HOME > Chowhound > Not About Food >


Why are they stamping eggs with a use by date?

I think I heard this was coming, but when I bought a carton of eggs today and opened them to check their condition, I was surprised to find each egg individually stamped (or laser printed I guess) with a use by date. Whatever could the purpose of this be, unless you bought so many cartons of eggs and jumbled them all together and couldn't remember which were older? Seems like a waste of time and money to me.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. You're buying fancy-brand eggs?

    It IS a waste of time and money - then again, I know SOME branches of my favorite grocery chain that have more ready-to-eat food than they have ingredients (huge salad bar, almost no vegetable section). Which tells me that the clientele there is definitely in a "make it for me and tell me how to heat it" state of mind. They'd need dated eggs.

    Buy the cheap eggs - they all come out of the same place anyway.

    1. Um ... to prevent food poisoning?

      Eggs DO go bad, after all, (and they're VERY nasty when they do), and not everyone goes through a dozen eggs in a timely manner. I have friends who cook VERY occasionally, and about the only time they use eggs is when they're baking a cake (from a mix, of course), so it wouldn't surprise me if they used less than a dozen eggs a year and ar completely oblivious to the fact that the carton has a "use by" date on it.

      Still, stamping individual eggs seems like a waste. Guess it just goes to show that the fact that something CAN be done means that, eventually, it WILL be done.

      1. I have only seen it done by a local Egg Ranch who supplies to the San Diego County Trader Joes. It maybe easier and less costly than stamping the cartons (where the eggs are sometimes re-packaged when a few are broken). lawsuits you know....

        1. No, these are the cheap, on sale eggs with the generic grocery store name on them. And the carton is stamped too. After thinking about it, I realized not everyone uses eggs as much as I do, but still!

          1. I'm glad they do it. I often do mix eggs... for example, yesterday I had four eggs but needed nine for a bread pudding. I went and bought a dozen eggs, but took all nine from the "new" container so they'd be consistent (or at least be a similar age, which does matter).

            Now I have four eggs from last week and three from this week in one container. If I'm going to make egg salad, for example, I'll want the four eggs from last week since older eggs peel more easily when hard-boiled; if I'm going to make dippy eggs for breakfast I'll want the newer ones because new eggs hold their shape in the pan better.

            1. Laser dating of eggs is a new thing in the US, recently approved by the USDA, and you are likely to see more of it. Dating on individual eggs has been done in Europe for some time, but most of that has been with ink.
              Eggs go through an entire process from the chicken to the store so this will just be added as part of that process.
              Several chains and producers have already signed on. CBS TV just signed a deal to advertise on eggs, so they'll even pay to have that there like tiny billboards. Is nothing sacred?

              Eggs last a long, long time. For good sunny-side-ups, the fresher the better. For hard-cooked, it's best if they are older. For baking, they can even be weeks old.
              My mother marked eggs with a pencil - a B for boiled, O for old, the new ones were unmarked. Clever.
              There is NO doubt if an egg is bad. Possibly the most horrible thing you'll ever encounter besides a Katrina refrigerator.

              1. Trader Joes stamps eggs in California. Luckily, they stop around Eastertime. Very thoughtful.

                1. The best is yet to come, folks! I heard that there will soon be advertising placed on eggs. Do wonders never cease?

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: FlavoursGal

                    Well, the article says the advertising was supposed to be for the new CBS shows and on eggs in September and October...so 2 more days and we won't have to worry about it any more....

                  2. See my earlier post about CBS TV doing this. Here's a link to an article in the International Herald Tribune.
                    The New York Times also had a funny article.
                    The same laser process is now starting to be used on produce instead of those awful little stickers. I'll be happy to see those disappear forever!

                    1. well, my refridgerator has a little shelf to put eggs so if i used that (which i don't) then i wouldn't have the carton anymore to tell me the expiry date! i think its a great idea.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: ddelicious

                        Yeah, those shelves are not good -- they don't cushion the eggs at all, so you end up breaking half. There's a reason the egg carton hasn't made any significant improvement in the last, uh, 50 years.

                        1. re: Das Ubergeek

                          Das Ubergeek, the best reason not to store eggs on the fridge door has nothing to do with cushioning. Eggs should always be kept in their original carton in the coldest part of the fridge (the door is the least cold place), so they'll keep better.

                      2. I think its a great idea to date stamp the eggs.

                        I dont understand how anyone could have a problem with any thing to do with food safety...comical

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: swsidejim

                          Ultimately, it may be as much about marketing as food safety.
                          There's the obvious advertising opportunities. The almighty $$$.
                          The company promoting this now (see the link I included in an earlier post) has a website where you can check the date code on your egg. Maybe they will encourage you to throw it away and - guess what? - buy more eggs!!! Again $$$.

