Eggs as a Business
A Look at Marketing, Storage, and Labeling
Reading Time: 8 minutes
Whether you are a backyard chicken keeper looking to expand your flock into a business or a total newbie to chickens hoping to create a livestock business, there are a lot of factors to consider when selling eggs in the retail market. To be successful at selling eggs, not only do you have to learn about raising birds on a larger scale, but you must also gain skills in marketing and business. Much like selling homemade food, there are a lot of laws that govern the sale of livestock products. It’s important to keep in mind liability and ensure you follow appropriate laws.
Where Do you Plan on Selling Eggs?
The first consideration, which will determine many other factors, is where do you plan on selling eggs? There are three main options for selling eggs: direct marketing from the farm, selling at farmers markets, or wholesaling to a store.
Direct Marketing to Individuals
If you have a farm that is located along a well-traveled route, you may do well simply selling eggs from your home or farm store. You will, of course, need signage to let customers know what you are offering, when you are open or available, and how to contact you for more information. It’s helpful if you have regular hours that can be posted or at least a phone number people can call to schedule a time to pick up. If you have a number of regular customers, you might even set up a regular pick-up time, kind of like a CSA’s weekly pick-up windows.
You will need a place to refrigerate your eggs, where you can guarantee they are kept at no higher than 45 degrees. Many farmers keep unwashed eggs at room temperature, but if they are to be sold or distributed, the law requires that they be refrigerated.
People coming to your home or farm to buy eggs might not expect labeling detailing egg sizes, weights, grades, etc. but technically this is still required. Look up the law for your state to see what information you must provide. You can make a simple label on your computer with the necessary information. One nice thing about people coming to your farm to purchase directly is that your packaging doesn’t have to grab their attention like it does in a retail setting. Keep it simple and just provide what’s necessary.
Another option is selling eggs at a farmers market. This could work well for you if you live in a more remote area where you wouldn’t have the passing traffic to support direct marketing from the farm. This could also be a good option if you are working another job during the week and can’t be home to sell to customers stopping by. You can concentrate your sales on the weekends. Consider if you can commit to going every week, though, to make it worth the cost.
A downside to selling eggs at a farmers market can, in fact, be cost. The busier the market, the higher the cost of a booth tends to be. On the other hand, if you can get into a busy, high-end market, you can adjust your dozen eggs price up a little. If you sell your eggs for $4/dozen from home, maybe you could get $5/dozen at a busy market. Do your research into what eggs sell for in the target area. Are there other vendors selling eggs there? What are they selling them for? How much are eggs in the local grocery stores? It’s okay to be higher than the grocery store if you can talk up the benefits of your farm fresh eggs (freshness, how the animals are raised, health benefits of free ranging, etc.) but you certainly won’t want to be way higher than other farmers selling in the same market.
The same storage and packaging requirements will apply if you are selling eggs at a farmers market and it is likely there will be an official checking that you have labeled your products correctly according to the law. How will you keep your eggs no higher than 45 degrees? Do you have access to a refrigerator or can you monitor coolers to make sure they stay cool enough?
Our main outlet for selling eggs is through a large local grocery store. We were lucky enough to find a connection through a neighbor who worked there and put us in contact with the buyer. We exchanged emails to work out a price and to set up a delivery schedule. It will vary from store to store, of course, but our retailer simply asked us what we wanted to make per dozen and then they marked that price up 15%. We had to consider the competition’s prices. If we asked for our usual $5/dozen, our price would have been $5.75, higher than almost all the others. We settled on $5.49, which yields $4.77/dozen for us.The $.23 per dozen lost saves us a tremendous amount of time since we deliver once each week and don’t have to make all those individual sales ourselves. For us, this was really the only way to do this business.
The store provided us with a UPC so they could scan our product at their checkouts, which I added to our label. In the store setting, you need to put some real time and effort into your packaging. Your carton not only needs to include the legally required information, but it must also be sturdy, attention-grabbing, and show how your product is unique. For us, the really big sell is colorful eggs. Families with children adore the green and blue eggs, so we put color photos of our eggs on the carton. We would love to have a clear carton to let the egg colors shine through, but this isn’t cost-effective for us yet. We also only live six miles from the store, so the truly local farm is a selling point. I made a sign that hangs by our eggs, which shows our birds free ranging in the clean grass and says in large print: We live six miles from here!
