Selling Eggs in Ohio: Marketing and Regulations

Direct Food and Agricultural Marketing Series
ANR-59
Date: 
08/03/2017
Peggy Kirk Hall, Assistant Professor and Field Specialist, Agricultural and Resource Law
Eric Barrett, Assistant Professor and Extension Educator, Agriculture and Natural Resources, Mahoning County
Emily G. Adams, Extension Educator, Agriculture and Natural Resources, Coshocton County
Heather Neikirk, Extension Educator, Agriculture and Natural Resources, Stark County

Eggs are in high demand from farms and at farmers markets. The Ohio Farmers Market coalition states that eggs are one of their most requested products at markets across Ohio. As the popularity of backyard poultry flocks continue to rise, interest is increasing to sell eggs from chickens, ducks, geese, turkey and other poultry. This fact sheet explores direct marketing of eggs, from choosing appropriate breeds to good handling practices for food safety, as well as the possible licensing, regulatory requirements, and insurance coverage considerations for selling eggs in Ohio.

Choosing Chicken Breeds for Production and Sales

Choosing to direct market eggs requires the producer to ask and obtain answers to several critical questions before investing in raising poultry for egg production. These questions include:

  • What is the best breed fit with my operation?
  • What are the common poultry breed characteristics?
  • What is the market for selling eggs in my community?
  • What size and color of eggs do customers in my area prefer?  

The table below will assist beginning direct marketers in answering these questions by looking at breed selection based on purpose, production ability, egg color, egg size, foraging/pasture capability, broodiness/temperament, and hardiness. The table uses these terms to describe chicken breed characteristics:

  • Layer: Classification term used to identify the primary purpose of the breed as egg-laying.
  • Dual: Classification term used to identify the primary purpose of the breed as both egg-laying and meat production.
  • Production Ability: The degree of routine egg production for the breed, qualified as above-average, average, or low-average. Long-term indicates breeds with longer longevity for egg laying.
  • Foraging: A behavioral characteristic of poultry that involves locating their own food source (e.g., insects, grains, plants).
  • Broodiness: A behavioral characteristic of a hen to want to sit on eggs in an attempt to hatch them; also includes mothering behaviors as well. A broody hen would be positive for these characteristics.
  • Cold or Heat Hardy: Ability to handle cold, winter conditions or hot, summer conditions.
Breed Purpose Production Ability Egg Color Egg Size Foraging/ Pasture Broodiness/ Hardiness
Temperament
Ameraucauna Layer Average to Above-Average, Long-term Blue-green Large Good Occasionally broody Very cold hardy
Calm
Australorp Layer Above-Average Brown Large Poor Broody Very cold hardy
Calm
Buckeye (Ohio Breed) Dual Average Brown Large Fair-Good Broody Very cold hardy
Calm
Delaware Dual Average Brown Large Good Broody Hardy in heat and cold
Calm
Holland or American Holland Dual Average White Medium-Large Fair Broody Cold hardy
Calm
Orpington Dual Average to Above-Average Brown Large Poor-Fair Occasionally broody Hardy
Calm Very cold hardy
Plymouth Rock Dual Average Brown Large Fair Not typically broody Very cold hardy
Calm
Rhode Island Red Dual Above Average Brown Large Fair Not typically broody Hardy in heat and cold
Calm
Sex-Link Layer Above Average Brown Large Poor Not typically broody Dependent upon sex-linked parentage**
Calm
Wyandotte Dual Average Brown Large Fair Not typically broody Very cold hardy
Calm
*For more detailed information on poultry breeds and their characteristics, please refer to the American Standard of Perfection by the American Poultry Association.
**Sex-linked refers to cross-bred chickens
 
 

Good Handling Practices for Egg Safety

Ensuring eggs are of top quality and safe for human consumption is the first priority in direct marketing eggs. Good Handling Practices (GHP) should be used in all aspects of the operation, from collecting to storage, and from transporting to holding for sale at another location. Preventing contamination is key for food safety, so GHP begin with keeping eggs as clean as possible and preventing cracks. Farmers should follow these guidelines when choosing to direct market their eggs.

