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Farm Fresh Eggs - use by date for best flavor/quality?

fldhkybnva May 13, 2013 05:39 PM

I am quite excited to have discovered that a coworker has a farm with free range chickens who is willing to share some eggs. I have never used or even tasted a farm fresh egg and just had a few quick questions about storage. Obviously, they are better when fresher but in general within what time frame do you like to use the fresh eggs before you consider them to be less than fresh and akin to grocery store eggs. I have no idea the process of farm to grocery store egg production and so no real sense of how old the eggs in the grocery store are by the time they are put out for sale. If they are weeks old, I imagine using the farm fresh eggs within the same time frame would be reasonable given that I usually use a dozen eggs within 2 weeks or so but the fresh eggs will be at day #1 vs the grocery store eggs I buy now which are at x number of days old. Any tips that you have or suggestions would be great? I am really looking forward to these eggs and as a recent lover of eggs I think it will be a nice treat for some of my favorite egg dishes.

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  1. weezieduzzit RE: fldhkybnva May 13, 2013 06:17 PM

    According to the egg farm I buy from, 4 weeks is the limit. Once they hit 3 weeks I make hard cooked eggs and turn them into devilled eggs or egg salad.

    I buy 2 flats every 3 weeks or so. I didn't get to this weekend so we will do without eggs until I can get there (its about 20 miles each way and unfortunately not always the way we're headed but we would now rather do without than buy store eggs.)

    1 Reply
    1. re: weezieduzzit
      fldhkybnva RE: weezieduzzit May 13, 2013 06:24 PM

      Oh great, that's perfect. I eat omelets very often so should use them no problem in 3 weeks. Thanks! I hope to really enjoy them although not sure I'll be able to notice a difference but at least I know where they come from :)

    2. f
      ferret RE: fldhkybnva May 13, 2013 07:07 PM

      Many grocery store brands have a packing date (3-digit code from 001 (January 1) to 365 (December 31)) and the sell-by date is typically 45 days later. Store eggs are generally delivered within a few days of laying. So "farm fresh" isn't necessarily going to be fresher than grocery store eggs.

      1 Reply
      1. re: ferret
        fldhkybnva RE: ferret May 14, 2013 08:13 AM

        Thanks, I had heard of this before but completely forgot about it. I checked the carton I brought in to be filled with the farm eggs and it seems that it was packaged on April 16th so it's been about a month. I will now likely be that crazy woman digging in the pile of eggs checking the dates :)

      2. earthygoat RE: fldhkybnva May 14, 2013 07:24 AM

        We don't wash the eggs our chickens lay unless they are really dirty. When a hen lays an egg, she leaves a protective coating on the shell that allows the egg to stay fresher longer. Those naturally coated eggs are stored on the counter. If we do wash dirty eggs, they will stay fresh on the counter several weeks, but we usually put them in the fridge. I forgot about a dozen eggs in the back of the fridge that were a couple of months old once. They were fine and I'd prefer those to store bought. If you go through eggs fast, I wouldn't worry too much about how long they'll stay fresh. If the chickens go outside and eat a variety of food, you'll love them and go through them much faster anyway.

        1 Reply
        1. re: earthygoat
          fldhkybnva RE: earthygoat May 14, 2013 08:12 AM

          Great, we don't go through eggs "that" quickly since there are only 2 of us but we have omelets at least 3 times a week so a dozen lasts 10 to 14 days or so. Thanks for the feedback, I'm looking forward to the eggs.

        2. tcamp RE: fldhkybnva May 14, 2013 07:53 AM

          I get a dozen a week as part of my CSA so I try to use them up in a week but, honestly, I've had some in my fridge much longer and they tasted fine. Every few weeks, I'll hard boil a bunch of the stragglers and use those for lunches and atop salads.

          1. h
            Harters RE: fldhkybnva May 14, 2013 08:36 AM

            Like the supermarket, the farmer who sells eggs at my farmers market also marks their box with a "best before" date. She usually boxes them the day before the market and the date is usually about a week longer than supermarket eggs.

            The supermarket ones I have at the moment have a best before of 22/5 and are at least 2.5 weeks old already.

            1. JayL RE: fldhkybnva May 14, 2013 09:42 AM

              Somebody will try (or already has tried) to tell you the grocery eggs are as fresh as your farm eggs.

