My latest endeavor of regulation (after registering Sassafras Farm, incorporating Chickens in the Road, and my in-process pursuit of a health department-approved kitchen) is to get my Small Egg Producer permit. My cousin has this idea that he’s going to get me to do the farmers market with him, though I’m not so sure about that. But in any case, in order to serve my own eggs in my health department-approved kitchen, I have to be an approved source of eggs.
Becoming an approved source of eggs starts with being legally qualified to market eggs. In order to sell eggs, at least in West Virginia, you have to have a permit. If you’re a small producer, the permit is free. A small producer is anyone selling 150 dozen eggs or less PER WEEK. (150 DOZEN?! PER WEEK! That sounds like a major producer to me! Or at least a middling-size one!) The form is really simple, one page, and asks easy questions like your name and address, whether you’re packing and distributing eggs from your own flock only, and what kind of chickens you have. (Okay, that last question isn’t that easy. I have a variety. It asks for the primary breed. I said Ameraucana and Rhode Island Red, limiting myself to two though I have several breeds. Brown eggs and blue eggs would be a better description.)
Then it wants to know your annual volume in cases. There are 30 dozen eggs per case. This is starting to sound like one of those math word problems. If you have 15 hens and four of them hide their eggs, six of them lay in the tack room, three of them aren’t laying at all, and one crosses the road, how many cases of eggs can you get in a month?
I hate math.
I have about two dozen chickens. They don’t lay all the time and I have an unruly number of roosters. Plus I use my own eggs and wouldn’t sell them all–or use them all in the studio. I tried to do some calculations for a few minutes then I decided to heck with it and wrote down three cases.
They need to come up with an “extra small egg producer” form that asks questions like, How many eggs can you FIND per day?
The permit year is from July 1 through June 30, so I’ll have to reapply before you know it. I’ll call this a practice run.
Once you have a permit, you can sell eggs. (Legally.) The eggs have to be labeled with the name and address of the person producing and selling the eggs, the date the eggs were packed, and the words UNGRADED EGGS. Do not call them FRESH EGGS. ::smack:: That is not allowed. Small producers, however, are allowed to use recycled (aka used) egg cartons as long as they slap their own label over it.
Further, then to use my own legally marketable eggs in my health department-approved kitchen, I must put up a sign in the studio stating that food is being prepared and served using UNGRADED EGGS. (This is also known as FRESH EGGS, but DON’T SAY THAT OR LIGHTNING WILL STRIKE YOU DEAD.)
The word “fresh” is highly regulated and reserved for store-bought eggs that are two months old.
I also have to put up my business registration, my small egg producer permit, and my health department permit on the studio wall. The studio walls, they will be a busy place. (More fun is the poster of all the studio backers names, which is already quite beautiful, and when it’s close to finalized, I’ll show you.)
After all this, I hope the chickens are prepared to work.
But I kinda doubt it.
P.S. If you live in West Virginia, you can access the regulations and forms for small egg producers here. (There’s a lot of other info available at that link for sales of other common farmers market items as well. Scroll down to the Egg section and it has links that will give you the info and forms you need whether selling at a farmers market or otherwise.) If you live in another state, do some Googling or contact your local county extension agent.