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Posts from the ‘Local Economies’ Category

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

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

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.

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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

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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.


Reduced Daylight Affects Egg Production

For those of us in northern climates, the cold weather is an indicator of the slowing of egg production, a time for the hens to rest a little more and produce a little less.

Interestingly, temperature seems to have less to do with slowing production than hours of daylight.  It seems that the bird’s reproductive systems are highly affected by the amount of sunlight received per day – “When day length falls below 12 hours per day, egg production decreases and may cease completely. (eHow)

Generally, there are many factors affecting the egg laying rate of a bird; the age of the bird, it’s feed and housing conditions, and whether or not it gets free range to run outdoors; remember a happy hen is a productive hen.

Probably the greatest determinant of a bird’s year round productivity is its breed. The breed of the bird will help to identify strong layers vs. say, show birds or dual-purpose birds. Some breeds are known as ‘cold hardy’, these are birds that have been breed for optimal performance in northern climates.

In addition to relying on hereditary traits for optimal productivity, many people supplement the amount of light their birds get with artificial lights in order to stimulate production.

According to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, “… When darkness falls artificial lighting can be introduced for two to three hours, which may increase egg production by 20 to 30 percent.”

To create lighting schedule that’s right for you, “… a good rule of thumb is that the total length of light per day, both artificial and natural, should be no shorter than the longest natural day length the hens will experience…” ( In other words, calculate the average day length during your summer hours and replicate for your birds in the winter.

For your convenience, we whipped up the little widget below that calculates your latitude (based on your IP address), and then recommends how many hours of supplemental light you should apply based on the day length at your latitude:

Eggzy’s Supplemental Daylight Calculator

And if that seems like too much work for you, feel free to take the poetic advice of Terry Golson and just let your hens rest up over the winter in preparation for another busy season come Spring. According to Terry’s HenBlog Before there were battery-cage “farms,” eggs were a seasonal food. By New Years an egg was precious.”


 * Originally published on December 14, 2011