The German Egg: Easter all year round?

Our village grocery store egg presentation

Our village grocery store egg presentation

Keep them cool...or on the counter?

When you purchase eggs in the United States or in the commissaries overseas, they will most likely be refrigerated.  If you are out shopping on the economy, you will see something completely different.  Instead of in the refrigerated section, eggs in Germany and other European countries are kept on shelves with other dry goods.  Why do American eggs need to be kept cool in our refrigerators, while German eggs sit happily on kitchen counters and shelves?  There are a couple reasons.  First, in the United States, eggs are required to be washed if the farm has 3,000 or more chickens.  This washing is typically done with soap, enzymes, and chlorine.  This washing is important because it controls the bacteria salmonella, which can cling to the eggs and potentially be fatal. 

Why is there feathers and gunk on my eggs?

Aren't European nations worried about salmonella?  Yes, but they ensure egg safety in a different way.  The washing we do in American causes the preventative coating of the egg to be destroyed.  With this coating destroyed, the egg is left vulnerable and it is essential, and also the law, that the egg is refrigerated immediately after the washing to prevent contamination.  In Europe, they take a different approach.  They protect the egg, as nature intended, but leaving the protective coating undisturbed.  This is why you may find poop, feathers, and other strange things attached to your eggs bought in the German stores.  Leaving the protective coating on the egg is more important than washing the gunk off.  The goal is to produce clean eggs at the point of collection, which can be achieved through proper management and hygiene of the poultry house.  

Who cares if your eggs are refrigerated or not?  Eggs that have not been refrigerated perform better in cooking batters, souffles and meringues.  They are also free of the various chemicals used in the washing process.  Eggs that are refrigerated last longer and the temperature helps keep bacteria at bay.  So, it's really about personal choice.


Year Round Colored Eggs

Now what is the deal with the colored eggs?  They look like Easter eggs, but they are offered all year round.  These colored, boiled eggs are known as "Bunte Brotzeit-Eier", which is simply a colorful bread time (snack time) egg.  These eggs are great to take on walks, for a school lunch, or just available for snacking between meals.  Germans love these colorful eggs and they are available in most grocery stores, next to the eggs.  The regulations haven't always been so strict on these colorful eggs, so to ensure quality, make sure the German logo of, Quality Community Bunte Eier (QBE), is on the package.


Where and How your Egg was Produced

Something really cool that German egg producers do is stamp each egg with a code.  This code will tell you a lot of information about the egg.  Instead of an "Organic" or "All Natural" on their eggs, they actually tell you exactly where that particular egg came from and how that chicken was raised. 

Here is a typical code that would be printed on an egg: 2 - DE - 05 06961 2.  From this code, I can tell you that the egg is from Germany, the chicken was raised in a cage free and indoor environment, that it came from a farm in North Rhine-Westphalia, from the barn registered 069612.  That is pretty dang specific!  Next time you are cracking open a carton of eggs, take a look and see if you can find where your egg came from.

2: Haltungsform, or entertainment form

  • 3: Caged
  • 2: Indoor: no cages are allowed and instead the hens may sit on an elevated porch in large barn that has a floor covered with sawdust or better.
  • 1: Free-range: in addition to the barn there must be an outdoor space for the hens with continuous daytime access. 
  • 3: Organic: Increased indoor and outdoor space with grown pasture for the poultry, and the remaining food must come from organic production.

DE: Country Code

05: Where the barn is located

  • Germany - 01 Schleswig-Holstein, 02 Hamburg, 03 Lower Saxony, 04 Bremen, 05 North Rhine-Westphalia, 06 Hesse, 07 Rhineland-Palatinate, 08 Baden-Württemberg, 09 Bavaria, 11 Berlin, 12 Brandenburg, 13 Mecklenburg-West Pomerania, 14 Saxony, 15 Saxony-Anhalt, 16 Thuringia
  • Austria - 1 Burgenland, 2 Carinthia, 3 Lower Austria, 4 Upper Austria, 5 Salzburg, 6 Styria, 7 Tyrol, 8 Vorarlberg, 9 Vienna

069612: Barn number