              I won't try to discredit that statement...but I do want you to pay attention to one thing when you get your "fresh" eggs...

              Look at the color of the yolk and how TALL the yolk stands when you crack it open and put it in a pan. You can occasionally get eggs with proud yolks in the grocery, but not often. You're gonna be shocked at the difference when you crack your first egg or two.

              Yes, eggs can be stored unrefrigerated...and are in many parts of the world. If this scares you, it would be an ok experiment to keep a half dozen on the counter and refrigerate the other half to use later in the week.

              When we get fresh eggs they come unwashed and I leave them that way until I'm ready to crack them. I do give them a gentle wash so as not to contaminate the egg upon cracking.

              Best of luck...and don't forget to notice the difference in yolk color and "stature".

              8 Replies
              1. re: JayL
                ferret RE: JayL May 14, 2013 10:21 AM

                Yolk color has little to do with farm-raising or freshness and everything to do with feed (some feed ingredients are color-enhancing).

                Here's a chicken-feed product from Purina that touts the color-enhancing nature of the added marigolds:


                1. re: JayL
                  fldhkybnva RE: JayL May 14, 2013 10:30 AM

                  Will do, I actually was planning to check this out as I read about it McGee's book "On Food and Cooking." Is there a good way to know if the eggs have been washed? How long can I keep on the counter and is there any reason to do this vs the fridge?

                  1. re: fldhkybnva
                    ferret RE: fldhkybnva May 14, 2013 10:37 AM

                    Unless you're baking something that requires room temp eggs (macarons) there's no advantage to keeping eggs out of the fridge and many advantages to keeping them in.

                    1. re: ferret
                      c oliver RE: ferret May 21, 2013 07:02 PM

                      That's exactly what I was thinking. I buy pastured eggs but keep them in the fridge.

                    2. re: fldhkybnva
                      JayL RE: fldhkybnva May 14, 2013 08:29 PM

                      If they haven't been washed, they'll look a little "dirty"...seriously! LoL

                      You could always just ask your friend.

                      1. re: JayL
                        fldhkybnva RE: JayL May 15, 2013 07:03 AM

                        Perfect, thanks!

                        1. re: JayL
                          earthygoat RE: JayL May 15, 2013 09:28 AM

                          The only time our chicken's eggs look dirty is if has been raining and it's muddy outside. Otherwise, the eggs look clean and you can't tell the difference if it's been washed or not. Ask the farmer if they wash the eggs.

                      2. re: JayL
                        paulj RE: JayL May 14, 2013 12:39 PM

                        Here's a nice graphic about how an egg changes with age


                        However it is hard to translate most of those changes to things that a cook will notice. Some might:
                        - deepening in yolk color
                        - increase in the air cell volume

                      3. Scrofula RE: fldhkybnva May 14, 2013 10:08 AM

                        Depends on what you mean by 'quality'. As far as flavor goes, freshness isn't really an issue. By and large, eggs just taste like eggs, whether they are fresh, stale, free range or factory farmed. There was an interesting taste test about this:

                        The texture does change, though. Fresh eggs are easier to poach, and older eggs are easier to boil and peel.

                        7 Replies
                        1. re: Scrofula
                          1sweetpea RE: Scrofula May 14, 2013 10:20 AM

                          According to my farm-fresh egg source, the limit for eggs laid the day before you get them is 10 weeks in the refrigerator. Mine never last nearly that long, but I like to buy two dozen at a time and stash one dozen deep in the fridge, to age for a few weeks. They peel better when boiled. The super fresh ones we cook and enjoy as we wish. The farmer tells me that when you buy eggs at the store that have a best before date that's a month into the future, those eggs are likely already as many as 4 weeks old. Eggs less than a week old tend to have really runny, watery whites. The longest I have kept these eggs is a little more than a month (I was away on vacation for 3.5 weeks, while they languished at home in the fridge). They boiled and peeled beautifully and still tasted wonderful.

                          The eggs I buy vary a bit in size, but taste fantastic. The hens are inside their hen-house at night, but the doors are opened at 6 am and they are free to wander about in the fenced in portion of the farm. They get a high quality feed, plus crushed eggshells and any raw vegetable scraps from the family's meals.

