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Celebrate Bird Health Awareness Week with Eggzy

Did you know that egg production is a sign of backyard chicken health? It’s true; the healthier the flock, the better the egg production (and the tastier the eggs!).

This week, February 24-March 2, is Bird Health Awareness Week, and the USDA’s Animal Plant Health and Inspection Service (APHIS) is presenting its free “Growing Chicks Into Healthy Chickens: Getting Ready for Spring” webinar this Thursday, February 28th at 2:00 pm EST.

Whether you’re considering starting a flock for the first time, are an experienced keeper, or a backyard egg connoissuer, check out the webinar, or the USDA Bird Health Awareness Week blog post, for great tips on backyard flock heath and safety. Spring’s just around the corner and it’s time to get to know your food!

And, of course, check out Eggzy.net to find or list your fresh backyard eggs and track your flock’s production.

Food Safety Regulations for Small-Scale Egg Producers

Part of our mission at Eggzy is to promote small and backyard flocks as an important part of the local food movement. IMHO, you just can’t beat backyard eggs for freshness, taste and nutrition—especially when they’re raised organically with lots of pasture time in the yard.

Still, there’s a lot of confusion out there about regulations for backyard flock keepers wanting to sell (or give away) their eggs. Unfortunately, I think this confusion has kept a lot of folks from actively and openly participating in the local food movement, and in some cases, caused some to ‘go underground’, possibly ignoring best practices and selling or giving away their eggs in potentially unsafe ways in the process. Neither of these are good for local food, or for us as small-scale egg producers.

I’ve struggled with this issue myself, and, in order to get it sorted out, called Lydia Johnson, Assistant Director at the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture Food Safety Bureau. If you live in PA and plan on selling or giving away eggs, Lydia’s a fantastic resource. If you live outside PA, I’d highly recommend finding Lydia’s counterpart in your State—your local County Extension Office is a good place to start. Here’s what I found out:

The Good News First

First of all, there are both federal and state regulations regarding food safety inspections and eggs. But here’s the good news; if you’re in PA and keep fewer than 3000 hens and sell your eggs in state and within 100 miles of your hens’ location, you’re exempt from mandatory inspections by both the FDA and the PDA (Pennsylvania draws the line at 3200 hens, the FDA at 3000). Specifics in other states may vary.

Selling Eggs

Even without mandatory inspections, there are a couple of ‘Good Agricultural Practices’ (GAPs) you need to follow. First, only sell eggs that are in good condition (no dirty eggs or eggs with cracks or leaks). Second, only sell your eggs within five days of the date they were laid. If some eggs were laid on different days, use the date of the oldest egg. And third, sale eggs must be kept at 45 degrees until they’re sold.

Packaging & Labeling Requirements

Once you’ve got your eggs collected, refrigerated and ready to go, there are some basic packaging guidelines you should follow:

  • don’t reuse other sources’ cartons – use your own
  • do use fresh egg cartons (you can get these at your local feed store or an online supplier like eggcartons.com)

You should also include the following items on your egg cartons – some may already be there depending on the cartons you buy.

  • name & address of location of hens
  • (earliest) date of lay
  • statement of product (eggs)
  • net contents (12 eggs, 6 eggs, etc)
  • “keep refrigerated”
  • Safe handling statement – more info here
  • unclassified or classified (jumbo, x-large, large, medium, small, peewee)

Conclusion

Backyard flocks are a lot of fun and come with lots of benefits—eggs, fertilizer and bug control to name just a few. And we believe they play an important role in the local food movement and sustainable food systems. By following just a few best practices we can protect ourselves, our friends and customers while helping to build a safer, more inclusive and resilient food system.

 

* This post was originally published on by mdt on February 2, 2011

Turkey Eggs

Ever wonder why you don’t see turkey eggs on the menu? Truth is, turkeys simply don’t lay that many eggs, and most people who breed turkeys collect the eggs and hatch them to produce more turkeys.

The average egg-laying chicken lays about 260 eggs per year, while the average turkey produces less than half of that, or about 100 eggs per year – give or take a dozen eggs or so. Also, chickens come into production at 19 to 20 weeks of age, but turkeys don’t start laying until around 32 weeks of age. And, because of their larger size, turkeys would require much more nesting room than chickens, which would make commercial coops less cost-efficient.

Image credit: http://penandfork.com

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, turkeys are far more maternal than chickens. Generations of domestication have made chicken hens rather indifferent about their offspring, they lay eggs and show little concern about their outcome. Turkeys, on the other hand go “broody” easily and want to sit on their eggs to protect and incubate them.

So while we may eat turkeys at Thanksgiving, we rarely eat turkey eggs due to their rarity and to the greater economic value of the bird over the egg.

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

Egg Money

One’s (butter and) egg money Fig. Money that a farm woman earns. Farm women would often sell butter and eggs for extra money that would be stashed away for an emergency. “Jane was saving her butter and egg money for a new TV. I’ve got my egg money. Let’s go shopping.” — From McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs

Image credit apronmemories.blogspot.com

Growing and/or producing some portion of your own food supply can have liberating effects on your wallet and your life. It is a small step towards self-reliance and peace of mind, and not only are you able to feed yourself and your family, you are also sowing a more local food economy.

For some, greater control over food sources means producing their own food. For others, it’s having direct, face-to-face access to local producers. Eggzy enables both; providing tools for producers, and direct access for consumers, while emphasizing community, transparency and cost sharing.

The advantages of a small home-based business like an egg stand can be empowering. What if you aren’t able to grow your own?  Find local egg stands near you and help support a flock owner by sharing the costs of production.