Think You Have Fresh Eggs? Here’s How to Tell

by Sarah TheHealthyHomeEconomist

fresh eggs

Don’t you just love the way truly fresh eggs look in a bowl after you crack them?  The yolks are so perfectly rounded and the whites whip up into the fluffiest meringue!

Fresh eggs go with the territory when you purchase from a local farm.  Good quality, local eggs sell quickly enough that there isn’t any need for the tricks the egg industry uses to prolong egg freshness such as partial freezing and cold storage for weeks at a time before they hit your supermarket shelf.

Even if you buy organic eggs from Whole Foods or other healthfood store, it is possible to get old eggs.   Old eggs not only don’t taste as good, in my opinion, but they also don’t poach nicely into that perfect egg shape that sits so pretty on top of a slice of toast or English muffin.

Do you suspect your fresh eggs might be less than really fresh?  If so, here are two clues that you need to find another egg source as suggested by Kenji Lopez-Alt, Chief Creative Officer of Serious Eats.

The Julian Date Tells the Tale

In the United States, every egg carton sold in a store is required to be stamped with a number between 000 and 365.   This number is the Julian Date and indicates the day of the year that the eggs were cleaned and packed into the carton.  A carton stamped with 000 means the eggs were packed on January 1 and a number of 213 means they were packed on August 2.

The bottom line is that you want a date as high as possible ideally only a few days to a week from the Julian date of the day you are purchasing the eggs.  Do not look at the date just to the right of the Julian Date as this is the expiration date of the eggs and could be up to six weeks after the eggs were packed!

For example, an egg carton stamped with the numbers 015 Feb 28 means that the eggs were packed on January 15 but the eggs can be sold until February 28 – a month and a half later!

Who wants six week old eggs that the store can legally sell as “fresh”?  Not me!

The Float Test for Fresh Eggs

The second way to test the freshness of your egg is to carefully place the egg in a cup of water.  Fresh eggs will sink and remain flat lengthwise at the bottom of the cup.

The older the egg, the more likely it is to completely float.  Semi-fresh eggs will stand up on one end and not lie flat at the bottom. This is because an air pocket in the fat portion of the egg increases in size the older an egg gets.

Why Fresh Eggs Are Important

As with any food, the fresher the better.  Better for taste and better for nutrition.

Who wants eggs that have been semi-frozen and in cold storage for weeks before you even get them home just to increase shelf life?  Certainly not a good option particularly if you are soft boiling the egg in order to feed your baby the warm, liquid yolk as a traditional first food!

Fresh eggs also separate better.  A nice, perky yolk can be separated easily with your hands without a single drop mixing in with the white to ruin your macaroons!

Finally, fresh eggs are so much easier to poach.  Fresh eggs have tighter whites as well as yolks that retain their shape better as they cook.  So if Eggs Benedict is your thing you will want to ensure that your eggs are as fresh as possible.

Do you have any egg freshness tips to add?  Please share in the comment section.

More Information

Why Organic Store Eggs are a Scam

What Oxidizes the Cholesterol in Eggs?

The Best Egg Substitute (plus video how-to)

Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist


Comments (63)

  1. Pingback: The Secret to Easy-Peel Hard-Boiled Eggs - More Than Four Walls

  2. I have eggs from April 2 2014 and I was wondering if they are still good to use? They are farm fresh and did wash them straight from the nesting box to the fridge. See I wash them, date them, then store them in my fridge right away. Will they still be good today?

  3. Pingback: Think You Have Fresh Eggs? Here's How to Tell - TimePerks

  4. I got eggs from a farm recently and almost all of them had red specks in them. Is that bad? Also why do eggs sometimes have specks of blood in them?

  5. Another good idea is to find a buyer who will tell you when their eggs were laid. If you’re buying directly from a farmer or in a farmers market, they should be more than happy to tell you how many days old their eggs are.
    Hopefully, you can find eggs so rich you can do this with them:

  6. Hey that’s a nice little trick.

    I once bought some eggs at 7/11 and when I got home I was shocked to see over half of the eggs were cracked. I returned them and got my money back :)

  7. Pingback: Do Pastured Eggs Need to Be Refrigerated? | Pawkey's Ponderings

  8. I love this! I tried it and it really works! Thank you.

    I am incorporating your soft boiled egg yolk diet for my baby every day. Couldn’t find a post that addresses this question:

    1-Is one yolk a day sufficient or can I give him more? He is going to be 9 months old next week.

