Crack the Code! Learn How to Read an Egg Carton

Have you ever noticed a date and a sequence of numbers that seem to have no meaning on your egg carton?  Well you’re not alone! Learn what these numbers mean and why you should pay attention to them.

Let’s start with the Julian date.  The Julian date is a time stamp that indicates when the eggs were packaged. This date is typically found on the short side on the carton. The Julian number represents the consecutive days of the year with the number 001 as January 1 and December 31 as 365.

As long are they are kept refrigerated at 45 °F or lower, fresh shell eggs are safe to be consumed four to five weeks beyond the carton’s Julian date (the date eggs were packed). Although not required, cartons may also carry a sell by or expiration date (EXP) beyond which the eggs should not be sold but are still safe to eat. On cartons with the USDA grade logo, the expiration date cannot exceed 30 days after the eggs were packed in the carton. Depending on the retailer, the expiration date may be less than 30 days. Eggs packed in cartons without the USDA grade logo are governed by the laws of their states.

All eggs are inspected for wholesomeness and safety, however, grading of eggs for quality is completely voluntary. Companies pay the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to inspect their eggs to measure the firmness of the egg white, roundness of the egg yolk and staining of the shells.   Eggs are also sized by weight per dozen eggs and labeled as small, medium, large, x-large or jumbo.

You’ve probably seen terms like UEP Certified, cage-free or certified organic on egg cartons. Learn more about the labels on egg cartons at

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