Sell Date Of Eggs – How Fresh Are Your Eggs?



Sell Date of Eggs – Date Codes on Egg Cartons


The freshness of an egg is not only determined by the date when the egg was laid, but also by the way the egg has been stored.  Proper handling and storage is perhaps the most important factor in determining freshness.

If a freshly laid egg is left at room temperature for a full day, it will not be as fresh as a week old egg that has been refrigerated between 33 degrees F. and 40 degrees F. from the time it was laid.

Egg Carton Code


According to the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA): 

Many eggs reach stores only a few days after the hen lays them.  Egg cartons with the USDA grade shield on them, indicating they came from a USDA-inspected plant, must display the ‘pack date’ (the day that the eggs were washed, graded, and placed in the carton).  The number is a three-digit code that represents the consecutive day of the year (the ‘Julian Date’) starting with January 1 as 001 and ending with December 31 as 365.

Sell By Date:
  Though not required, most egg cartons also contain a “sell by” date beyond which they should not be sold.  In USDA-inspected plants (indicated by the USDA shield on the package), this date can’t exceed 30 days beyond the pack date which is within USDA regulations.  Always purchase eggs before their “sell by” date. Information from the Georgia Egg Commission:


Julian Date:  Starting with January 1 as number 1 and ending with December 31 as 365, these numbers represent the consecutive days of the year.  This numbering system is sometimes used on egg cartons to denote the day the eggs are packed.  Fresh shell eggs can be stored in their cartons in the refrigerator for 4 to 5 weeks beyond this date with insignificant quality loss.

Expiration Date:
 The “sell by” or “best if used by” or “exp (date)” are all expressions used by the industry in various states, and are used by the retailer to assure you of freshness.  The egg will continue to be fresh for at least another 2-3 weeks if it has been refrigerated from the time packed until used at 45 degrees F. or lower.  As the egg ages, it does lose some of its qualities, so if you were baking a cake or whipping meringue, your cake might not rise as high as expected, and you might not get the volume of meringue you would expect, so for baking purposes it is better to use a fresher egg.



How long are eggs good after the sell date?

Refrigerated raw shell eggs will keep without significant quality loss for about 4 to 5 weeks beyond the sell date or about 3 weeks after you bring them home.  A general rule to follow is that any egg that looks or smells odd should NOT be used.  Just crack each egg in a small bowl, smell it – your nose will tell you!


How to test if an egg is fresh:

First Method:

Fill a deep bowl with water and carefully lower the egg into the water.  A very fresh egg will immediately sink to the bottom and lie flat on its side.  This is because the air cell within the egg is very small.  The egg should also fee quite heavy.

As the egg starts to lose it freshness and more air enters the egg, it will begin to float and stand upright.  The smaller end will lie on the bottom of the bowl, while the broader end will point towards the surface.  The egg will still be good enough to consume.

However, if the egg fully floats in the water and does not touch the bottom of the bowl at all, it should be discarded, as it will most likely be bad.

Second Method:

Test the eggs freshness by breaking the egg onto a flat plate, not into a bowl.  The yolk of a very fresh egg will have a round and compact appearance and it will sit positioned quite high up in the middle of the egg.  The white that surrounds it will be thick and stays close to the yolk.

A less fresh egg will contain a flatter yolk and a thinner white that spreads quite far over the plate.


How to store eggs?

The USDA recommends storing eggs in a refrigerator at about 40 degrees F, mainly to reduce the chances that any bacteria on the shell will multiply and cause a risk of illness.

Buy refrigerated eggs and store them in the refrigerator as soon as your get home.  However, even under refrigeration, eggs slowly lose carbon dioxide, which enlarges the size of the air cell and causes the yolk to flatten and the white to spread.

Storing Fresh Egg – Refrigerated raw shell eggs will keep without significant quality loss for about 4 to 5 weeks beyond the “sell by” date or about 3 weeks after you bring them home.

Fresh egg whites – 2 to 4 days

Fresh egg yolks (unbroken and covered with water) – 2 to 4 days

Hard-cooked (hard boiled) eggs – 1 week

Deviled eggs – 2 to 3 days

Leftover egg dishes – 3 to 4 days


Whole eggs (in the shell) cannot be frozen as the eggs will burst.  Store in an airtight freezer container.  The recommended length of freezer storage for frozen eggs is 9 to 12 months.

Whole eggs – You can freeze an entire egg by beating it (as if you were making scrambled eggs) and then storing it in an airtight freezer container.

Egg yolks – Separate eggs. Stir yolks with a fork to break them. Add two teaspoons sugar or one teaspoon salt for each cup of egg yolks. Store in an airtight freezer container.

Egg whites – Strain whites through a sieve. Freeze without stirring. Do not add sugar or salt. Store in an airtight freezer container.


Additional Egg Cooking Techniques:

Learn All About Eggs and How To Cook Them – Lots of interesting information regarding eggs.

Baked (Shirred) Eggs
In France, this basic methods of baked eggs is called oeufs en cocotte.  People love this dish.  Baked eggs are both comforting and sophisticated.  The eggs come out looking beautiful in their individual ramekins and are easy to serve.

Boiling Eggs
How To Correctly Cook Hard-Cooked (Hard-Boiled) Eggs.  According to the American Egg Board, the terms “hard-boiled” and “soft-boiled” eggs are really misnomers, because boiling eggs makes them tough and rubbery.  Instead, these eggs should be “hard-” or “soft-cooked” in hot (still) water.

