UNL For Families:
Understanding Dates on Egg Cartons
February 3, 2021
Many eggs reach stores only a few days after being laid. Determining the freshness of eggs can be confusing at times, as some egg cartons feature two dates.
The Julian date is the “pack date,” when the eggs were washed, graded and placed in the carton. This three-digit code represents the consecutive day of the year, with January 1 as 001 and December 31 being 365. The Julian date is usually found on the short side of the carton. Eggs are safe to be consumed four to five weeks beyond that date, as long as they are kept refrigerated.
Many egg cartons also have a sell-by date or expiration date. These dates are not required by the federal government but may be required by state laws where the eggs are marketed. Always purchase eggs before the sell-by or expiration date on the carton. On cartons with the USDA grade logo, the expiration date cannot exceed 30 days after the eggs were packed in the carton. Eggs packed in cartons without the USDA grade logo are governed by the laws of their states.
In addition to the dates, you should also check your eggs for cracks, purchase eggs that include the USDA grade mark, and buy eggs from a refrigerated case. Choose the most economical and useful egg size for your lifestyle.
An egg can float in water when its air cell has enlarged sufficiently to keep it buoyant. This means the egg is old, but it may be perfectly safe to use. Crack the egg into a bowl and examine it for an off-odor or unusual appearance before deciding to use or discard it. A spoiled egg will have an unpleasant odor when you break open the shell, either when raw or cooked.
Proper cooking as well as proper storage is important for egg safety. Cook eggs thoroughly so both yolks and whites are firm, not runny. Casseroles and dishes containing eggs should be cooked to 160° F as measured by a food thermometer. Do not eat raw or undercooked eggs. Once eggs are hard-cooked, they should be refrigerated (in their shells) within 2 hours of cooking and used within a week. Refrigerate them in a clean container, not their original egg carton.
The freshest eggs have the best flavor and will last longer. To get the freshest carton of eggs at the grocery store look at the three-digit code printed on the carton.