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Do Eggs and Butter Need to Be Refrigerated?

Are eggs and butter on the counter safe or dangerous?

Butter and eggs are a common part of many peoples diets and people. However, many people will argue that they can safely be left out on the counter. Here are some factors to determine whether or not to leave eggs and butter out on the counter.

Eggs

Have you ever traveled to different countries and seen eggs or butter stored outside of the refrigerator in people’s homes? Have you gone to a grocery store and seen them sitting out at room temperature? If you asked people there why they were not refrigerated, they might have even responded with some surprise that in the U.S., eggs, and butter are typically refrigerated.

Unlike other countries in the world where eggs often go straight from farm to market, in the U.S. eggs need to be refrigerated because they are washed and sanitized. In the U.S., once eggs are collected they are washed with warm soapy water, sanitized, and then air dried to ensure there is no remaining bacteria or moisture on the eggs. This is all done to ensure any fecal matter, pathogens or dirt from the farm is removed from the eggs to prevent the spread of foodborne illnesses like salmonella.

When hens lay eggs they naturally leave a protecting layer on the egg that acts as a barrier to bacteria and pathogens. In other countries, they’ve determined that this barrier is protective enough and that washing could actually be more detrimental than beneficial. This layer is part of why they allow eggs to sit at room temperature. The other part is that they want to avoid the development of condensation on eggs that could potentially act as a pathway for bacteria. In the U.S., the protective layer has been washed off, so they want to keep eggs refrigerated to slow any potential pathogen growth on or in the eggs, plus keeping eggs cold helps to lengthen their shelf life.

Butter

Whether you need to refrigerate your butter or not depends on a few factors. It is generally recommended if the butter came refrigerated that it should stay that way, which is how you will find it typically sold in the U.S. Butter sold in the U.S. is also typically pasteurized which helps to delay bacterial growth, as well as the fact that butter has a high-fat content which also presents an environment that is unattractive to bacteria.

However, if butter is salted or unsalted also impacts if it can be left out. Salt helps to slow bacterial growth, but salted butter will still go rancid if left on the counter for more than a week. The temperature in your kitchen can also play a role in how fast your butter will go bad. If the temperature in your kitchen gets above 70 degrees, it is important to refrigerate both salted and unsalted butter.

[Image via Shutterstock]

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