Agriculture Ombudsman
University of California
Agriculture Ombudsman

Selling Fresh Shell Eggs

Direct Market Basics

The sale of raw shell eggs sold from your property, at Certified Farmer's Market, grocery stores, restaurants and institutions are covered by this fact sheet. California Department of Food & Agriculture (CDFA) administers this program.

  1. Eggs must be from hens under your ownership and care.
  2. Complete an Egg Handlers Registration - no exceptions! Everyone selling eggs from chickens must register. 
    NOTE: Registration is not required to sell eggs from other species (i.e. ducks, quail).
    - Registration fee: $75
    - Annual renewal fee: $50
    Business type:
    - Producers raise the layers and collect the eggs
    - Packers package the eggs for sale
    - Producer/Packers do both - most small farms are this type
  3. California Shell Egg Food Safety Regulation Guidance 
  4. If you will be selling at a Certified Farmers Market, you will also need to complete a Certified Producers Certificate Application.
  5. If you have over 3,000 laying hens you must comply with US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) Egg Safety Rule.

Eggs in carton

Resources

 

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Egg Grade Standards

Poultry
Egg Grading refers to the exterior and interior of the egg.  The eggs must be clean and free of major defects on the outside as well as the inside. ALL eggs should be candled to identify any internal defects.  Refer to the USDA Egg Grades & Standards for complete instructions.

Grade AA:  The shell must be clean and unbroken.  The air cell is limited to 1/8 inch depth at original and 3/16 inch at destination.  The white must be clear and the yolk practically free of apparent defects.

Grade A:  The shell must be clean and unbroken.  The air cell is limited to 3/16 inch depth at original and 1/4 inch at destination.  The white must be clear and the yolk practically free of apparent defects.

Grade B: The shell must be clean and unbroken and may have unlimited slight stains (but not dirt clinging to shell).  The air cell may not exceed 3/8 inch.  The white must be clear and the yolk practically free of apparent defects.  The white may be weak and watery and the yolk outline plainly visible the yolk may appear dark, enlarged and flattened.  It may show other serious defects which do not render the egg inedible.

More Information about Grading

The grade of a shell egg is determined by the size of the internal air-cell. As an egg ages, the liquid contents evaporate through its pores. The larger the air-cell is, the lower the grade of the egg. The outside appearance also factors into the grade of an egg. Eggs with moderate staining (but not adhering dirt) can be sold as grade "B." All other grades require a clean, unblemished shell appearance. Dirty eggs cannot be sold to consumers. The size of an egg is determined by its weight, in grams. A small egg must weight 40.16 grams or more, a jumbo egg must weigh 68.51 grams or more.

Label Requirements

The following are requirements for Standard 12-18 egg cartons:

Example Egg Carton

  • I.R.Q:
    Identity (Eggs)
    Responsibility (Farm name, address and zip code)
    Quantity (Number of eggs in the container)
  • Sell-by Date:
    Date shall not exceed 30 days from the date on which the eggs were packed (excluding the day of pack)
  • Julian Date of Pack: 
    The consecutive date of the year on which the eggs were packed.  Example: Jan 1 = 001, Jul 1 = 182, Dec 31 = 365.
  • Plant Identification Number (Egg Handlers Registration number)
  • Grade - AA, A, B (see below) 
  • Size - Jumbo, Extra Large, Large, Medium, Small, Peewee (see USDA Shell Egg Grades & Standards)
  • Prominently Labeled: Refrigerate After Purchase 

Additional Label Requirements

  • One size and grade shall appear upon a container. 
    *NEW* CA SEFS Compliant
    *NEW* CA SEFS Compliant
  • Size and grade shall be plainly marked in letters not less than 1/4 inch in height.
  • "CASEFS COMPLIANT" must be 1/4 inch in size.
    Reduced Stocking Density takes effect 1/1/2015 see page 2 of CDFA Shell Egg Food Safety Regulation Guidance
  • Descriptions or other amplification of grade or size are not permitted on containers: 
    Prohibited words related to grade include, but not limited to: Fancy, select, premium, superior
    Prohibited words related to size include, but not limited to: oversize, giant
  • Descriptive terms such as polyunsaturated, plus polyunsaturates, higher in iodine, flavored with iron, omega 3 or other wording indicating a quality or ingredient different than found in a normally produced egg may not appear in labeling unless approved by the Agricultural Commissioners office.
  • CDFA recommends NOT re-using egg cartons because of health risks. 

Poultry Management Claims

The terms cage free and pasture-raised are currently unregulated. USDA requires that in order to use the term free range, producers must demonstrate that the poultry have access to the outside. Labels that claim Certified Humane, Animal Welfare Approved and American Humane Certified all require certification from the respective organizations.  

Organic:

USDA Organic seal
USDA Organic seal
the term Organic can only be used if the business/farm is registered organic through CDFA. Registration is regulated by California Department of Food Agriculture through the county Agricultural Commissioner's office.

  • Gross sales up to $5,000 of organic produce/eggs, you can be registered only. This allows you to use the term 'organic' on your label, but you cannot use the USDA Organic seal.
  • Gross sales over $5,000 of organic produce/eggs, you must become third party Certified in addition to the CDFA Organic registration. See CDFA's Organic Program page, scroll to Organic Certifier's List. You must use a CDFA approved certifier.

Egg Size Standards

Size tells you the minimum required weight of the smallest egg in the dozen. It does not refer to the dimensions of an egg or how big it looks. While some eggs in the carton may look slightly larger or smaller than the rest, it is the weight that determines the size indicated on the carton:

Size or Weight Class Min Weight
per Egg
   Size or Weight Class

Min Weight
per Egg

Jumbo 2.42 ounces   Medium 1.67 ounces
Extra Large 2.17 ounces   Small 1.42 ounces
Large 1.92 ounces   Peewee no min

NOTE: If you are unsure of the size of your eggs, label them the smallest size.  For example, if you have at least medium sized eggs, label the carton as Medium.  It is acceptable to have larger sized eggs in the carton.

Temperature Requirements

Per Cal Code (California Retail Food Code):

Raw shell eggs should be held at or below 45°F.

However, raw shell eggs may be stored and displayed without refrigeration if ALL of the following conditions are met:

  1. The eggs were produced by poultry owned by the seller and collected on the seller's property.
  2. The eggs are not placed in direct sunlight during storage or display.
  3. Retail egg containers are prominently labeled "refrigerate after purchase" or the seller posts a conspicuous sign advising consumers that the eggs are to be refrigerated as soon as practical after purchase.
  4. Retail egg containers are conspicuously identified as to the date of the pack.
  5. The eggs have been cleaned and sanitized.
  6. The eggs are not checked, cracked, or broken.
  7. Any eggs that are stored and displayed at temperatures of 90°F or below and that are unsold after four days from the date of pack shall be stored and displayed at an ambient temperature of 45°F or below, diverted to pasteurization, or destroyed in a manner approved by the enforcement agency.
  8. Any eggs that are stored and displayed at temperatures above 90°F that are unsold after four days from the date of pack shall be diverted to pasteurization or destroyed in a manner approved by the enforcement agency.
 
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Collaboration

Specific information contained herein has been verified by the Sonoma County Agricultural Commissioner Office.  

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Page Last Updated: November 16, 2016

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