Guess How Insanely Old Your Store Bought Eggs May Be

    Young woman buying supermarket eggs
    Woman buyer with cart in the grocery shop during choosing and buying fresh chicken eggs while shopping food

    That carton of “fresh farm” eggs is likely no older than a few days to 1 week, right? Wrong! The regulations are clear: Packaged eggs can sit in a supermarket’s warehouses or on its shelves for up to 45 days. But that’s not the whole story. A store-bought egg could be up to 2 months old before its “best by” or “use by” date. 

    How to Tell How Old a Supermarket Egg Is

    It’s just impossible to assess how old a grocery store egg really is, but you could tell it approximately by looking at some details on the cartoon. 

    Egg cartoons must contain a “Best by” or “Sell By” date, and according to federal law, eggs are not allowed to sit in a package for more than 45 days (for best buy date) or 30 days (for sell by date which is also known as the expiration date). 

    Also, most egg cartoons have on them the so-called Julian code which is a 3-digit code that states the day the eggs were packaged. The code is a number from 001 (which means January the 1st) to 365 (which means December 31st). 

    So, if an egg carton has as Best By date January 23 and the Julian code is 344, it means that the eggs were packaged on December 10th (add one extra day for leap years, including 2020) and will be 41 days old on the Best By date. 

    What’s more, in order to reduce food waste, the Food and Drug Administration now allows stores to keep food that is past its best by date on their shelves, except for baby formula. 

    But the issues don’t end here. There’s no federal rule on how long an egg should sit between the date it was laid until the date it was packaged. Some people say 30 days, which means that your store-bought eggs could be around 2 months old. Bear in mind that this applies to eggs labeled as “fresh farm” too as there are no special rules for these kinds of labels. On top of that, one cannot tell the exact date the egg was laid.

    Another technique to tell whether the egg is fresh or not is the water test. Put a fresh egg in a bowl of water. If it sits horizontally, it means that the egg is as fresh as it can be. If it stands but it doesn’t float, the egg is not that fresh, but it could make a great hard-boiled egg as older eggs are easier to peel. If it floats, the egg is spoiled – just throw it away. 

    What Can I Do About It?

    If you’d like to supply your family with genuinely fresh eggs look for a local farmer that has some extra eggs to sell. It would mean the world to them and you would no longer rely on your local supermarket for having fresh eggs for breakfast (by the way, check out for some delicious breakfast egg recipes if you’re in a creative rut).

    Keep in mind that in some states, you can only buy eggs on a person’s farm. In other states, fresh farm eggs can be sold at farmer’s markets. 

    Another thing you could do is grow your own chickens, even if you live in the suburbs. But check your local and state regulations first, as in some areas people aren’t allowed to have coops within some limits.

    And if you’re worried about roosters getting on your neighbors’ nerves, keep in mind that hens can still lay eggs without a rooster. The only downside is that those eggs are infertile, which means that you cannot get baby chicks from them. 

    Raising backyard chickens is not rocket science and in around 19 weeks, chickens should start laying eggs. Just keep in mind that young hen’s first eggs will be small, but as they continue to lay, the eggs will reach the right size.


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