There is a super easy way to test your eggs for freshness whether they are store-bought eggs or from your own hens. It is the water "float" test and it only takes a couple of seconds to do!
You simply take a glass with enough water to hold the egg yet not spill over, and carefully place the egg in the water to see if it sinks, stands upright or floats on the top.
An egg that sinks is very fresh. And egg that stands up a little on one end, is a little older and an egg that floats to the top should be thrown out.
Why is this the case? If you've been cooking with eggs at all you've probably noticed that eggs have a little air pocket on the wider end. This air pocket is there to be an air source for a chick, if one had developed. Over time, this air pocket can get bigger because the surface of the egg is porous, so some air can seep in slowly. When this happens, the air pocket grows larger and larger and finally reaches a point where the air has gotten to the yolk of the egg. Once air has penetrated the yolk, the egg can rot easily so it should not be used.
Eggs that are washed tend to go bad a bit faster, and are more susceptible to outside contaminants getting inside the egg. Eggs that are not washed have a natural, protective "bloom" on them which helps extend the life of the egg as well as keep out any contamination. Store-bought eggs are always washed, usually in a bleach wash which can penetrate the egg. Farmers who sell eggs are required by the USDA to wash their eggs. We never wash our eggs (unless too much dirt or mud has somehow made its way into the next boxes, making a wash necessary). We do not want to lose that protective bloom on the egg if we can avoid it. This also allows us to keep the eggs in our cool basement storage rather than storing them in the refrigerator taking up that valuable space.
If you must purchase eggs in the store (I hope you don't have to, but sometimes it's necessary!), then it is a good idea to test them or watch for the dates on the cartons. However, the dates may not be what you think.
Egg cartons are required to be printed with the date that indicates when they were collected and washed, as well as an expiration date. However, the date the eggs were collected is
written in a code that most people do not know how to interpret.
In the United States, the dating of eggs is based on a 0 - 365 system. Eggs that were collected on Jan. 1st would have the number 000. Yet the expiration date could be as long as 6 weeks after that date, meaning your eggs could be 6 weeks old when you purchase them.
The eggs in the photo have the number "103" which indicates they were collected, washed and packaged somewhere around April 8th (just doing some quick math, I could be a day or two off.) This is very different than the expiration date as you can see. i
So the eggs you buy in the store could be as old as 6 weeks, and since they have been washed, it is likely a lot of air has entered in to those older eggs.
Of course we would always prefer our eggs to be super fresh, that's always the best! But if we have to choose between older, farm-fresh eggs raised on pasture, or fresh store-bought eggs - we choose the farm eggs any day!
We actually store our eggs just like they are fresh for up to 1 YEAR by using a water-glassing method. This method keeps air from entering into the egg. And the interesting thing about it is, when I "float" test an egg that is as old as 1 year that has been preserved this way, it always sinks right to the bottom of the glass. If you haven't see our video on how to preserve your excess eggs this way, check it out here.
In this way, we can have eggs all year round even during the winter months when the hens slow down on their laying. And we know they are nearly as good as fresh because our float and taste test tells us!