  1. Provide a minimum of one nest per every four birds and maintain clean bedding.
  2. To help prevent cracks in eggs, begin to provide hens with a supplemental calcium source when switching to layer feed at approximately 20 weeks of age.
  3. Collect eggs every day. Do not allow eggs to stay in nests. Some experts encourage collecting two times per day.
  4. Collect eggs only from nests; discard those which have fallen to the floor or ground.
  5. Carefully washa eggs in potable water that is 15 to 20 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the egg temperature and at least 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Place eggs in suspended colander and rinse without submersing them in the wash solution. If cold water is used or if the eggs soak in water, the contents of the egg can contract and water from outside will be pulled through the permeable shell. If sanitizers are used, follow all label instructions.
  6. Refrigerateb eggs as quickly as possible after drying. Use a thermometer to ensure the temperature is below 45 degrees Fahrenheit (older refrigerators often used on small farms are especially in need of thermometers).
  7. If traveling to a farmers market or delivering eggs, keep eggs cool and dry. Do not use insulated coolers with ice that could melt and get eggs wet. Instead use insulated coolers with gel packs unless mechanical refrigeration is required. Learn more about this in the next section, “Legal Requirements for Methods of Sale.”

a Only eggs that are sold as graded eggs require washing. Eggs naturally contain a protective layer, or bloom, that prevent microbes from entering into the egg through pores in the eggshell. Though washing is not required it is a common expectation of consumers. Contaminants including E. coli and Salmonella can be on the outside of the eggshell and if improperly washed, contamination can occur.

b Producers selling only shell eggs of their own hens’ production on the premises where produced are exempt from refrigeration requirements. (ORC 925.10) If eggs have been washed, they should be refrigerated to ensure food safety.

Legal Requirements for Methods of Sale

Ohio law contains requirements for licensing and registration of egg marketing activities and labeling and refrigeration of marketed eggs.  The requirements vary, depending upon where and to whom you sell your eggs, the size of your flock, and whether you sell other goods with your eggs. You may need to register with the ODA, obtain a Retail Food Establishment license from your county health department, meet labeling regulations, or refrigerate your eggs. It is important to ensure that you understand and comply with the laws that apply to your methods of sale. The following definitions and chart summarizes the laws that apply to these different methods of sale:

