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In a world of online commerce a face-to-face transaction can be refreshing, especially for something as down-to-earth as egg sales. As of the date of publication, Texas regulators let you do just that, as long as you’re selling to the end customer -- which fits the Texas Department of Agriculture's definition of a private seller. Regardless of how special you think your chickens are, however, you can’t make any claims that their eggs are anything other than ordinary, generic eggs. Sell them at the proper temperature, add some food handling tips and your contact information, and you should keep the egg police from cracking down your door.
Just an Ordinary Egg
Private sellers who do not grade their eggs must sell their eggs to the person who will presumably eat them. If you want to claim your eggs are of a certain grade, such as Grade A or B, or even claim they are "fresh," you must get a license -- which means you must legally grade your eggs. The grading process involves sizing the eggs as small, medium or large and then measuring soundness and safety. You can grade your own eggs, and can even purchase an egg-grading machine. Note that a grade or freshness claim is completely different from an organic claim. To be an organic egg producer you have to adhere to the USDA’s organic certification program.
Safety for Your Customers, Protections for You
Your eggs must be kept at a safe temperature, which the state defines as 45 degrees Fahrenheit or less. On your egg container, prominently -- and legibly -- write your name and address. You also have to include this wording: “SAFE HANDLING INSTRUCTIONS: To prevent illness from bacteria: keep eggs refrigerated, cook eggs until yolks are firm, and cook foods containing eggs thoroughly.” You can write this on the inside or outside of the container, but if you write it inside, you have to repeat the “Keep Refrigerated” instruction on the outside. Note that this doesn’t just apply to egg cartons. If your customer purchases a few eggs in a brown paper bag, Texas counts that bag as a container. Also, you cannot reuse anyone else’s cartons -- only your original cartons that your customers return to you for a refill.
Expanding Your Customer Base
Selling at a farmers market or other public venue is a good way to earn money from your prolific layers. Follow all of the regulations as you would when selling to your neighbor -- with one additional: To sell at a one-time or temporary event in Texas, such as a farmers market, you must obtain a temporary permit, which is good for that venue only. The issuing authority is the Texas Department of State Health Services, which after receiving your application will verify that you are following all required regulations.
Ways to Expand Your Egg Sales
If you have more eggs than you can currently sell to neighbors, friends or at farmer's markets, additional options are available to you as a private producer. One is setting up a consumer supported agriculture farm, through which you provide regular egg deliveries to fee-paying subscribers. If, however, you decide you are ready to become more active in the farm-to-table movement or just want to expand your customer base, Texas has helpful resources for you. The University of Texas A&M Poultry Science Center can help you understand the process of egg grading, and the Texas Department of Agriculture is where you apply for a license.
- Howard Pieper, Coordinator for Fuel Quality and Egg Quality, Consumer Product Protection Division, Texas Department of Agriculture
- Texas Department of Agriculture: Egg Quality Program
- Hobby Farms: Start a Successful Egg Business That Makes You Money
- The Austin Chronicle: Crackdown
- USDA: Organic Production/Organic Food: Information Access Tools
- Entrepreneur: How the Farm-to-Table Movement Is Helping Grow the Economy
- Minnesota Department of Agriculture: Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)
Based in Central Texas, Karen S. Johnson is a marketing professional with more than 30 years' experience and specializes in business and equestrian topics. Her articles have appeared in several trade and business publications such as the Houston Chronicle. Johnson also co-authored a series of communications publications for the U.S. Agency for International Development. She holds a Bachelor of Science in speech from UT-Austin.