    2-What about adults?? I have been taking “high quality” fish oil thinking it was benefiting me and my (nursing baby)…I want to take something to help my brain, too! I have never been an egg eater. I would never even touch them before a week ago! As I prepare it for my son I am getting much more comfortable with the idea of consuming it myself for the added benefits… After 3+ years I will be ditching the fish oil!!!

    *My husband and I are even considering getting our own hens now…!

  9. in order to have neon yellow whites the chicken food must be fortified with vitamin B2 (Riboflavin can be used as a deliberate orange-red food color additive).

  10. Recently, I’ve bought farm fresh eggs from our local co-op. I keep getting eggs that have NEON YELLOW WHITES! I asked the producer, they don’t know what causes it. A friend says that means the chickens were eating really awesome stuff. Above a commenter mentioned that it meant that the chickens were eating excess corn and soy – I feel like it would be more common for ‘commercial’ eggs if that were the case.

    Anyone have any personal experience with this?

    I’m planning on having hens soon, but alas, I’m not there yet!

    • Eating corn will make the eggs more yellow. But I think the store bought eggs are pale also because the chickens aren’t getting much sunlight.

  11. Hi Sarah,

    Loved the article–thanks! I’ll send this on to my sister, who will be getting her baby chicks soon. Another question: what is the story with fertilized eggs? Do you have an article on it already?



  12. Very cool! I didn’t know older eggs will float. I just checked, and mine sunk to the bottom but not flat, so they are semi-fresh. The Julian date says 72, so early March.

  13. Cherilynne Churchill via Facebook April 1, 2013 at 6:53 am

    I prefer the older eggs because they boil up better and the shell comes off easier.

  14. I raise chickens and I’ve learned that eggs straight from the chicken do not need refrigeration if you don’t wash them. Just wipe off any excess dirt off the shell, but don’t “wash” them. This will preserve the natural protective coating which keeps bacteria out.

  15. There is actually nothing wrong with a month old egg if it was properly stored. They will keep for up to 4 months in a refrigerator. Mother Earth News has a great article on storing eggs.

    Heritage hens fed a natural diet have two main flurries of egg laying, spring and fall, and will slow down or even stop in the heat of the summer and cold of winter. Our ancestors would save up eggs (and I do, too) and store them for the slow times. The older eggs are great for boiling as they are easier to peel. But you still should not pay extra for month old eggs sold as fresh.

  16. Pingback: Think Your Eggs Are Fresh? Here’s How to Tell | CookingPlanet

  17. Pingback: Fresh Eggs? Here’s How to Tell | To Your Health

  18. Thanks for the hard boiling tip, Sharon. Difficult peeling is one thing I’ve noticed since we starting buying eggs from our CSA…. but something I was willing to deal with to eat fresh eggs, though it seemed I was wasting a lot every time I peeled one. I’m going to go try your trick right now!

    • my mother always rolled her eggs to crack them all over for peeling. I’ve added a teaspoon, slipped under the membrane just below the shell. I can usually get the shell off in one strip that way, no pitting of the white, just a little rinse under the tap (which helps the salt stick better too!)

  19. The last 20 years of my career as a home economist were spent as a food stylist. I often needed to by eggs for frying and/or hard-cooking. When it was critical I went directly to a chicken/egg farm near me. An employee told me that the age of the hen also had something to do with the perkiness (?) of the yolk and the tightness of the white. The older the hen, the looser the egg. I’ve never tried to confirm this with an academic but it sounds possible.

    As a related tip, to prevent greening of the yolk after hard-cooking — plunge the freshly hard-cooked eggs into ice water to chill completely and remove the shells (even while they are chilling). I even cut them in half immediately to reduce the chemical interaction that produces the greening. I store the halves in a jar. ALL this is of course useless in the case of Easter Eggs!

  20. Jill,

    I have found that steamed eggs (steam for 10 minutes) peel much easier than hard boiled. So you may get your fresh eggs for Easter after all!

