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Eggs are a wonderful source of nutrition, and a bargain

I thoroughly enjoy eating eggs and I like them just about every way that you can prepare them.

I am sure I enjoy eggs for at least two reasons. Even though I lived in a subdivision part of my childhood, we always had eggs from my grandparents’ farm. We all preferred the eggs from the farm where the chickens were what we all now call “free range.” The flavor and color was the best. The second reason I like eggs is because of the variety of ways that my parents prepared them—poached, with corn beef hash, fried in a sandwich, scrambled in an omelet or even pickled, they were delicious.

When it comes to cooking eggs, I like the weekends. Since I like eggs from free range hens very rarely do I eat eggs in a restaurant, they just don’t have the same flavor.

I am so pleased that science has gotten it right and we now know how good eggs are for all of us. So I ask you, “When is the last time you enjoyed an egg?” Yes, egg prices have increased, but they are still a bargain and packed with nutrition.

One whole egg is 50 grams and there are 75 calories. Eggs are a source of protein, cholesterol, sodium, protein and many vitamins and minerals. An egg white is largely water and protein, but contains most of the egg’s riboflavin and magnesium. The egg yolk contains all the fat and cholesterol, but also 44 percent of the egg’s protein and the majority of the egg’s vitamins and minerals. Unless your doctor has advised you to do so, think twice about throwing out the nutritious yolk.

A question I am often asked is, “What do egg carton dates mean?” The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) requires that any egg carton date be no more than 30 days after the eggs were packed. However, as long as the 30-day limit is observed, states may set other rules, and in some cases, even individual retail stores may set their own standards. To learn exactly how many days a “sell-by” or “expiration” date allows after packing, it’s best to ask your retailer.

You may though be able to tell how old your eggs are by checking a three-number code on the small side of the carton. It’s a Julian date, with 001 representing January 1 and 365 standing for December 31. This is the day the eggs were packed. Eggs will keep in your refrigerator at least four to five weeks after this date. If you can’t find a Julian date, using eggs within about three or so weeks of purchase allows for the possibility that your eggs may have been temporarily stored by the retailer before you bought them.

Another question I am often asked is, “How can I tell if my eggs are fresh and safe to use?” The best way to judge freshness is to use the Julian date. But the major difference in older eggs relate merely to appearance. As an egg ages, it takes in air and loses moisture and carbon dioxide. This causes the white to thin out and spread, the yolk to flatten and the yolk membrane, making it more likely the yolk may break. Older eggs may spread more in the pan when fried and more wisps or “angel hairs” in the water may be visible when they are poached. It’s actually beneficial, though, to use slightly older eggs – refrigerated for a week to 10 days – for hard cooking. As the egg takes in air, the air cell between the shell and the shell membrane grows, making it easier to peel.

Contrary to popular belief, egg safety is not strongly related to age. With modern candling and quality control methods, “rotten” eggs are a thing of the past. In today’s frost-free refrigerators, eggs are more likely to dry up than to “spoil”. As for salmonella, unless your eggs become cross-contaminated by other foods in your refrigerator, refrigeration will not affect whether or not any bacteria are present. If they are, they will not grow under refrigeration, but may at room temperature. That’s one reason eggs should always be refrigerated. Another is that refrigeration slows the aging process. In one day at room temperature, an egg can age as much as it would in a week in the refrigerator. So enjoy some eggs for breakfast, lunch or dinner—they are good for you.

Mary Ann Lienhart Cross is county extension director and an extension educator in health and human sciences at Purdue Extension Elkhart County. Reach her at 574-533-0554 or

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