You might assume that anything that comes fresh from a farm is healthier and tastier than something purchased at a store. In the case of eggs, you would be mostly right. Farm fresh eggs are more nutritious than store bought eggs. Here’s why.
Most eggs bought in the store are several months old. According to Purina, commercial eggs can be 6-8 months old, and nutrition in the eggs declines with age. How do you know how old your eggs are? It can be tough. According to fresheggsdaily.com, “An egg can be sold for up to 30 days after the date it was put in the carton. Yes, that says ‘put in the carton’, not laid or collected, but packaged.” There isn’t any regulation about by what date it needs to be packaged.
One clue you can find about an egg’s age is on the carton. On each egg carton, there’s a number printed, from 1 to 365, called the Julian date. That represents the day of the year the carton was filled: 1 being January 1st and 365 being December 31st. Using the code, you can at least tell when the eggs were put in the carton. If you buy an egg on June 1 and the number on the carton is 60, that means that the egg was put in the carton March 1.
Egg cartons, like many products, also include a “Best By” date. This date can’t be more than 45 days past the packaging date. Some also have a “Sell By” date. Note that there is no real binding regulation for how these dates are determined and whether they are even required. The FDA does not require food manufacturers to place recommended dates on products—it’s solely up the individual company’s discretion. The “Sell By” date, however, can’t be more than 30 days after the eggs were packaged.
Still, most experts agree that commercial eggs remain safe to eat for several months as long as they are properly refrigerated. They are required to be stored at 45 degrees while being transported and stored by producers and retailers. This means that they are probably fine well after the “Best By” and “Sell By” dates. A University of Nebraska-Lincoln report notes that the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) says that “you can still store fresh shell eggs in their cartons in the refrigerator for four to five weeks beyond this date.”
On point in favor of older eggs: Hard boiled eggs are easier to peel once they are more than five days old. That’s when the egg loses its acidity and the membrane releases readily from the white.
The Purina article says that one way to compare farm fresh eggs to commercial eggs is to hold one of each in your hands. “You would also notice that farm eggs are denser due to the different diets of the chicken. The shells of farm eggs are thicker and harder than those of store bought eggs that were developed in a major factory.”
But which eggs taste better? That’s a subject of much debate and difficult to prove. Taste is subjective, and many advocates of farm fresh eggs admit that the perception that they taste better may be more psychological than biological. Fresh egg yolks do tend to be creamier and harder to break, if those qualities are important to you.
So, are farm fresh eggs better than store bought eggs? They might be healthier if they are indeed fresher.