You may have noticed more farmer’s markets and restaurants that source fresh products from surrounding areas since many people have recently refocused on “eating local.” As part of this interest, many want to buy fresh, local eggs. The benefits of taking part in the buying or selling of these local fresh eggs include increased agriculture region awareness, socialization, and togetherness within your community.
If you have laying hens, you may be thinking about gathering and selling your eggs to meet your area’s demand for fresh eggs. This article discusses what you need to know before selling your eggs to provide the healthiest and safest product for your locale and to assist with your market entry.
Egg safety and hen health will always be your first priorities when producing eggs for public sale. At the farm level, the main things to concentrate on are biosecurity, rodent/pest control, poultry house cleaning and disinfection, and proper egg handling. The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) has many references regarding poultry and farm biosecurity, available at Secure Food Supply Plan Training Page.
Good biosecurity includes:
- always using new, clean egg cartons,
- preventing exposure of your birds to outside animals,
- using dedicated clothing and footwear around your chickens,
- cleaning and disinfecting vehicles and equipment entering your farm, and
- not sharing equipment from your hen coops with other farms.
Buy Your Chicks From an NPIP-Certified Hatchery
You can get an excellent start to your hen health program by choosing to purchase chicks from an NPIP-certified hatchery (National Poultry Improvement Plan). These hatcheries are certified to be free from several important poultry diseases including avian influenza. In order to save yourself some major heartaches always be sure that your chicks have been vaccinated for Marek’s Disease before you bring them home.
Selling Eggs in CA – The Egg Safety and Quality Management Program
Prior to your first market day, you need to become familiar with the laws and ordinances in your area. These are in place to protect the health of members of the public. Many of the regulations are centered on the prevention of food poisoning from the Salmonella bacterium, which may contaminate eggs and poultry products. If you are selling shell eggs within California, you must register with CDFA’s Meat, Poultry and Egg Safety Branch through the Egg Safety and Quality Management program (ESQM). Click HERE for information on registration and fees. At this webpage the registration forms can be found under “Forms and Reports” in the right hand column. The purpose of ESQM is to ensure that eggs have been properly handled, labeled, transported, refrigerated; and are wholesome and safe to eat.
ESQM requirements include standards for labeling, quality, refrigeration, and defects. For instance, your egg cartons must be labeled with specific information required by ESQM and California law. Additionally, processed eggs must be refrigerated within 36 hours of being laid. The eggs must be kept at or below 45 degrees Fahrenheit from the time of packing until sale to consumers. In California, you must always register as an ESQM licensed egg handler if selling eggs, but there are certain exemptions if you have 500 hens or fewer. For example, if you sell all of your eggs on your farm, you are exempt from egg mill fees but not from the annual licensing fee.
Permits for Farmer’s Markets
Be sure to check with the environmental health department of your county to see if you need a farmer’s market permit. Some counties register farmer’s markets as food facilities, so you will need an environmental health permit to sell at that location. Your local department may require licensing and perform inspections to meet the health and safety goals of the particular county/city where you plan to sell your eggs. You can only sell organic eggs if registered with CDFA California State Organic Program. Call the Organic Program office at 916-900-5030 or visit https://www.cdfa.ca.gov/is/organicprogram/ .
Once you are an established egg handler and have reviewed local regulations, you can choose the farmer’s market at which you would like to sell your eggs. For questions about California Certified Farmer’s Markets, contact the Direct Marketing Program at 916-900-5030. You can also contact the Agricultural Commissioner’s office for the county in which you will be selling.
Where to Learn More as a Small Producer
Exploring reputable websites is a great way to further your knowledge and make contacts with other egg handlers. The ESQM program holds Small Producer Workshops throughout the state. The UC Davis Cooperative Extension program is also a great source for information on good husbandry and biosecurity practices for your backyard poultry flock.
It can take a little effort to manage your flock and prepare to sell your eggs, but the benefits will be evident with the good health of your hens and the successful sale of your eggs. May you have lots of (c)luck and enjoyment in preparing and managing your egg business!
- Antimicrobial Use and Stewardship: https://www.cdfa.ca.gov/AHFSS/AUS/
- CDFA Organic Program: https://www.cdfa.ca.gov/is/organicprogram/contactus.html
- CDFA Direct Marketing: https://www.cdfa.ca.gov/is/i_&_c/cfm.html
- California Shell Egg Food Safety:http://www.cdfa.ca.gov/ahfss/mpes/pdfs/ShellEggFoodSafetyRegulationGuidance.pdf
- California Shell Egg Regulation Reference: https://www.cdfa.ca.gov/ahfss/mpes/pdfs/Quick_Reference_Guide.pdf
- Egg Safety Quality Management (ESQM): https://www.cdfa.ca.gov/AHFSS/mpes/esqm.html
- Egg Safety Quality Management (ESQM) Small Producer Outreach Program: https://www.cdfa.ca.gov/ahfss/mpes/spop.html
- Egg Handlers Registration Application: https://www.cdfa.ca.gov/ahfss/MPES/pdfs/EggHandlersRegistrationApplication.pdf
- Marek’s Disease Reference: https://extension.psu.edu/mareks-disease-in-chickens
- National Poultry Improvement Program: http://poultryimprovement.org
- National Poultry Improvement Plan Guide: https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/ourfocus/animalhealth/nvap/NVAP-Reference-
- Secure food supply: https://poultrybiosecurity.org/
- UC Davis Cooperative Extension Program: https://ucanr.edu/sites/poultry/
- USDA Backyard Bird Health Assistance:https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/ourfocus/animalhealth/animal-disease-information/avian/defend-the-flock-program/dtf-resources