Cracking the Carton Code

Some of the more common questions we receive are centered around the age of eggs. If you understand the labeling system, you will see that eggs have some of the most comprehensive product information available.  About the only thing missing is the name of the hen.

According to the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture Food Safety & Inspection Service (USDA/FSIS), "By understanding the coding on the egg cartons, chefs and bakers can determine the freshness of the eggs.  Each carton of USDA graded eggs must show the date of packaging, the processing plant number, and may include an expiration date.  USDA assures that all labeling and claims made on the carton are truthful and accurate.  To determine freshness, a Julian date (converter) or pack-date calendar can be used.  This three-digit code indicates the date of packaging, starting with January 1 as 001 and ending with December 31 as 365.  These numbers represent the consecutive days of the year.  You can store fresh shell eggs in their cartons in the refrigerator for four to five weeks beyond this date."

So check that Julian date first.  It will tell you the real story behind the age of those eggs.


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