How Fresh Are Fresh Eggs?

By Miryam Ehrlich Williamson

jeanvic-eggs

Photo: Jean&Vic/ flickr

When I was growing up in Philadelphia, we had a fresh-killed chicken delivered to us once a week from a farm in Vineland, New Jersey, about an hour’s drive away. Eggs, however, came from the A&P, a 10-minute walk from our house. When I referred in yesterday’s post to cardboard-flavored eggs, the A&P kind were what I was thinking of. I didn’t know what a fresh egg was until my husband and I came to Western Massachusetts and we started raising our own.

Fresh eggs have yolks that are bright yellow, shading toward orange. When you crack one into the frying pan, the yolk sits up tall; it doesn’t lie flat like a pale yellow pancake.  If you like your fried eggs over easy, you’d have to work at it to break the yolk when you turn the egg. In home-economics class in junior high school, one of the tests we girls (boys took shop while we learned to cook for them) had to take involved turning a store-bought fried egg without breaking the yolk. Most of us found it impossible.

If you’ve never eaten a fresh egg, you don’t know what eggs taste like. Once you do, you won’t want to go back.

If we don’t sell our hens’ eggs within five days, we don’t sell them; we freeze them in two-egg packages for our own use in making things that need beaten eggs.

USDA considers eggs as fresh until 45 days after they are packed. I’m guessing commercial eggs are packed the day they’re laid, but I don’t know that for sure.  We put them in egg cartons as soon as we take them from the nest because that’s the best way to avoid breakage.  I imagine factory egg farms work the same way.

USDA says eggs should be consumed within three to five weeks after you buy them. Following this policy, you could be eating eggs 6 to 11 weeks after they were laid. Assuming proper sanitation and handling all along the way, they’d still be safe.  But would they be worth eating?  I think not.

Here’s how to tell how old the eggs are that you get in the supermarket.  At the end of the carton you should find a “sell by” date. You can estimate the date the eggs werepacked by counting back 45 days.

Another, more accurate way is to find the “pack date” on the egg carton. It’s a three-digit number, usually above the “sell-by” date.  How do you get a date out of a three-digit number?  You count the number of days since New Year’s Day. January 1 is 001 and December 31 is 365 (or 366 in leap years.) If your newspaper carries the syndicated This Day in History column, you can find the day number there.  If not, there’s a day-of-the-year table right here.

If you have the option, stop buying supermarket eggs and find a local farmer or farmer’s market to buy them from. You’ll enjoy them more, and get more nourishment from them.  And by the way, if you’re still thinking that eggs will pack cholesterol on your arteries, get over it. Egg yolks do contain cholesterol, but egg whites contain choline, which dissolves cholesterol. Most doctors aren’t yet ready to take responsibility for telling you this, but clincial studies have shown that eating an egg or two a day won’t cause you any harm (unless, of course, you’re allergic to them, in which case forget what I just told you.)

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4 Responses to “How Fresh Are Fresh Eggs?”

  1. The first thing that popped into my mind when I saw this post was an old jingle, “Brown eggs are local eggs and local eggs are fresh.” Of course, the color of your eggs has more to do with the chickens that lay them and whether or not they are local depends on where they are laying them. But it reminded me that while the term “locavore” is fairly recently coined, many people have cared about buying locally produced foods forever. The Bible says that the truth shall set you free and there is nothing new under the sun.

  2. how can you classify the fresh eggs than the old eggs?

  3. Fresh eggs are impossible to peel when you boil them. How old do they have to be to be easy to peel like supermarket eggs?

  4. You’re right about peeling fresh eggs. Give them five days in the fridge and they’ll be easy to peel — if you pop them into a pan of cold water and let them cool first.

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