by Jennifer Sartell
Photos by author
We gather a lot of eggs around here. We have 42 hens, and on a good day, it’s not out of the question to collect 42 eggs, but for the most part, our daily average is around 26. This number changes depending on many factors, including the number of hens we have at the time, what breeds we have, how old they are, what the weather is like, time of year, who’s broody, who’s moulting and what feed they’re on. Each year our chicken numbers change as we hatch out new chicks, and process our excess roosters.
A lot of our chickens are not what I’d call prolific layers. While the breeds that we concentrate on, and continue from year to year are good layers, we also have a menagerie of Polish hens, Crevecoeurs, Silkies, and Bantams that only lay when the mood strikes. Some of our hens are getting older, too, and I’ve noticed that they’ve cut back on egg production. But even on a bad day, in the dead of winter, we’ve been known to collect at least a dozen.
Washing eggs used to be this giant ordeal. Much of it came from my own germaphobic paranoia from contamination, and reading too much scary stuff on the Internet. Many times it felt as though I was performing surgery rather than cleaning eggs. I had designated scrubby sponges, towels for drying, a special pot for a heated vinegar dip, thermometers, and it wasn’t unusual for me to empty the whole hot water tank trying to get the eggs clean.
The largest part of the “ordeal” was the issue of running the hot water all the while I scrubbed each and every egg. You might wonder why I would do such a thing, and often I’ve wondered it myself, so I’ll try to explain my reasoning. When I first got chickens I did a lot of reading as to what is the safest way to clean eggs. I found a lot of articles stating that the eggs should be placed under running warm water, at least 20 degrees warmer than the temperature of the egg. To understand why this is important, let’s start with the hen.
When a hen lays an egg, the egg is coated with a protective layer that slows the transfer of bacteria through the egg shell. This is why you don’t necessarily need to refrigerate an unwashed egg. When the egg gets washed, the protective layer is removed, exposing the pores. If the egg is washed in hot water, the egg pores open up and bacteria is pushed out of the egg. If it is washed in cold, the pores close, and with this closing, the pores suck in bacteria. I’ve also read that soaking eggs isn’t a great idea, either, as the standing water allows bacteria to pass back and forth through the egg shell.
So, putting this to practical use in the kitchen … I would let the hot water run over the eggs, washing one at a time with a scrubby sponge and soap, then rinse. For extra paranoia precaution I would give the eggs a 5-second dip in warm vinegar, as a disinfecting step. I’ve yet to figure out how to take the temperature of an egg still in the shell, so I would just run the water as hot as I could stand without burning my fingers. After 40 some eggs, (sometimes 80 if I waited a day), the hot water goes fast!
I was starting to wonder if the energy I was using was worth the health benefits of eating farm-fresh eggs. Not to mention that it was sometimes an hour-long production.
Last year, our local Tractor Supply started stocking its shelves with a bunch of new chicken products, many from Manna Pro. When I saw the new collection of egg-washing tools, I was quick to investigate further. One of the products that caught my eye was the All Natural Egg Cleanser. I did a once over on the bottle and noticed that the directions recommended soaking the eggs. This, I thought, would be a great solution to our hot water problem. I could fill the sink and let them soak, rather than wasting gallons of water. I grabbed a bottle and decided to give it a try.
Manna Pro makes three claims on the front of their bottle. The first claim is that the product is a “safe and gentle alternative to harsh detergents.” The second is that it “removes dirt, grime and contaminants” and third, that it “leaves eggs bright and beautiful.”
At the time, I had quite a few days’ worth of eggs ready to be cleaned, so I got straight to work and followed the directions on the side of the bottle. The directions say to add two capfuls of solution to one gallon of water and allow the eggs to soak for 10 to 15 minutes. We had a lot of eggs so I tripled the ratio, adding six capfuls to 3 gallons of warm water, and set the timer.
After 10 minutes … here’s what I found.
The claim: “Safe and gentle alternative to harsh detergents.”
One of the reasons we first decided to get chickens was so that we could eat healthier eggs. And while our family cannot claim to be entirely organic, we do try. Our chickens are fed all natural feed, and have access to 14 acres of fresh grass, yummy bugs, sunshine, and are not pumped full of antibiotics or other medications. I also try to stay away from chemical cleansers, and the bulk of our home is cleaned with baking soda, vinegar, peroxide and different essential oils like tea tree, grapefruit, clove, eucalyptus and lavender. When I can’t make my own cleansers, I try to purchase as natural of a product as I can afford. So Manna Pro’s “All Natural” label piqued my attention. I hoped that this would be a great solution to our hot water dilemma, without using something that’s full of dangerous chemicals.
I turned the bottle over to see that there were only four ingredients (not too bad). I am wary of foods or products with a paragraph of unpronounceable ingredients. The ingredients are: water, yeast, citric acid and potassium sorbate. I was familiar with all the ingredients but the last. So I did a little research. Potassium sorbate is a chemical that is used in many store-bought foods. It is commonly used in cheeses and wines to stop the growth of yeast or mold after it has aged to a desired amount. It also has a “low toxicity level similar to table salt.” So … not too scary. And it’s not like we would be eating the egg cleanser, only washing the outside of an egg shell. For added reassurance, Manna Pro also states that the “Egg Cleanser will not penetrate the egg shell.” Overall, I was satisfied with the “naturalness” that it claims.
The claim: “Removes dirt and grime.”
After the 10-minute soak, I found this claim to be very true. Most of our eggs are fairly clean right from the egg box. We are diligent about keeping the straw changed regularly because I’d rather change straw than scrub dirty eggs. Occasionally if we have a wet spell, or if someone breaks an egg and the yolk spills out, we’ll get some dirty ones. Usually we produce enough eggs that I just throw the really soiled ones out. But I wanted to give the product a full test, and it passed with flying colors. The dried dirt and grime loosened and wiped away easily. It says that it “removes common stains, residues and contaminants,” and indeed it does! After a quick wipe with a soft sponge, one of our dirtiest eggs was stain-free and beautiful.
The claim: “Leaves eggs bright and beautiful.”
Our French Black Copper Maran eggs were a great test subject for this claim. Our Maran eggs are our prettiest eggs in my opinion, and the most delicious. They have beautiful dark chocolate shells, and I love the way they look in my egg basket. But when I scrub them with a sponge, the color will rub off … leaving a scratchy, dull egg. The Manna Pro Egg Wash cleans the Black Copper eggs so gently but thoroughly that I didn’t have to rub as hard, and the beautiful brown eggs stayed richly dark and shiny!
I’ve been using this product for a couple of months now, and I must say, it does cut down on the amount of hot water we use to wash eggs. The benefit of soaking the eggs makes better use of hot water, and the ease of cleaning cuts down on scrub time and rinse water. Because I’ve been using it for a while, I now know where to fill the sink and how many corresponding caps to use, so I don’t have to measure it out each time. We still have a little bit of the product left, and when it’s gone, I plan on purchasing another bottle.
How do you get your eggs clean? I’d love to hear about your cleaning routine. Feel free to share any tips on how you get your eggs beautifully edible by leaving a comment below, or by visiting the Community Chicken’s Facebook page.