Why Do We Refrigerate Eggs?

It all comes down to one step in the farming process

Standing in the middle of a chilly refrigerated foods aisle, digging through egg cartons in search of an unblemished dozen is an activity we're all accustomed to here in the U.S. But as seemingly normal as this ritual feels, peek into any grocery store across the border and you won't find eggs next to frosty gallons of milk, rather they're sitting next to room-temperature items like loaves of bread and jars of jam. In fact, the U.S. is one of the few countries in the world that refrigerates its eggs in the first place. So what gives?

According to The Huffington Post, it's a U.S. requirement that eggs be stored at a temperature under 40 degrees, mainly to prevent salmonella, among other diseases, from spreading. (This isn't a concern overseas, where vaccinating hens is a common practice in countries such as Britain.)

As another precaution, the U.S. also requires its farmers with flocks of more than 3,000 chickens, where foodborne illnesses have a higher risk of spreading, to wash their eggs before selling. Ironically, it's this step that's the biggest factor as to why we store eggs in the fridge: Washing eggs scrubs off of a thin protective layer known as the cuticle, which would normally protect the eggs from contamination, The New York Times writes.

The one eggception exception? If you are buying eggs straight from a small farm stand (or have your own hens), the protective cuticle hasn't been washed off, meaning you're free to store the eggs out on your counter, if you so desire.