Selling Backyard Eggs
The demand for naturally grown, wholesome foods is rising and even city-folk are choosing to grow and raise some of what they eat, right in their own backyards. Urban hens are becoming quite popular, and some chicken-keepers are choosing to offset the cost of raising the birds by selling excess eggs to an eager public. In some parts of the country, a dozen farm fresh eggs can sell for upwards of $8 per dozen, and they sell out early at farmers markets. The demand is high, the supply is low, and many states have very relaxed rules concerning egg sales. So how does a backyard farmer get started selling them?
1. Find out what the rules are in your state, county or city. In the state of Arizona, where I live, backyard farmers are allowed to sell 750 dozen eggs per year without a license. The only requirement is to register as a "Nest Run" egg producer, which requires a one-page application and no fee. As nest run producers in AZ, we are not allowed to advertise our eggs as "fresh" or "local." Find out what the rules are in your state and follow them. In AZ, visit http://www.azda.gov/Docs/Nest%20run%20egg%20-%20info%20sheet%20.pdf to register.
2. Prepare a food safety management plan. When selling eggs, it is important to ensure that the eggs are safe for consumption. And if a customer claims that they got sick after eating an egg that you sold to them, it is critical to be able to show the authorities your food safety plan and records in order to prove that you were not negligent. In many states, there are no specific rules that you must follow, so the burden falls upon the farmer to come up with a plan and to stick to it.
A sample plan is located at http://www.depi.vic.gov.au/agriculture-and-food/li... . Scroll to the bottom of the page to open the link.
Another helpful link is located at the University of Minnesota extension website: http://www.extension.umn.edu/food/food-safety/preserving/eggs-dairy/buying-farm-fresh-eggs/
3. Document your management and egg collection practices. Once you come up with your plan, it is important to document your daily activities to prove that you are carrying out the plan. Create an Excel or other spreadsheet and keep it handy. Include the date, time and management activities, such as when and how many eggs are collected, how the eggs are handled, when egg collection and storage containers are cleaned, nesting box cleanings, and so forth. This is helpful to prove that you are following your safety plan, and it is also a good resource to show fluctuations in egg production activity.
For example, if you are keeping track of how many eggs you collect daily, you many notice that a change in the type of feed or bedding that you use is followed by a drop or an increase in egg production. This kind of information can help you to maximize production while keeping costs as low as possible.
At our farm, we keep a spreadsheet on a clipboard with a pen. It hangs on a nail with our egg collection basket so that we are reminded to fill it out each time that we collect eggs. You can find a copy of our spreadsheet posted to our blog on 6/10/2014 at http://www.themicrofarmproject.com/blog .
4. Package your eggs in an appealing manner with your own labels. In AZ, if egg cartons are reused, any labels or logos present on the packages must be obliterated. The date and your name and contact information should be posted on the package, as well as safe handling instructions, such as "To prevent illness from bacteria: keep eggs refrigerated, cook eggs until yolks are firm, and cook foods containing eggs thoroughly." Take your eggs to social functions and begin spreading the word that you are selling them. You may find that, over time, you will have more customers than eggs and you may need to begin to take orders.
Keep change handy so that you are able to make an instant sale to your happy customer. At our farm, we keep a bank bag with change. Money from egg sales goes into the bag and sales are recorded in our accounting software. Feed and supply purchases are made out of this bag as well, and recorded. In this way, the money from egg sales is kept separate from our other farm income and expenses, which aids us in keeping track of whether or not egg income is enough to cover the expense of keeping the hens.
5. Educate your customers. Farm eggs come in varying sizes and colors, and they can contain small spots or deformities that to which shoppers are not accustomed. Let your customers know why some eggs are smaller than others, and why their shells and yolks can have different appearances. Extoll the virtues of farm fresh eggs and don't be too shy to brag about why your hens and your eggs are better than the store-bought variety. And, of course, offer to replace any egg that they discover is cracked, spoiled or otherwise inedible.