Here's what those numbers on your egg carton really mean

There's certainly no shortage of eggs to choose from in the grocery store aisle, and while there's a definite variety ranging from white and brown eggs to organic and free-range, they all have one thing in common — that numbering on the side of the carton. Go look at the egg carton sitting in your fridge and you'll find that there's definitely some code of numbers on the side. 

Part of these numbers, of course, refer to the "best used by" date of the eggs. You'll also notice, though, some additional numbers on the carton. These mysterious numbers aren't there just by accident, and they serve a very practical purpose. 

Understanding the packaging code on egg cartons

Checking the "best by" date on your carton of eggs is a good way of ensuring that you pick up a fresh carton, but it's not the only way to tell. Next time you're in the grocery store, check out an egg carton and you'll notice some additional numbers below or on top of the "best by" date. This three-digit sequence refers to the date that your eggs were packaged (via Insider). 

The numbers should be somewhere between 001 to 365, and refer to the specific day in the 365 calendar year that your eggs were harvested. January 1 would be 001 and December 31 would obviously be 365. Things tend to get slightly tricky if it's a leap year. For example, eggs packaged on March 1 during a regular year would have the code 060, but if it's a leap year that code would be... you guessed it, 061 because of that extra day in February.

What about those other codes found on egg cartons?

You might notice some other code on your egg carton besides the "best by" and package dates. This isn't some secret code — it's actually put in place by the United States Department of Agriculture. It simply refers to the processing plant that packaged the eggs (via Cooking Light). The code usually starts with "P" in reference to the plant, and then a series of four numbers for the plant's ID. If you're really curious about where your eggs were processed, the USDA has a guide for egg processing reference. 

The "best by" date is a suitable way to check your eggs' freshness, but it's worth looking at that three-digit code as well. Refrigerated eggs are good for up to five weeks after being packaged, so check that code and have peace of mind that your eggs are safe and ready to be scrambled, fried, or poached