Definitions for sales described on the following chart

  • Direct sales to the consumer on the premises where the eggs are produced, selling only eggs. 
  • Wholesale, which includes sales to restaurants, grocery stores, schools, hotels and similar customers.
  • Farm market sales. A farm market is a location where a producer offers fruits, vegetables and other items for sale. (ORC 3717.221)
  1. According to the ODA, a farm market is usually located on the farm where the fruits and vegetables are grown. There are two types of farm markets, based upon the types of products sold at the market in addition to eggs. A farm market selling only eggs and “farm market products,” which includes only these items: fresh unprocessed fruits or vegetables; products of cottage food production operation; maple syrup, sorghum or honey produced by the producer or beekeeper; commercially prepackaged food that is not potentially hazardous and equals less than 100 cubic feet of display space; cider and other juices manufactured on site; eggs of the market operator who maintains 500 or fewer birds; or non-amenable meats and dressed chickens from market operator who raises 1,000 or fewer chickens. ORC 3717(B)(16) and OAC 901:3-3-01(B)(5).
  2. A farm market selling eggs and other products that are not “farm market products.”
  • Farmers market sales. A farmers market is a location where producers congregate to offer fruits, vegetables and other items for sale.  ORC 3717.221
  • Farm product auction sales. A farm product auction is a location where agricultural products, including food products, are offered for sale at auction.  ORC 3717.221
Method of Egg Sale Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA)Registration Required? Retail Food Establishment License (RFE)Required from Local Health Department? Labeling Regulations Apply? Refrigeration Requirements Apply?
Direct to consumer on the premises, selling only eggs No, but may voluntarily register as a farm market with the ODA. Ohio Revised Code (ORC) 3717.221 Not if annually maintaining 500 or fewer birds. ORC 3717.22(B)(8) Not if selling eggs only from own hens on premises where produced. ORC 925.10 Not if selling eggs only from own hens on premises where produced. ORC 925.10
Wholesale (examples include restaurant, grocery store, institution, hotel, etc.) No, not if only engaged in wholesale marketing. No, not if only engaged in wholesale marketing. Yes. ORC 925.021 Yes. ORC 925.03.
Farm market, selling eggs and farm market products Yes, if selling only farm market products, must register as a farm market in order to be exempt from RFE license requirement. ORC 3717.22(B)(16) Not if annually maintaining 500 or fewer birds, registered with ODA, and selling only farm market products. ORC 3717.22(B)(16)(f) Yes. ORC 925.021 and if operating as an RFE, Ohio Administrative Code (OAC) 3717-1-03.1 (A)(8) and OAC 3717-1-03.5 Yes. ORC 925.03
Farm market, selling eggs and other products No, but may voluntarily register with ODA. ORC 3717.221 Yes. ORC 3717.221(16); OAC 901:3-6-01(A); OAC 901-3-6-08 Yes. ORC 925.021 and if operating as an RFE, OAC 3717-1-03.1 (A)(8) and OAC 3717-1-03.5 Yes. ORC 925.03
Farmers markets No, but may voluntarily register with ODA. ORC 3717.221 Yes. ORC 3717.21 Yes. ORC 925.021, OAC 3717-1-03.1 (A)(8) and OAC 3717-1-03.5 Yes. ORC 925.03
Farm product auction No, but may voluntarily register with ODA. ORC 3717.221 Not if annually maintaining 500 or fewer birds and farm product auction is registered with ODA. ORC 3717.22(B)(8) Yes. ORC 925.021 and ORC 925.022 for bulk lot sales. Yes. ORC 925.03
 

Registration with the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA)

Ohio Revised Code Section 3717.221 allows a farm market, farmers market or farm product auction to register with ODA each year and be listed in the farm market directory on ODA’s Ohio Proud website, ohioproud.org.

The annual registration is voluntary for most egg marketing activities, but is mandatory to qualify for the farm market exemption from the Retail Food Establishment licensing requirement (explained in next section).

Registration with the ODA requires the farm market, farmers market or farm product auction to complete two steps:

  1. Registration form. Submit a registration form to the ODA’s Division of Food Safety. The forms are available to complete and submit online at agri.ohio.gov (under the “forms” or “food safety” pages), or contact the Division of Food Safety at 1-800-282-1955 or by e-mail at foodsafety@agri.ohio.gov.
  2. Inspection. Upon receiving a registration form, the ODA’s Division of Food Safety will schedule an inspection of the property at no cost to the operator. The inspection may include water testing for total coliforms, refrigerator temperature at or below 45 degrees Fahrenheit, accuracy of refrigerator thermometer, cleanliness of eggs and equipment, and labeling on packaging. Contact ODA for more information about inspections. Plan at least one month to complete the inspection process after submitting the registration form.

Retail Food Establishment (RFE) License

According to Ohio law, a retail food establishment is a premises or part of a premises where food is stored, processed, prepared, manufactured or otherwise held or handled for sale to the ultimate consumer of the food. Ohio law requires an RFE to obtain a license from the local health department in the county of the RFE’s business mailing address. Also available are the Mobile RFE license for sales from a movable vehicle or portable structure that routinely changes location, such as a farmers’ market, and the Temporary RFE license for operating at one event for no more than five consecutive days. Certain methods of egg sales require an RFE license while others are exempt from the law.

Sales that require an RFE, Mobile RFE or Temporary RFE license include:

  1. Sales at a farmers market, festival or similar venue off the premises where the eggs are raised.
  2. Sales on the premises where the eggs are raised if the seller annually maintains more than 500 birds.
  3. Sales at a farm produce auction if the farm produce auction is not registered with the ODA or the seller annually maintains more than 500 birds.
  4. Sales of a market operator’s eggs at a farm market if the market is not registered with the ODA, the seller maintains more than 500 birds or the farm market offers products in addition to the list of “permitted farm market products.”