  21. Just a quick note for those who have chickens….fresh eggs are great until it comes time to hard boil them. Fresh eggs won’t easily peel when hard boiled! That is why I have learned to set some aside a few weeks prior to Easter for my deviled eggs. They look prettier without all those pock marks! Vanity? You bet! The girls want to be represented well at Easter! :)

    • We also have chickens. I avoided making deviled eggs for the longest time. I tried setting eggs aside for a few weeks and they still were hard to peel. On the backyard chicken forum, I read that boiling fresh eggs in 2 Tbl. salt to 1 quart water and then immersing them in ice water would enable them to peel. It works every time. You have to use that much salt. Less won’t work. Also, the eggs don’t taste salty at all.

        • I haven’t tried it yet but I’ve read that “hard boiling” eggs by baking them in the shell make them easy to peel too. The instructions said to put each egg in a hole of a muffin tin, put in the oven (without preheating) turn on to 350 and let bake for 30 minutes.

  22. Can you comment on how to tell the quality of the egg, apart from freshness? I thought that a darker and brighter yolk meant the chickens were eating their greens, as they should.

  23. I just went back to the UK for a couple of weeks and it’s crazy how different the eggs in the supermarket are there. They don’t refrigerate them in the stores which means they can’t be that old and apparently it’s illegal to wash the eggs. The reasoning is that:
    1. It weakens the shells and can contaminate them.
    2. If you can’t wash the eggs then you have to keep a much cleaner environment for the chickens.

    The shells on the eggs are much more like farm eggs than the ones in the US. They’re like little rocks!

  24. The egg theory is correct. Fresh eggs’ withies and yolks have higher density then the old one. Runny whites from the fresh eggs could be due to the environmental stress or other unfavorable conditions. In general, fresh eggs have tighter whites. Also, if the eggs shell has an unusual shape and some calcifications around the shell, excessive brown spots, or transparent shell – the chicken was in some kinds stress: environmental, nutritional, or not well chicken. The color of the egg’s white and yolk is a good indicator of the chicken diet. Clear white and orange yolk – indicates that the chicken was primarily feed sprouts, worms, and a few grain (best eggs). The yellower the white = more corn, soy, and grain in the chicken feed (worst egg). Most of the large eggs producer add Yellow color to the chicken feed to make egg yolk look yellower.

  25. Loved your article on how to tell if eggs are fresh and have forwarded the info.
    However, the info did not apply to the eggs my son bought…….they were marked:
    Best by May 8 (on first line)……..
    then on second line it read: 12P1691CO84M………
    Can you decifer that info?

  26. I know for a fact that fresh eggs do not always equal tighter whites. We have 12 hens and I have noticed that the weather (sunshine, temperature, etc) greatly affects egg production AND quality. Many times I will crack an egg that has just been gathered and the whites will spread all over the skillet. I’m not quite sure what causes it – haven’t been able to find anyone who knows – but it will happen. Prior to owning my own hens I had used the tight white theory to judge egg freshness from my local farm, but now I am experiencing that that isn’t necessarily true. Although, more often than not, the whites are tight rather than runny.

    • Sarah, as the hen get older(2 yrs and older), the whites become runny and the yolk is flattened. Best to let the girls lay no longer than 2 yrs, then into the stew pot.

    • Yes, I agree Amy. We have had chickens for 5 yrs now and sell eggs, so we always do the water test to check for bad ones (any egg that floats immediately should be tossed) and I even have a customer who wants his eggs at least a week old, because he likes the flavor. He grew up in Mexico and says that folks there know that they taste better! Ok, I prefer mine fresh (1-3 days) and I do not refrigerate unless they have been wet or washed and the cuticle has been removed. (This always gets an argument from some..) One of my customers is from England and he said that eggs are on the same aisle as bread…unrefrigerated! He says that we Americans make things harder sometimes! Ha! Anyway, love my chickens! Oh, one more thing! I researched how long an unrefrigerated egg could last in a cool, dark room and believe it or not…6 MONTHS! A gentleman did a study on it, just out of curiosity and found that in his cool, dry, dark closet..they stayed that long! AMAZING!


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