Nothing beats a fresh egg! Eggs are inexpensive and quite versatile. They can be cooked in may ways, added to dishes to make them richer and creamier, and they are a great protein source. Eggs also contain choline, which aids in proper liver function. Eggs also contain a host of other vitamins and minerals, so they make a great addition to your survival pantry.
Unless you have your own chickens, you most likely get your eggs from the grocery store. In the United States, the government regulates the food industry, so eggs have been sanitized and stored in refrigeration. They are delivered on a refrigerated truck to the grocery store and stored in refrigeration at the grocery until you purchase them and take them home, where you store them in the refrigerator. Eggs from your grocery can be weeks or even more than a month old by the time you purchase them.
In a situation where there is no power and the grocery stores are empty, how would you get and keep fresh eggs? I will discuss keeping fresh eggs for up to 8 months out of refrigeration by oil coating and proper storage. There are many sources on the Internet that talk about storing eggs in this manner. However, most of them state that store bought eggs can be used. I caution against this with store bought eggs because there is no way to know the age of the egg when you buy it and the natural coating has already been removed. This process should only be done with fresh eggs that you have collected yourself from your flock or from a local source where you can be sure of the age of the eggs and that they have not been previously washed.
Unless you have your own backyard flock of chickens, you may not have access to fresh eggs unless you did some pre-planning before things got crazy. More and more people are keeping backyard flocks. You even see city dwellers with chicken coops these days. Although I am certain when things get crazy, those chickens will be the first to be eaten! Roosters are not necessary for a hen to lay eggs. However, roosters are good for protecting the flock and they are necessary if you plan to grow your flock with baby chicks so you can continue getting fresh eggs.
Most hens lay one egg every 25 to 27 hours. The seasonal lighting and the age of the hen can affect this interval, but most hens lay an egg once per day. When an egg is laid by a hen it has a protective coating on the shell called the bloom. This seals the egg and protects it from being contaminated by keeping bacteria from getting inside the shell. The bloom is the reason that most chicken owners collect their eggs and can leave them on the counter for long periods of time without spoilage. When the bloom is removed, the eggs must be refrigerated to keep them from going bad. How do you know an egg is bad? One way is to float the egg in a bowl of water twice the depth of the egg. If it floats it is most likely old or bad. The best way to tell if an egg is bad is is simply crack it open. The smell of a bad egg can not be avoided unless you are wearing a gas mask! Rotten eggs stink! They usually have a strange blue or green tint to them also. What about salmonella? Eggs contaminated with salmonella can not be identified by looking at them, so it is important to fully cook any eggs you pan to store long term.
Now, lets get on with the process of long term egg storage. The first step is to collect the eggs. You want fresh eggs for this method of storage, so only eggs that are less than 24 hours old(meaning freshly laid) should be used. By keeping your hen’s nesting boxes clean and gathering eggs daily, your eggs should stay clean. If you do collect eggs that have mud, feces, or other visible dirt on them, use a stiff dry brush to try and clean them off. Any eggs that you can not clean entirely should not be used for long term storage. They can be refrigerated(if you are not in survival mode) used before the stored eggs, or dehydrated into powdered eggs.
After collecting and keeping only the clean eggs, you need to get food quality mineral oil. You do not want to use baby oil because it has been scented. Food grade mineral oil can be found in the health section of your local big box chain or health store along with the laxatives. About ¼ cup of mineral oil is enough to do a dozen eggs. I like to lightly heat the mineral oil to make it easier to coat the eggs, but heating is not necessary. If you don’t want oily hands, it is a good idea to use disposable gloves to cover your hands, but again, this is not a necessary step, just a preference. Just remember that the oil will make the eggs slippery so have your egg carton close by and and already opened!
When you are ready to coat the eggs, either with clean hands or gloved hands, dip your fingers in the mineral oil and rub it over the egg. Make sure to thoroughly cover the egg with the mineral oil by rubbing the entire egg. Make sure you coat the entire egg. There should be no uncoated spots! Place the coated egg point side down in the carton and continue this step with the rest of the eggs. Label your cartons with the date and store your eggs in a cool dry place. Heat and moisture will effect the long term quality of your eggs, so a basement or dry cellar is an ideal place to store the eggs.
Once a month turn the entire carton upside down to rotate the eggs. Do this gently so you do not crack the eggs. The purpose for this is to keep the yolk intact. As the egg ages, the egg white will get looser and the yolk will become more fragile.
When I started preserving eggs in this manner in 2014, I tested one egg each month for 9 months. I would take out one of the eggs and wipe off the oil coating with a paper towel and do the water float test. The first 2 months I did not notice much difference between the oiled eggs and fresh eggs. By month 3 I could start to see the egg white loosen and by month 5 the yolk broke as soon as I cracked the egg. In month 6 the egg floated so I was careful when I opened it. It did not smell bad, but it was quite loose and the yolk no longer firm. The taste was strange, it did not taste like a fresh egg. Month 7 and 8 the eggs were again loose and did not really make a “fluffy” scrambled egg, but they didn’t taste bad, just “off.” By month 9 I had my first bad egg so I ended the experiment assuming that the other 3 were not going to be something I wanted to eat. I was the only one who ate these first trial eggs just in case! We have a 6 person family so I would assume that we would consume more than 1 egg a month. My plan has been to preserve 2 dozen eggs a month so that it would not effect our current egg consumption and I would still be growing my food stores. We rotate these eggs by using them in baking or for hard boiled eggs, and replace them with freshly oiled eggs. This is especially nice during the winter months when the hens lay less because of the lack of light.
The first two months of eating survival eggs would be when you would want to make your fried, dippy eggs. After that, I recommend hard boiled, scrambled, or baked into bread, cakes, cookies, or muffins, as the the best way to enjoy them. Once oiled, you will not likely get stiff peaks on your egg white desserts, but they will work fine in other baked dishes.
Always follow safe handling instructions for eggs and thoroughly cook your eggs before enjoying them. This will eliminate any contamination of your eggs. Eggs stored in this manner will give you an alternate protein source and a bigger menu option from your emergency food storage.
Oiling eggs is a practice that has been tried and used in my home with my family. It is a process that is also explained in Storey’s Guide to Raising Poultry. When eggs are in abundance, you can enhance your survival food pantry with the versatile egg. Just remember to only use fresh eggs, mark your cartons, and rotate your eggs monthly. Ideally eggs stored in this manner will last up to 8 months, but even if you extend their freshness to only five months, that still makes eggs a great addition to your survival pantry!