                          Eggs have a much, much longer "shelf life" under proper refrigeration than most people seem to assume. The dating could lead some to throw out perfectly safe food unnecessarily because of unfounded worry.
                          This is a real problem for those on limited incomes for whom eggs are economical nutritious food.

                        2. Sort of off topic.
                          There was a question from a reader in an issue of Cooks Illustrated that asked why Europeans keep their eggs on the kitchen counter and not the fridge. Why don't they go bad?

                          Apparently, eggs are not washed in Europe and hence they still have a protective cuticle on the shell that helps keep bacteria out of the egg.

                          The protective cuticle is washed off in the us and our eggs are more prone to spoiling from outside bacteria.

                          I also think that in Europe, people tend to buy their food more frequently and don't store it as long.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Sebby

                            Funny, when I lived in Europe I kept eggs on the counter because I had a tiny fridge (what US folks call a "dorm fridge") which didn't have enough room for the eggs!

                          2. I also wonder about the issue of spoilage (hence, "use-by" dates) being related to the shells on eggs we get in the supermarket. Growing up, I ate eggs from the neighbors farm, eggs from chickens pecking plenty of ground oyster shells. The eggs had serious shells! Now, we alternate between the market's eggs (when I need them NOW) and the eggs we get from a friend whose family raises chickens that are free range and fed like they used to be fed "down on the farm." The shells on the free range/organic produced eggs are MUCH thicker than those I haul home for 89 cents a dozen. Sebby noted that eggs are washed differently in the US v. Europe, and that this can affect the spoilage issue; could shell thickness as well? I don't know (although I have my hunches). Can anyone enlighten?

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: cayjohan

                              Well, I do know that chickens are seasonal, like everything else. Corporate chickens have lights on them 24/7, so they don't have day and night cycles or seasonal cycles.

                              I have a friend who has some chickens, and I also get a CSA box each week with eggs. From both sources I have been told it's a bad year for chickens. Alot died in a heat wave earlier this year and most only produce one egg every few days now (their natural winter cycle). Mt CSA farm has put a cap on how many eggs you can order.

                              I'm guessing here, but supermarket eggs are forced into production, hence thinner shells. If the chicken keeps having to produce eggs when it normally wouldn't, I can't imagine those aggs are going to be of high quality.

                            2. From the local egg ranch, when the pullets start laying (1st eggs ever) the eggs are very small and shells unusually thick. I always thought because of younger birds...

                              1. This is a marketing scheme to make people throw out perfectly good food and spend more money than they would otherwise do. I have never had an egg go bad, even after 2 months in the fridge.

                                1. My CSA farmer told me their eggs will stay good for 2-3 weeks UNREFRIDGERATED. I usually keep them out a few days if I don't have enough space in my fridge.

                                  1. Harold MacGee has an awesome treatise on eggs (30 or so pages?) that covers a lot.

                                    The egg is the perfectly evolved container, and they WILL keep unspoiled for months. My neighbor (she has an almost empty garage refrigerator) and I did a 6 month, month by month test on an original 12 dozen, and not a single one was "spoiled" after 180 days. Degradation is slow, and the first thing to go is "stand tall on frying". For hardboiled, they lasted to 6 months. This is not a recommendation to let them age, it was just a fun thing we did together ( she kept chickens in her youth, and was curious).

                                    Peelability increased over time. After 3 months we boiled them only.

                                    The most important thing is to check each shell before purchase and buy only those with no cracks or hairline fissures or beige fissured blotches. Bulk manufacturers spray a micro-coat of mineral oil to seal the pores, thus it helps to keep them in the original container in contact with the material that they landed in when the oil was first applied.

                                    As to individual dating, which has not yet reached my area, subtract 30 or 45 days from the "expire" date to get your date of production. It varies by state. Also, date of production is listed in Julian code on carton (November 1st is roughly 303 out of 365).

                                    1. i think it depends on what you use them for... if you're going to make sunny side up or even poached eggs you have to use fresh eggs. if you're going to make a meringue or anything else using the whites of the eggs, you have to use fresh eggs. other than that, i dont think it matters much. but you can tell when they get old... a sunny side up egg thats fresh looks like, well, a sunny side up egg. a old egg sunny side up ends up being twice as big (almost) which makes it lose its height... but if you don't care than whatever. but always check them when you need to whip them... they will not whip as well, and you may just get too frustrated and throw it all away.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: violent beauty

                                        Good to add those specifics. Older eggs are only good for hard boiled, an emulsifier for baking, and scrambled. The albumen doesn't age as well as the yolk.

                                      2. I think someone may have said this, but ALL eggs are dated on the carton, with a number from 1 to 365, that number being the day of the year. (Heineken beer is dated the same way, by the way.)