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.
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)
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