The Best Way to Tell If Eggs Are Fresh Is by Looking at One Number on the Carton Other Than the Expiration Date

Photo: Getty Images/warrengoldswain
Just like the dairy aisle has made room for more and more alt-milk options in the past few years, the eggs shelves, too, seem to be expanding on the daily with organic, pasture-raised, and even 100-percent vegan options. Once you've made your selection, picking a carton at peak freshness is the natural next step. The best way to do this is by taking a look at one number on the container...other than the expiration date.

Instead, locate the packaging date and make sure it's no more than four to five weeks prior to the current date. Doing so ensures the eggs inside meet the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) standards, reports Coastal Living. You'll find this three-digit number right beside or below the expiration date (which will read something like "EXPOCT1218") and the plant code (which looks similar to "P-1234"). The packaging date is based on a 365-day system, meaning, if a farmer packaged a dozen eggs today, she or he would write "285" on the package instead of "101218." You can skip the mental math though because this chart will do it for you.

So, if you go through a dozen eggs in one week, look for a packaging date within the USDA's four-to-five-week window. That way, you can take precautions to make sure the summer of salmonella doesn't follow you into the cooler months. And that's it—no egg-stra work required. (Sorry, had to.)

Other helpful for decoding labels include using this app, which does all the grunt work for you, and knowing the key distinction between "organic" and "made with organic." 

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