Our first grocery run of our 2015 Europe trip was in Florence, and we were charmed by some of the differences between U.S. supermarkets and European ones. It seemed so cool that the Florentine grocery store had a large section dedicated to specialty cheese, and multiple aisles for wine. Then we stumbled on what, at the time, was a fairly confusing difference. When we made it to the dairy section looking for milk and eggs, we could only find the former. No eggs anywhere.
After looking around the store more, we found a large section of eggs out on a regular shelf. What?? We bought them and walked away a little puzzled. So why are the eggs in Europe not refrigerated?
European Eggs Versus American Eggs
We naturally did some research once we were back at our apartment to answer this question, and it turns out to have a simple answer.
It all has to do with the methods of processing the eggs. In the United States, egg producers run eggs through a machine to wash them with soap and hot water. This clearly makes sense; no one wants to eat an egg with chicken gunk on it, and washing the eggs also decreases risk of salmonella.
However, by washing the eggs so thoroughly the eggs’ natural protective barrier is damaged. This leaves the eggs more susceptible to being infected by bacteria. American egg producers combat this problem by spraying the eggs with oil and refrigerating them.
European egg producers have another approach entirely. In fact, European governments typically ban washing eggs. Part of the reasoning is the belief that the egg should be produced and collected as cleanly as possible, and good farming husbandry is necessitated by this. The other component of the reasoning is that washing eggs might cause harmful bacterial on the outside of an egg to migrate inside of an egg.
In a nutshell, the eggs in Europe are not refrigerated because European egg producers don’t damage the eggs’ natural protective barrier by washing them.
Do European And American Eggs Taste Different
Truthfully, I don’t think so. Just be prepared to have to brush or rinse off eggs if you’re planning on using store bought eggs while in Europe!
If you’d like to learn more details about why eggs are not refrigerated in Europe, check out this Business Insider article on the topic.