                          1. re: 1sweetpea
                            ferret RE: 1sweetpea May 14, 2013 10:30 AM

                            There's a 45-day best-by limit for store eggs. The date is measured from packing which occurs reasonably close to laying (it can be days, but it's not weeks). I'm sure the farmers will tell you their eggs are weeks fresher than store bought, but in all likelihood it's only a couple of days' difference.

                            1. re: ferret
                              1sweetpea RE: ferret May 14, 2013 10:41 AM

                              That's definitely possible. I only know what my farmer friend tells me. As far as I'm concerned, I prefer her eggs for the following reasons: 1) she raises them very humanely, 2) they are no more than two days old when she sells them to me, 3) I like how they taste and perform in my cooked dishes, and 4) her price beats everything at my local grocery stores with the exception of the basic factory eggs.

                              I have purchased regular factory eggs, omega-3 enriched factory eggs, omega-3 enriched free range eggs and organic eggs from the grocery store. I complained to management about one batch of omega-3 eggs (probably factory eggs) that the yolks were extremely pale and tasteless. They refunded me and sent vouchers for future egg purchases. The organic eggs usually taste pretty good, but with a price tag of more than $6 per dozen, they're fairly cost prohibitive. I support organic farmers, though, so do buy them on occasion, when my farm-fresh source is sold out. I now avoid the omega-3 eggs, because I've bought a few batches that smelled and tasted seaweedy (or fishy, take your pick). It was a turn-off. I won't knowingly buy factory eggs anymore, because I don't think it's a humane way to raise chickens. I won't bat an eyelash at paying a dollar or so extra for eggs that come from chickens that are able to peck at bugs, flowers and seeds outdoors.

                              1. re: 1sweetpea
                                ferret RE: 1sweetpea May 14, 2013 10:45 AM

                                Farmers are marketers like anyone else. I read a post somewhere online where a farmer touted that their eggs were so high quality that they would last for many months, which defies the whole point of buying farm-fresh eggs. So as with any product claim, be it from a factory operation or the farmer down the street, take it with a grain of salt.

                                1. re: ferret
                                  1sweetpea RE: ferret May 14, 2013 01:19 PM

                                  Of course, Ferret. As I said above, I'm happy to know that the chickens are raised humanely (and I do realize that once their egg production begins to drop in quality and quantity, they are finished) and that the eggs are super fresh and taste good. Beyond that, I can only quote what I'm told by the farmer. She is open to me visiting and viewing her hen house, so I don't believe she has much, if anything to hide. The only first-hand claim I can make regarding aging eggs is that 6-week old eggs kept in their carton in a cold refrigerator still taste great and hold up nicely in cooking.

                                  1. re: 1sweetpea
                                    ferret RE: 1sweetpea May 14, 2013 01:29 PM

                                    I wasn't suggesting the farmer was hiding anything at all. Just that her criticism of commercial eggs' "freshness" seemed a little suspect.

                          2. re: Scrofula
                            c oliver RE: Scrofula May 21, 2013 07:03 PM

                            I'm glad you gave that link. I love my pastured eggs for a number of reasons. And the texture is better but I can't say that I can honestly tell a difference in the taste.

                          3. d
                            dct RE: fldhkybnva May 15, 2013 09:28 AM

                            I grew up with homegrown eggs and my mother still raises them, so a couple of tips: one, they should easily last 4-6 weeks.

                            After a couple of weeks, texture changes are noticeable, and IMO, the eggs taste a tiny bit flat compared to fresher ones--but they are not "off" in any way. I tend to keep the fresh eggs for scrambling, frying, etc and use older eggs in baking. I keep them in separate cartons, FWIW.

                            If you like hard-boiled eggs, do NOT use your freshest eggs. You will have trouble getting the shells off and curse your desire for deviled eggs. You can "age" eggs faster for HB if you leave them out of the fridge for a day or two. It is safe.

                            If you are worried about freshness, place the eggs in water, the older they are, the more they will float point down. If they point straight down, you don't want to use them. It is unpleasant!

