in her nest.
Most farmers who keep eggs for themselves leave this protective coating on the egg. It is a protective shield, covering all the pores so that bacteria and outside gases or chemicals cannot enter the egg while also trapping moisture inside the egg. The result is a full, rich egg with a bright orange yolk.
In fact, the bloom on a fresh egg is so protective that eggs that still have their bloom can be left out at room temperature for weeks without going bad. Unfortunately, when the egg is washed or wiped down too hard, the bloom disappears, and the egg needs to be refrigerated. This is why eggs in Europe aren't refrigerated and American ones are. Europe does not wash the bloom off its commercialized eggs.
Store-Bought vs. Farm Fresh Eggs
A farm-fresh egg that still has its bloom can be kept at room temperature for up to three months and will still contain all its high-quality nutrients. The yolk will be bright orange, and the albumen (the soft, jelly-like substance surrounding the yolk) will have a slightly cloudy look to it. This is a reaction with carbon dioxide and proves the egg is fresh.
A store-bought egg (in America) has the bloom washed off. Some manufacturers will go a step further and rinse their eggs in a chemical wash. Unfortunately, this means that chemicals seep into the pores, which are no longer protected by a bloom. A reaction takes place. The yoke inside the shell will start to pale and shrink; the albumen, supposed to be cloudy due to the healthy exchange with carbon dioxide, will turn clear. The clearer your egg white, the less fresh it is.
The nutrient quality between store-bought eggs and farm-fresh eggs is startling.
- Pasture-raised eggs are 10% less fatty than their store-bought counterparts. The organic, farm-fresh, pasture-fed eggs also contain 34% less cholesterol, 40% more vitamin A, and 400% more omega-3 fatty acids.*
- An egg from a pastured hen also has 30% more vitamin E** and produces positive HDL (or good cholesterol) and lower “bad” triglycerides.***
- Eggs are the only food that contains Vitamin D, which is greater and healthier in a pasture-fed, organic egg.
- Once the bloom is washed off, however, all those nutrients begin to weaken and degrade; the egg is at risk of being contaminated.
* These numbers are from the USDA Sustainable Agriculture and Research Education Program.
**Animal Feed Science and Technology, 1998.
*** Nutrition, 1993.
Where to Buy and How to Store
Many farmer's markets will have a farmer who raises their own chickens and sells the eggs. Some laws require that they wash the eggs before being sold, but some do not. It helps to find someone who raises their own chickens and ask if you can have some (it may be illegal for them to sell them to you, so be sure you aren't breaking any laws).
Don't like the hassle? Why not look into raising your own chickens just for the eggs? This is becoming a more popular trend among urbanites, in particular, who are finding it more and more difficult to buy quality fresh foods in their urban settings.
If you do find some pasture-fed, organic eggs that still have their bloom, you do not need to refrigerate them right away, which is handy if you are a baker and need those eggs to be at room temperature. Storing them in the fridge will not hurt, and you can keep them even longer. Store them in a closed container to help maintain freshness. Don't wash the eggs until you are about to cook with them, and as with any food handling, wash your hands thoroughly.
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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2012 Christen Roberts