Coddled Eggs
Coddled eggs are made by very briefly immersing an egg in the shell in boiling water (to cook in water just below the boiling point) to slightly cook or coddle them.

Deviled Eggs
Deviled eggs have their roots in ancient Roman recipes.  In the 17th century, this was a common way to prepare eggs.  They were not called “deviled” until the 18th Century, in England.

Fried Eggs – Perfect Fried Egg
Here are the absolute best fried eggs. This method is adapted from the ultra-meticulous French chef Fernand Point (1897-1955). This technique makes one spectacular fried egg and demonstrates that simplicity and purity often yield the best dishes of all.

Microwave Eggs
How to microwave poached eggs, fried eggs, scrambled eggs, and boiled eggs.

Poached Eggs
The best eggs for poaching are the freshest eggs you can find.  If eggs are more than a week old, the whites thin out.  Whites of fresh eggs will gather compactly around the yolk, making a rounder, neater shape.

Scrambled Eggs/Omelets
Scrambled eggs make a delicious and quick meal, but there is a little science to getting them just right. The secret to successfully scrambling eggs is slow cooking.


Comments and Reviews

18 Responses to “Sell Date Of Eggs – How Fresh Are Your Eggs?”

  1. allen james

    as a poultry farm owner i found this article useful thanks for sharing such stuff hope you will share more and more

    • Nancy

      You’re welcome, thank you for visiting.

  2. Jim Swanson

    I have been wondering about egg freshness for some time. As an egg lover, I’ve always ben concerned about how long eggs (uncooked) will last in the refrigerator PAST their “sell by” date, as well as the length of time hard-boiled eggs will last in the refrigerator after being boiled.
    GREAT information. Thank you so much!

  3. Sue Tutt

    Long before the sell date was put on the carton, we would bring eggs home, take them out of the carton and place in the egg rack built into the refrigerator! I am almost certain we ate eggs that were 2-4 months old! I have reached the ripe old age of nearly 77. I think we are making too much out of how long eggs last… of course if they smelled, we would toss them!

    • Mark

      That’s because you didn’t wash the eggs. In the U.S. commercial eggs are washed and this causes them to go bad much faster. In Europe, the don’t wash them.

  4. Mike

    Hi! Could you clarify this?

    “Refrigerated raw shell eggs will keep without significant quality loss for about 4 to 5 weeks beyond the “sell by” date or about 3 weeks after you bring them home.”

    That’s confusing. I wouldn’t buy eggs in the grocery store that are beyond their sell-by date, and hopefully the store wouldn’t sell them. So why would they only stay fresh for 3 weeks after I bring them home? Why wouldn’t they stay fresh until 4 to 5 weeks after the sell-by date even after I bring them home?


    • Jacquie

      I was wandering the same thing. Why only 3 weeks after they are brought home?

    • Cindy McIntire

      When you purchase eggs at the store they are kept at the proper temperature for longest life. If they ride around in your cart for 45 min. while you shop, then ride in the car for another hour as you do other errands, and finally another 20 min. to drive home, the temperature of the eggs has changed dramatically. The loss of freshness and quality starts when taken from the fridge. After the eggs have reached temperature above 45 degrees, they start to deteriorate in the shells. They are still safe to eat as long as you get them back in the fridge, but often we do not realize how long the eggs have been out as we do all our running.

      To maintain the best freshness, pick up your eggs and dairy products right before you check out. Keep at cooler or chill bag in the car to transport them, especially in the summer, and get them in your fridge at home as soon as possible. The longer the eggs are out of refrigeration, the quicker they deteriorate in the shells. As long as your eggs do not float to the top in 4 inches of water or have a foul “rotten” smell, they are safe to eat. If they stand on their head or slightly lift from the bottom, you can still safely eat them fully cooked.

    • Dave

      I came to this comments section to ask that very question. It seems backwards.

  5. Shannon Blackmon

    After I boiled my eggs I see black or gray stuff around the yellow eggs ; is that good or bad;

    • Amy

      The greenish greyish ring around the yolk of a hard boiled egg means it’s been overcooked.

  6. Jenny

    Thank you know I can make my brownies and maybe even some ouefs en cocotte this way of cooking and egg Is the only way I haven’t cooked an egg I’ve been throwing away perfectly good eggs for years. This interactive article was extremely interesting and informative i thank you kindly for your ” eggspert” advice and knowledge it was very much so helpful and oddly enjoyable to read thanks again…

  7. Conni

    We have been gone for 2 months and left 3 dozen eggs in our refrigerator. I understand the quality is less but are they safe to eat for breakfast? Just I just do the test mentioned above?

    • Linda Stradley

      I, personally, would not eat them. It is better to be safe than sorry!

  8. britta bleakley

    You say how to find the pack date (Julian) on the carton .
    Can you tell me how long it usually takes to pack an egg, after it’s been laid? I.E. How old (typically) is the egg when it’s first packed?

  9. rook brand collections

    Oh good information to know, I will concern more about this. Thanks so much for sharing.

  10. Lori Auffenorde

    Forgot I had this saved. This is very informational.

  11. brooklyn grill

    Thank you for sharing. This information is very useful. I will share this information for many people.


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