                            1. fldhkybnva RE: fldhkybnva May 20, 2013 05:30 PM

                              Oh my...wow! The rest of the world - family and coworkers - can't stop mocking me but these are the best eggs I've ever had. I'm only a recently converted egg fan and perhaps it's because I haven't been eating the good stuff. The initial striking thing was that they all looked different with speckles and dots which I actually found comforting and reminded me that chickens are supposed to be individuals with their own uniqueness just like us humans and highlighted the nature of the factory produced automaton egg. I should have cracked it onto a plate but I used the first egg to make an omelet with a few egg whites added in which were already in the bowl so missed a great photo opportunity because it was the brightest yellow, round yolk. I didn't know they could be so bright yellow and even in the pool of liquid egg whites the white of the cracked egg stayed stiff in a circle around the yolk. SO actually walked in while I was making the omelet and asked "uh, why is it so yellow?" He had no idea that I had the eggs and assumed I forgot to add the extra egg whites. The taste was great as well. I know the Serious Eats taste test concluded there's no real difference but I guess I will continue to be biased that the yellow-er egg tastes better because these will be our go to eggs. It would be hard to go back to the old usual.

                              Now I'm on the hunt for more egg recipes.

                              Thanks for all of your tips.

                              5 Replies
                              1. re: fldhkybnva
                                ferret RE: fldhkybnva May 20, 2013 07:59 PM

                                The yellow is the effect of natural carotenoids in the feed as I've posted above. 100% unrelated to flavor or quality, but it looks nicer. I'm glad you enjoyed the eggs, but it's pretty much a placebo effect.

                                1. re: ferret
                                  earthygoat RE: ferret May 21, 2013 05:09 AM

                                  I think it's a lot more complicated than just saying it is 100% unrelated to flavor or quality. There are just too many factors that have an effect on eggs (or any food for that matter). The link you provided above is for Purina feed and doesn't really show that support, but I could see how they would want people to believe that color has nothing to do with flavor and quality. My chickens show great change in flavor and quality throughout the year, depending on how much access they have to foraged food other than commercial feed. I don't have scientific data to support my observations, but I sure do prefer eggs laid in the spring a lot more than ones laid in the winter.

                                  1. re: earthygoat
                                    ferret RE: earthygoat May 21, 2013 06:57 PM

                                    I don't doubt that foraged food has a beneficial effect on flavor - but color is incidental.

                                    1. re: ferret
                                      earthygoat RE: ferret May 22, 2013 06:28 AM

                                      Again, too many factors affect color and flavor. We'll just have to agree to disagree.

                                  2. re: ferret
                                    fldhkybnva RE: ferret May 21, 2013 08:33 AM

                                    I am OK with the placebo effect. It may not be scientifically proven, but the mind plays lots of tricks on us which help us to be happy and satisfied :)

                                2. k
                                  kengk RE: fldhkybnva May 21, 2013 06:23 AM

                                  I have posted here before about how to hard boil very fresh eggs so that they peel easily but I don't think anybody believed me. I'll try again.

                                  In a sauce pan bring water to a rolling boil, take egg(s) from refrigerator and drop gently into boiling water, turn heat to low, cover and cook for however long you want. Drain water off, bang the egg(s) around in the pan. Run cool water over them. Peel.

                                  I generally can hear the shell crack a little when I drop them in but the membrane is tough enough that I've never had any egg leak out.

                                  This is with my homegrown eggs, ymmv.

                                  1. fldhkybnva RE: fldhkybnva May 21, 2013 08:34 AM

                                    I have hit the egg jackpot apparently. Another coworker just brought in a dozen of eggs for me. These however have not been washed, do I just wash them as usual and wash them right before use or before I put them in the fridge?

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: fldhkybnva
                                      kengk RE: fldhkybnva May 21, 2013 08:39 AM

                                      If you do wash them use tap water as hot as your hands can stand to be in. I have read that using water warmer than the egg makes any migration of bacteria go outward.

                                      I really have no idea if it's true but I have seen that advice many times and follow it.

                                      As far as whether to wash them or not; if they look dirty when I gather them, I wash them.

                                      1. re: kengk
                                        fldhkybnva RE: kengk May 21, 2013 08:55 AM

                                        Yea there are a few stray feathers and some stuck on muddy grass. If I don't necessarily have to wash them I won't bother. My germ threshold is quite high and I'm not eating the shell.

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