Decoding (European) Eggs

This is a quick guide to decoding what those numbers on eggs (in Europe) mean, according to the current egg laws in regulation since 2004.

Decoding the Eggs

The First Number on the Eggs

First you have a number which can be 3, 2, 1 or 0. These represent the production method and mean:

3 – Caged: The hens live in a space of 750 cm² in furnished cages. This can be translated into the fact that they live in a space of about an A4 paper and have probably never been outdoors before.

2 – Indoors: The hens live in an indoor space of 1100cm², which is about the size of 2 A4 papers, and it’s floor must have sawdust or something better. These hens have probably never gone outdoors either.

1 – Free range: The hens have a living space indoors of 1100cm², but they are allowed to go outdoors everyday.

0 – Organic: These hens are the luckiest ones. They have an indoor space of 1667cm² and get to go outdoors. They eat food for poultry but also organic food and receive a very restricted amount of antibiotics.

The Country of Origin

After that there are two letters that represent the country of origin of the eggs. In my photographs here, we have ES printed on the eggs which means that these eggs are from Spain.

Other Numbers

Then there are a series of numbers that represent which egg production facility they came from.

There can be an optional line with more information, such as the expiry date.

Egg coding in the EU

It’s obvious that we want our hens to be happy and healthy, so we should choose the “0 eggs”. Naturally the “0 eggs” are the most expensive too…

In the Papaya Pieces household we have been buying eggs from different production methods to test if the happiness and health of the hens influence the quality of the eggs. We tested it in an observable household way that is, without sending them off to a laboratory for chemical testing.

the 1 egg

the 0 egg

The results of our findings are that the runners up in terms of quality are the “1 eggs” and the winners are the “0 eggs”. These are the ones with a tougher shell, their yolk is more beautifully yellow coloured, the eggs are more wholesome in texture and flavour. I do think there is a notable difference.

I hope this helps next time you buy eggs. Thank you for reading!

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  1. brinskitchen 2014-04-11 at 20:52

    That was great info, thanks. never thought about it, though I see them almost everyday.

    1. Sofia // Papaya Pieces 2014-04-11 at 23:09

      I have to admit I didn’t think about them much either until recently, and yes we see them everyday.

  2. Guillermina Bósquez Stover 2014-04-11 at 21:31

    Fortunately, here in Del Rio, Texas (the real and actual name of our town is San Felipe Del Río but the GRINGOS couldn’t pronounce it!) we have several families who have chickens and sell what we call “fresh” eggs–which translates to free-range. And they are more expensive, of course, and taste the best, of course! Plus we have several women who are truly gourmet and make their own cheeses and yogurts, grow their own herbs and some produce, among other things…never underestimate a place!

    1. Sofia // Papaya Pieces 2014-04-11 at 23:08

      Lets classify them as -1 eggs! They must certainly be the best, I would love to try them, oh my and their own cheese and yogurt too? yum 🙂

  3. Sunny 2014-04-11 at 21:42

    Hey Sofia, thanks for the super informative post! I had to pull the eggs out of the fridge to inspect them. I think I’ve been buying free-range ones! Next time I’ll try the 0 ones to see if they’re really better 🙂

    1. Sofia // Papaya Pieces 2014-04-11 at 22:41

      I think the 0 and 1 are pretty close. But there is very huge difference if you compare them to the 3 ones!

  4. Darya 2014-04-12 at 09:59

    Oh yes, I only get 1FR or 0FR. I think in this case it is quite worthwhile spending the extra few cents. When at the market, I usually get 1FR, as they are usually local and therefore fresher even than the 0FR we can get at the organic shop (those eggs might come from anywhere in the country). I keep them for over 3 three weeks at room temperature, and they never go bad. Great post!

    1. Sofia // Papaya Pieces 2014-04-13 at 22:30

      I’ve never kept eggs at room temperature, but I always figured that it would be ok because that is how they are exposed in the shops / markets. Thanks to you now I know its ok. Cheers!

  5. Adrian Lupsa 2014-04-12 at 11:09

    Interesting. I have never paid attention to that numbers before. Now I’ll start reading and interpreting eggs. 😀 Thanks for sharing, Sofia!

  6. Mabel Kwong 2014-04-12 at 11:57

    Like commentor Adrian above, I’ve never bothered to figure out what those numbers on eggs stood for. Now I think I’ll need to take a closer look at them, I’m sure they are different on Australian eggs. I just hope I don’t drop the eggs when I’m handling and turning them around, looking at the smudged numbers… 🙂

    1. Sofia // Papaya Pieces 2014-04-13 at 22:32

      I’m sure you’re not so clumsy 😉 yeah, perhaps the coding is different there!

  7. Helen @ Scrummy Lane 2014-04-12 at 15:38

    Very interesting and useful, Sofia! I wish there was some way of knowing this info the chickens available in supermarkets. I bought one the other day and it was such good value that it made me feel suspicious about where it was from and how it was reared. 🙁

    1. Sofia // Papaya Pieces 2014-04-13 at 22:38

      Hmm yes thats I tougher one to know… we’ll have to find out if there is some kind of marking…

  8. Ngan R. 2014-04-12 at 19:32

    This is very interesting and makes me want to research the production of eggs in the USA, too. We only buy free-range organic eggs from the local farm, so I think that is equivalent to a 0. Still, though, it makes my heart skip just seeing how little space they have to roam.

  9. Dalo 2013 2014-04-13 at 02:14

    wow, never really knew what these numbers meant (we have them on the eggs I buy in HK…but I do not remember seeing them on the eggs in the USA).

      1. Dalo 2013 2014-04-14 at 03:13

        Sometimes they are in Chinese (I think it is the imported ones from Japan), and then the rest are in English. And it is usually just the “best use by” date.

  10. lovinghomemade 2014-04-13 at 18:38

    Just went to check that my eggs say what they should! They did: they are 1UK, I would love to get the 0s but they are just so expensive…

    1. Sofia // Papaya Pieces 2014-04-13 at 22:42

      Well I think the 1 eggs are pretty good, and the 1 hens do get to go outside. Now we are buying both the 1 and 0s.

  11. Amanda 2014-04-14 at 19:09

    Wow this is so interesting. I’m glad you did this post. Very interesting. I don’t think the states does it like this. There’s a lot of guess work involved. Even the organically labeled ones don’t really tell you exactly what that means. I like your experiment. Darya’s comment was interesting too. I didn’t realize you could keep eggs for weeks at room temp. Kinda cool.

  12. Tala Ghalayini 2014-04-29 at 10:47

    wow, this is quite interesting and so useful! thank you 🙂


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