What the Code on Your Egg Carton Really Means

With their mysterious words, numbers, and symbols, commercial food containers can sometimes feel like a puzzle. Most shoppers don’t look beyond the expiration date and nutrition information of the food they buy, but there are benefits to learning to decode the symbols on packaging. As Taste of Home reports, knowing the meaning of the three-digit code printed on every egg carton can help you choose a fresher product.

You can find the Julian date of your eggs near the Sell By date on the side of the carton. This number indicates the date the eggs were placed in their package. If the date reads 001, the eggs have been sitting in their carton since the first day of January. The higher the number, the later in the year the item was packaged, leading all the way up to 365, or December 31.

The Julian date is more revealing than the Sell By date alone. While expiration dates and Sell By dates are more arbitrary than many people think, the amount of time a product has been sitting in its package is an objective piece of data. Food can last past its expiration date, and sometimes it goes bad before it. The best way to ensure your groceries are safe to eat is to buy them as fresh as possible, which the Julian date can help you do.

Even if you don’t know that March 19 is the 78th day of the year without doing some math, the code is still useful. In general, the higher the number is, the closer it is to the current date and the fresher it is. The exception is if you’re shopping at the beginning of the year, when eggs packaged in December of last year may still be on the shelf. In that case, lower Julian dates are your best option.

The quality of the food you find in the grocery store often can be discerned through the packaging. If you want your bread to be as fresh as possible, learn what the colored tags on bread bags really symbolize.

[h/t Taste of Home]