Eggs are a grocery staple that we always have in our homes. Whether we’re eating them with our breakfast or using them in other dishes, we always want eggs in our refrigerator. Unfortunately, there are times when these eggs expire before we can eat them and they have to be thrown away.

There’s actually quite a few rules that govern the sale of eggs, which might surprise you. For example, many states require grocers to carry a special license to sell eggs. It’s why some smaller grocery stores or corner stores don’t sell them — they don’t want to apply for this license.

image

There are also strict rules for companies that package and sell eggs. Because eggs have the potential to make people very sick, they are required to not just put an expiration date on their package, but also they date the eggs were packaged.

You may assume that these eggs are relatively fresh, especially in eggs that have labels like “farm fresh.” But you’ll probably be surprised to learn that your eggs are much older than they might seem.

image
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

To learn when your eggs have been packaged, look for the expiration date. Above that date there should be a four digit number that begins with a P, then there should be a number that stands alone. That P number designates the packaging plant where the eggs were packaged. The stand alone number is the day on which the eggs were packaged.

It’s not a traditional date like we would normally see, it’s just a number, something like 245 or 11. That’s the day on which the eggs were packaged. If there’s an 11, the eggs were packaged on January 11. If it’s a 245, that would September 2 (assuming it’s not a leap year). In some cases, this number is actually found at the end of the P number.

image

That packing date is on there to ensure that companies are following federal guidelines on egg production. There must be a “sell by” date no later than 30 days on the package, or a “use by” date no later than 45 days after the packing date.

What you’ll find when you go to the grocery store is that many of these “fresh” eggs are actually up to a month old. You might assume that the eggs are much fresher than that, but you would be incorrect.

image

If you want actual farm fresh eggs, you’ll need to seek out local farms or local farmers markets. You can talk to the farmer directly and find out exactly how old those eggs they are selling actually are. Typically, the eggs sold at these spots are only a couple days old.

You can also build a chicken coop and harvest your own eggs. You’ll have to first check with your municipal laws to ensure that a chicken coop is legal. If it is, you can have fresh eggs daily by keeping some chickens in your backyard.

image

To be clear, there’s nothing harmful about eating eggs that are a few weeks old, they just don’t taste as good as truly fresh eggs. To taste the difference for yourself, seek out a local farmer and buy some fresh eggs straight from the source.