With the recent start of many of our area's Farmer's Markets, I feel the need to dispel some myths. However, I spent a great deal of time looking for on-line sources that were reliable that could back up my claims here, and fell short of locating anything but a bunch of opinion forums, being forced to rely on my Food Science education, my 10+ years of working in the restaurant business, and my lifelong experience growing up around chickens. So you can take this post with a grain of salt, I suppose. Perhaps you'd like to take it with a few grains of salt and a few grains of black pepper, 'cuz we're talkin' 'bout eggs! The perfect food, the perfect packaging, and widely available from your favorite local farmers anywhere. In fact, eggs are probably the easiest thing to switch over in your diet from that icky stuff in the grocery store to the delicious tasting, glorious food that is the pastured, farm-raised egg.
Labeling in stores these days is tricky- if it says 'organic', 'farm-fresh', 'pastured', or even 'cage-free', it could still mean the hens that lay the eggs are kept in close, dank quarters with no sunlight or fresh air available to them. My suggestion to you on buying eggs from sources that are what they claim they are is to talk to the farmer. Ask them about their birds, their living conditions, and visit the farm if you can. Seeing first-hand what the birds look like in their true element will be a great indicator of the truth in the label on the carton.
A popular myth that is is about as old as the question of "which came first" is that eggs need to be refrigerated. I am sure that many people have some type of chemical reaction when they hear that eggs are perfectly fine on your counter or in your cupboard, and they will go scrambling (pun intended) to find some type of proof that either I am nuts for suggesting it or that the idea is of some old, hippie standard- but for the truth one need only to consider an era only about a century ago in which no electricity existed. Farmers kept chickens for eggs and meat, a much needed source of protein when you spent your days plowing, cooking, and tending livestock. They didn't own Frigidaires or Kenmores, they kept the eggs in a cool, dark place and knew they would still be good the next week. Generations of humans have survived on eggs that were not refrigerated; my thought on it is that I can, too.
Another myth is that you can get Salmonella from raw eggs. The interior of an egg- the raw part- is actually sterile. When eggs are handled or cooked improperly, this can result in the bacteria being ingested and causing illness. Consider, also, that conventionally raised birds have less effective immune systems due to their poor diets and living conditions, and therefore may be more likely to carry the bacteria that causes Salmonella than birds raised in a more healthy, natural environment.
At my house, I keep eggs in my fridge because I have no counter space and annoying, misbehaving cats that will tip over anything left on the counters. If I get some out and forget about them, I still eat them the next day. I don't wash them unless there is obvious dirt or other stuff stuck to the shells, and ALL of my eggs come from a local farm where the birds run around in the sun, eating bugs and kitchen scraps, like chickens should. As for that question, though, of who came first...I might have to sit on it for a while ;D