I wanted to share with yall the research we did on selling eggs in Texas. We are very by the books because it's hard to always assume positive intent when you are meeting people from Facebook or Craig's List for the first time. Therefore, the laws that are meant to protect you, also protect us from those who try to make a quick dollar by exploiting those same laws in court. In those cases, it helps to know the law well.
That said, we get many calls about the laws of selling eggs and there are some heated debates with fellow egg producers and some clients, because some of this may sound even a little outrageous. They haven't ever heard of the person down the road having to follow these rules, so how can they be true. These are the practices we follow based on our understanding of the law and literature I have found, which I will share resource links to. We are by no means law experts, so take this advice as such.
A few stipulations.
- We do not grade our eggs.
- We do not sell outside our farm (like at a farmer's market).
- We sell only to the end consumer, not other businesses.
Licensing and Permits
Note that I provided some stipulations above. These are key in how much work we had to do to begin selling eggs legally. By Texas Egg law, we are allowed to sell our eggs unlicensed if we do not plan to grade our eggs. There are some other stipulations in how we have to label our product as well.
Permits are different. In this case we are talking about the local Health Code enforcement. Some areas are free of this stipulation as they do not have enough population to provide an agency to enforce code. If you sell at a local Farmer's Market, be sure to get your temporary use permit.
Handling and Storage
I'm sure you have that relative that has a table full of eggs out at room temperature and heard the stories about how when you refrigerate eggs, they lose their coating, reducing their life, and etc. Turns out though, if you are selling eggs as a product in Texas, you are required by law to store your eggs at 45F or below. We bought a $125 refrigerator to handle this down in our stables. Also, you are required to sell clean, sound, eggs. So no dirt, poop, debris, and no cracked eggs. There are some other conditions eggs can be considered inedible. There are some guidelines on how to clean your eggs. The main tip is to make sure that your water is warmer than your egg to avoid chemicals and dirt from being soaked through the pores in the egg shell. We hand wash our eggs after they have been refrigerated with just cold water. This doesn't work for stained eggs, but if you keep your next boxes clean, you should have little of that problem. That said, what we don't sell, we eat. Problem solved there.
Cartons and Labeling
There's a big debate over reusing cartons. There are 2 parts of Texas law that dictate if you can or cannot reuse a carton.
First, if you want to reuse a carton, your carton must not fall under the Single-use articles clause. You can find out if your carton is single use by checking to see if it fails to meet the criteria in Subsection D: Cleanability. Namely, all paper products are out, and most plastic products are unless they are durable.
Second, you cannot reuse the carton of another producer. This means, if your carton has Costco labeling on it, you must first remove all identification and labeling from that container.
Labeling is detailed in Texas Egg law. Specifically, the cartons must be labeled "ungraded" followed by "produced by (producer's name)," the producer's address. Our label looks like this:
Additionally, you must add the constraints provided by the FDA and DSHS. This means adding Egg Safety Instructions. Note we redundantly say "Keep Refrigerated" on our label as well as it is said in the Egg Safety Instructions, which we put on the backside of our carton, but if we were to put the safety instructions on the inside of the lid of our carton, this would be mandatory. We found other sellers that use the "at your own risk" clause, but felt it needed a more personal touch as we are our own clients so to speak. Not required by law but it's a nice honest touch "We eat what we sell, but consume at your own risk."
Lastly, when labeling your eggs, you have to avoid certain keywords as an ungraded egg producer. Only graded eggs of a Grade A or better can be described as fresh, yard, selected, hennery, new-laid, infertile, or cage, or with words that have similar meanings. Only certified organic producers can label their eggs as being “organic.” It doesn't matter how special you think your practice and chickens are, them's the rules.
This isn't legal advice so much as it is protection and awareness. There are horror stories of insurance companies not fulfilling claims because of egg or poultry operations. We actually recieved a cease and desist letter from our own insurance company for selling eggs, though our honey operation was fine. We found out that though legally we were in the right, the insurance company found it as exceptional risk and a breach of our terms of agreement. We had to suspend egg sales for a time while we changed insurance companies and acquired a farm and ranch policy. Check your own insurance and validate that you are also in the right here or risk not having coverage when you need it. Be prepared also for people's health insurance to make claims against your home insurance in response to people claiming sickness, even to people you have never sold to. Good record keeping on who you've sold to is key here.
We did a lot of work to make sure we were following the "book" as it were. Also the laws are changing. It's sometimes hard to keep up to date with them. If yall ever need any extra guidance, we are happy to share what we know. Comments below to help us make this article better are much appreciated.