Eggs: a perfect protein and maybe the only thing easier to make than a PB&J. Eggs are one of those quintessential foods that can almost always be found in a college student’s refrigerator. And for good reason—they’re cheap, healthy, and you can add them to almost any meal to give it a simple and tasty upgrade.
Unfortunately, egg waste is a pretty large component of the world’s substantially growing food waste crisis. In 2015, the egg per capita consumption in the United States was 252.9. Of these eggs, an average of 64 per capita were thrown out—in other words, 23% of all the perfectly edible eggs produced and sold in the US went to waste. Not to mention all the resources needed to produce and transport the eggs; it takes about 52 gallons of water to produce a single egg. 64 eggs in the garbage equates to 3328 gallons of water completely down the drain.
But confusing “use-by” dates lead thousands of consumers to believe their food is expired when it’s really still perfectly fine. Labels like “use-by” and “sell-by” are not and have never been about public health, but rather are used by manufacturers to indicate when a food item is at its peak freshness. Oftentimes, while it may not be as fresh as the day you bought it, a food item is still absolutely safe to eat.
Eggs, if properly stored the entire time, can usually be safely eaten for up to five weeks past a carton’s “use-by” date. Proper storage means not cracked or damaged and refrigerated below 40ºF in a clean carton or storage container.
And no, that wives’ tale of doing an “egg test” (placing an egg in a glass of water to see if it floats or not) won’t really tell you if your eggs are still safe to eat. Neither will the "slosh test," shaking the egg by your ear to hear how loudly it sloshes around—the sloshing supposedly means the yolk inside is too old and watery to eat, but this method really isn't viable, either.Nor is cracking it open to examine the color of the yolk, which is indicative on what a chicken is eating, but not of an egg's freshness. According to Don Schaffner, PhD, the only way to really tell if an egg is still safe to eat is to crack it open and see if it smells badly. If it looks weird, you should most likely toss it, too.
And what about the shells? Well, the shell of an egg makes up about 11% of the egg’s total weight. This means a lot of extra garbage weight that’s headed to a landfill every time you crack one open. But the shell, full of good-for-you calcium, can be used tons of different ways to prevent it from adding to the wealth of problems we already have from landfills. Check out some fun different ways you can epicycle your leftover eggshells here.
Next time you’re cleaning out the fridge, reconsider those eggs dated from a week ago. Your avocado toast, and the food waste movement, will thank you.