Sales that do not require an RFE license because they are exempt under ORC 3717.22 include:

  1. Persons who annually maintain 500 or fewer birds and sell eggs either: a. Directly to the consumer on the location where the eggs are produced, or b. At a farm produce auction that is registered with the ODA.
  2. Farm markets that register with the ODA, sell their own eggs from their flock of 500 or fewer birds and offer only “permitted farm market products,” which includes any of these items in addition to the eggs: fresh unprocessed fruits or vegetables; products of a cottage food operation; maple syrup, sorghum or honey produced by the producer or beekeeper; commercially prepackaged food that is not potentially hazardous and equals less than 100 cubic feet of display space; cider and other juices manufactured on-site; non-amenable meats raised by the operator and dressed chickens raised by the market operator if the operator raises and slaughers1,000 or fewer chickens annually.

To obtain an RFE, Mobile RFE or Temporary RFE license, contact the health department in the county where the eggs are produced. Because Ohio law states that “a mobile retail food establishment license issued by one licensor shall be recognized by all other licensors in this state,” a marketer need obtain only one license if selling eggs in multiple locations and across county lines [ORC 3717.23(B)].

A mobile retail food establishment license will require mechanical refrigeration of eggs. The method of refrigerating eggs will be determined by the county where the mobile food license was issued. Some examples include refrigerators or refrigerated coolers that connect to either a battery on the vehicle or to a generator.

Packaging and Labeling Regulations

Eggs that require labeling must be properly labeled in the following manner:

  1. Name and address of the packer (street address is required if your business name is not in the telephone book).
  2. An accurate statement of the quantity.
  3. Label "ungraded" or "unclassified" and "mixed size" (i.e., ungraded mixed size)
  4. Pack date: The date eggs were packaged in the carton.
  5. “SAFE HANDLING INSTRUCTIONS” with details must be listed on the label. The statement is:

Producers selling only shell eggs of their own hens’ production on the premises where produced are exempt from labeling requirements (ORC 925.10).

Refrigeration Regulations

  1. At the farm site, the eggs must stay refrigerated by mechanical means and be at 45 degrees Fahrenheit or less with a working thermometer in the refrigerator.
  2. Farmer must keep eggs below 45 degrees Fahrenheit during transit and delivery. It is acceptable to use gel packs inside of coolers, with alternating layers between the cartons of eggs. Ice should not be used as eggs can get wet as the ice melts, potentially causing contamination.
  3. If selling to a grocery store, school, hospital, etc., the buyer is responsible for checking the temperature of eggs upon arrival. One suggestion is that the farmer asks the buyer to record the current egg temperature on bill of sale/receipt given at delivery point. The farmer should make the buyer aware that eggs be kept at less than 45 degrees Fahrenheit.

Producers selling only shell eggs of their own hens’ production on the premises where produced are exempt from refrigeration requirements. (ORC 925.10)

Insurance

Product liability insurance is an important risk management tool for those who produce and sell eggs. Marketers should carry this type of insurance in addition to general liability insurance, which does not include coverage for food products. Product liability insurance provides coverage and legal representation if someone claims your eggs caused illness, harm or loss. Given the prevalence of foodborne illness claims today, obtaining product liability insurance is a wise risk management decision. However, most farmers markets, restaurants, groceries and institutions require vendors with whom they do business to carry product liability insurance, and many also dictate a specific minimum amount of insurance coverage. Marketers should contact buyers to determine their insurance requirements. The cost of product liability insurance varies, depending upon the amount of your food sales, but a range of $250 to $500 per year is typical. Check with farmers market and other associations for insurance providers and possibilities for group rates and special policies.

Conclusions

Direct marketing of eggs is an opportunity to meet consumer demand for local, fresh products. This fact sheet is an overview of the many considerations for direct marketing eggs for varying operation sizes and sales methods. The rules and regulations that are addressed here apply to different sizes of operations that are direct marketing by several different methods. For specific regulatory questions about selling eggs, marketers should contact the Food Safety Division of the Ohio Department of Agriculture at 1-800-282-1955 or the local health department.

Resources and Citations