Getting Down to the Details
When getting into selling eggs as a business, there are many details to consider such as egg sizes, packaging, labeling, and storage requirements. Each state has specific laws about these factors as well. It is essential to do your research both to learn best practices and to protect yourself from liability. In Ohio, Chapter 925 of the Revised Code outlines the regulations we must follow. Please note that the laws in your state may be different so this is meant only as a general guide; do your research on your own state’s laws. I found the Ohio code by simply searching online for “Ohio law egg sales.”
Egg Sizes: To Separate or Not?
The make-up of your flock will determine how much variety you will get in egg sizes. Because we have purposely chosen several breeds of chicken for color variation and because we have several generations of chickens at different ages, we get a wide range of egg sizes. Large producers with a uniform flock, often choose to measure and separate their eggs by size. The USDA classifies eggs into six sizes based on their weight:
|Size||Minimum net weight/dozen|
|Extra Large||27 ounces|
In Ohio, you may choose to separate your egg sizes or not, but you must label them appropriately. If they are mixed, you simply put MIXED SIZE. The same is true of grading. If you don’t want to worry about determining which USDA grade your eggs fall into, you may simply put UNGRADED or UNCLASSIFIED on your label. Because our customers have told us that part of the appeal of our eggs is their visual variety, we have chosen to simply package mixed dozens and label them: Mixed Size, Unclassified.
Other Labeling Requirements
Besides egg sizes and classes, there are a few other elements that are required to be on your label (per Ohio law):
- Your name and location as the vendor of the eggs
- How many eggs are in the carton
- When the eggs were packaged. (For us this is the same as the date they were laid; we use a simple date stamp to stamp the labels before affixing them to the cartons.)
You’ll see our label also includes our website, a statement about the kind of food we feed our birds, our logo, a photo of the eggs to highlight their variety of colors, and the “Ohio Proud” logo to indicate we are a local producer. Ohio Proud is a marketing program developed by the Ohio Department of Agriculture to support Ohio farmers and to help Ohio consumers find local products. You pay a small annual fee to be an official vendor; it’s an inexpensive way to get your name out there and to be listed on a database of local farmers for potential customers to find you. Check if your state has a program like it!
Packaging: Let’s Talk About Cartons
Whether you sell your eggs directly from the farm, at farmers markets or to a grocery store, you’ll need something to put them in. When looking for egg cartons, consider how sturdy they are and how you plan to label them. We knew we wanted paper cartons (vs Styrofoam) so they’d be recyclable. I looked and looked for a carton with a solid top, which would provide more versatility in the kind of label you could stick to it, but in the end, the most cost-effective option, which was also sturdy enough to prevent a lot of egg breakage, had a divided top. We found a company here in Ohio called Falcon Packaging that makes cartons. Initially, we were purchasing them on Amazon, but when we discovered they were close, we contacted them directly and saved a lot by picking them up ourselves. Though there are loads of online options, look for a local supplier and you may find yourself saving money and supporting other local businesses!
Once we had our cartons, I finalized the label size. We use a water bottle label from OnlineLabels.com (OL5950), which covers most of the top of an egg carton and sticks pretty well to paper cartons with just a bit of Elmer’s Glue. I designed the label using Word. They also offer a free design tool called Maestro.
Storing Eggs for Sale or Distribution
I have been asked the question many times: do eggs need to be refrigerated and washed? The egg laws also outline requirements about storage. If you are selling or distributing eggs, the answer is yes they must be kept at a temperature no higher than 45 degrees, which means refrigeration. Generally, we have found customers expect to receive clean eggs. Farm fresh eggs are lovely but people in the grocery store don’t necessarily want the mud, chicken poop, and feathers of the farm in their fridges!
Hopefully, you will have no problem selling your eggs and can keep your stock fresh. We try to never have eggs that are more than a week old. If, however, you get behind and your stock is mixed up in the fridge, there are egg freshness tests you can employ to check how old your eggs are. We have made it a habit to collect, wash, record, package, label, and refrigerate our eggs each evening. That way we know the eggs are being labeled correctly and refrigerated promptly.
Though there are a lot of pieces to consider when starting an egg business, it is worth the effort involved. We love our chickens and they also now provide us with some extra income.