How long are eggs still good after they’re laid? Currently, state standards in Arizona mandate that eggs be sold within 24 days, but a lawmaker has proposed extending that to a full six weeks, Arizona Daily Star reports.
For readers not up on the minutiae of egg-carton dating: It’s a surprisingly complicated matter. The USDA does not require a sell-by or expiration date, but many state laws do require them, and retailers must toss the eggs still on shelves after that date. What USDA-graded egg containers do require is a packed-on date, indicating the date those eggs were placed in the carton. According to the American Egg Board, most eggs are safe to eat even two to three weeks past their expiration date.
In Arizona, state representative Jill Norgaard, a Republican representing Phoenix, has proposed a measure championed by a retail-industry group that say there’s no reason to dump eggs from shelves after the 24-day period. Her proposal would allow eggs to remain on shelves for 45 days after they’re packed and still earn the USDA grade-AA label. According to Arizona Daily Star, an Arizona Retails Association lobbyist says that if that 45-day period makes consumers uncomfortable, there’s a chance it could be scaled back in committee. The lobbyist also says most states already allow for a 30- to 45-day window.
Both the lobbyist and an egg farmer quoted by Arizona Daily Star claim it’s not food safety as issue, but food aesthetics. While 45-day-old eggs may not be unhealthy or unsafe, egg farmer Glenn Hickman tells Arizona Daily Star that by 25 days old, approximately one egg in a dozen will not meet USDA grade-AA standards for yolk and white firmness. One could speculate that egg farmers have an incentive for supermarkets to toss old eggs—leading to more frequent egg orders—the farmers also rely on consumers enjoying the quality of their eggs. Hickman says that ultimately, less-fresh eggs are unfair to egg-loving consumers.
“Getting cheated out of a couple of ounces of gas is not unsafe or unhealthy, either,” he said. “But it’s still not right.”
Are you now wondering about the safety of eggs you bought from the grocery? Refrigerating eggs helps impede salmonella and other bacterial development, so that’s a good place to start. You can also use a variety of methods for testing eggs’ freshness if you’re wary of their born-on date, or—my preferred method—just eat a shit ton of omelets so a carton never lasts longer than 10 days.