How To Read The 3 Most Important Egg Carton Codes

woman looking at egg carton codes and cracking an egg into a bowl

What Egg Carton Codes Can Tell You About Your Eggs

When we’re shopping for eggs, there are a few things most of us do. First, we choose the type of eggs that we like, whether that’s certified organic, conventional, or from a local farm. Then we’ll check the egg sell by date on the carton and compare it to others on the shelf, and do a quick visual inspection to make sure all the shells are intact.

That used to be my process for deciding which eggs to buy, until I learned about the surprisingly informative codes printed on each egg carton and how to decipher it! Today I’ll walk you through three data points printed on egg cartons and explain how to read and interpret them.

Once you’ve cracked the egg carton code, you’ll have no trouble picking out fresh eggs of egg-cellent quality. (All puns aside, we all want to get the best value for the money we spend on eggs these days, and the following information can help!)

How To Read An Egg Carton: 3 Egg Carton Codes, Explained

woman pointing to a packing date on an egg carton

1. The Date The Eggs Were Packed

Next time you check the expiration date on a carton of eggs, note the three digit number next to it. That’s the date the eggs were packed according to the Julian calendar, which counts dates consecutively starting with January 1 written as 001, and ending with December 31 written as 365.

For example, if the number on your egg carton is 258, it signifies that the eggs were packed on the 258th day of the year. That would be September 15th. In a Leap Year, it would be September 14th. (To easily translate the Julian date into a more recognizable format, check out this chart.)

According to the USDA, refrigerated eggs can be kept fresh in the refrigerator for up to four to five weeks past the date they were packed. Once you figure out where the end of that approximate date range is, you can write it on your carton as a reminder to use up your eggs by then. The “exp” or egg sell by date is set at 30 days max after the pack date, so right around four weeks.

And if you ever end up with a lot of eggs to get through, check out this list for tons of ways to use them!

woman pointing to a photo of an egg plant on an ipad

2. Plant Code On Egg Cartons

Not only does the carton code tell you when eggs were packed, it can tell you where they were packaged too! All USDA-graded egg cartons must include a processing plant code.

The plant code usually starts with a P and is followed by a four digit number. If you’re feeling curious about where your eggs come from, all you have to do is look up the plant code!

The code on my carton was “P1936,” so I found out that my eggs were packaged by Ritewood Eggs, Inc. located just a few hours north of where I live. It’s always good to know that your eggs didn’t have to travel very far before they ended up in your fridge!

woman pointing to the egg quality code on an egg carton

3. The Quality Of The Eggs

Just like elementary school teachers, the USDA gives out grades that separate the good eggs from the very best eggs! The USDA Consumer Grade is probably the most recognizable feature on an egg carton, displaying grades ranging from AA to B according to their freshness and overall quality.

Think of Grade AA as an A+, as these eggs are the freshest and highest quality. Grade A eggs are just a notch below these, with Grade B eggs bringing up the rear. The lower you go on the grading scale, the more likely your eggs are to have thinner whites and wider, flatter yolks.

Regardless of their grade, none of the eggs sold in your grocery store going to be bad, per se, so I suggest evaluating them based on how you’ll be using the eggs. If you’ll be using eggs in egg-centric dishes like omelets and quiches, go for Grade AA, while Grade B eggs should be just fine for baking projects and other applications.

You can usually find the USDA grade on the front of your carton. But if it isn’t prominently displayed there, it may be tacked on to the end of the processing plant code.

woman cracking an egg into a bowl

Egg cartons can tell you a lot about the eggs inside them, and these codes are just the tip of the iceberg! If you’re curious about other egg labels (like free-range, organic, pasture-raised, etc.) and what they mean, check out this blog post!

How do you choose which eggs to buy when you’re at the store?

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Jill Nystul (aka Jillee)

Jill Nystul is an accomplished writer and author who founded the blog One Good Thing by Jillee in 2011. With over 30 years of experience in homemaking, she has become a trusted resource for contemporary homemakers by offering practical solutions to everyday household challenges.I share creative homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make your life easier and more enjoyable!

About Jillee

Jill Nystul

Jill’s 30 years of homemaking experience, make her the trusted source for practical household solutions.

About Jillee


Food & Recipes

  • This info about eggs is great. I’ve learned so much from your emails. And I save them to Pinterest. Look forward every day to your emails.

  • Thanks for this useful info, Jillee! It helps to know how long after the date on the carton the eggs should last. I think another of your posts mentioned that you can put eggs in a large bowl of water; if they sink to the bottom, they’re still good, if they float, they should be discarded. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get the plant information to work using the code on my egg carton. The search on the linked site wouldn’t find “shell eggs”, either, so I have no idea where my eggs were packaged. At least I can tell if they’re still fresh!

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