When when shopping for eggs, there are a few things most of us do. First, you choose the type of eggs that you like, whether that’s certified organic, conventional, or from a local farm. Then we’ll check the expiration or best-by date on the egg carton and compare it to the date of the others on the shelf. And finally, there’s the visual inspection to make sure all those eggshells are intact.
Sound familiar? That used to be my go-to system for buying eggs, until I learned about the surprisingly informative code printed on each egg carton and how to decipher it! Today I’ll walk you through three data points printed on every carton of eggs and explain what they mean and how to interpret them them. Once you’ve cracked the egg carton code, you’ll have no trouble picking out fresh eggs of egg-cellent quality!
3 Things You Can Learn From The Codes On Your Egg Carton
1. The Date The Eggs Were Packed
Next time you check the expiration date on a carton of eggs, note the three digit number next to it. That’s the date the eggs were packed according to the Julian calendar, which counts dates consecutively starting with January 1 written as 001, and ending with December 31 written as 365.
For example, the number on my egg carton was 258, signifying that they were packed on the 258th day of this year. Since this is a leap year, that means my eggs were packaged on September 14. (To easily translate the Julian date into a more recognizable format, check out this chart.)
According to the USDA, refrigerated eggs can be kept fresh in the refrigerator for up to four to five weeks past the date they were packed. Once you figure out where the end of that approximate date range is, you can write it on your carton as a reminder to use up your eggs by then.
And if you ever end up with a lot of eggs to get through, check out this list for tons of ways to use them!
2. Where The Eggs Were Packaged
Not only does the carton code tell you wheneggs were packed, it can tells you where they were packaged too! All USDA-graded egg cartons must include a processing plant code.
The plant code usually starts with a P and is followed by a four digit number. If you’re feeling curious about where your eggs come from, all you have to do is look up the plant code!
The code on my carton was “P1936,” so I found out that my eggs were packaged by Ritewood Eggs, Inc. located just a few hours north of where I live. It’s always good to know that your eggs didn’t have to travel very far before they ended up in your fridge!
3. The Quality Of The Eggs
Just like elementary school teachers, the USDA gives out grades that separate the good eggs from the very best eggs! The USDA Consumer Grade is probably the most recognizable feature on an egg carton, displaying grades ranging from AA to B according to their freshness and overall quality.
Think of Grade AA as an A+, as these eggs are the freshest and highest quality. Grade A eggs are just a notch below these, with Grade B eggs bringing up the rear. The lower you go on the grading scale, the more likely your eggs are to have thinner whites and wider, flatter yolks.
Regardless of their grade, none of the eggs sold in your grocery store going to be bad, per se, so I suggest evaluating them based on how you’ll be using the eggs. If you’ll be using eggs in egg-centric dishes like omelets and quiches, go for Grade AA, while Grade B eggs should be just fine for baking projects and other applications.
You can usually find the USDA grade on the front of your carton. But if it isn’t prominently displayed there, it may be tacked on to the end of the processing plant code.
Egg cartons can tell you a lot about the eggs inside them, and these codes are just the tip of the iceberg! If you’re curious about other egg labels (like free-range, organic, pasture-raised, etc.) and what they mean, check out this blog post!
How do you choose which eggs to buy when you’re at the store?