A common question asked by many chicken keepers in Britain is ‘Can I sell my chickens’ eggs?’ In short, the good news is yes, but there are a few things you need to know and have to do before you begin selling eggs in the UK.
The first thing you need to know is that there are different regulations which apply depending upon how many poultry birds you have in total. If you have 50 or over, then things become more complicated and you have to register with Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA). I won’t go into too much detail about this group because for most of the readers of this post it won’t apply.
If you have less than 50 birds, then legally, you can give away or sell your eggs without the need for a licence or registration, because technically you are not a commercial egg producer. However, as you are not a commercial producer and don’t have to follow the strict guidelines imposed upon them, there are specific requirements and limitations on what you must do and cannot do.
Where you are allowed to sell eggs in the UK
Technically, as a non-commercial producer, you are considered a ‘Farm Gate Seller’. Although you probably don’t live on a farm, what this means is that you are allowed to sell your eggs from your own premises or door to door in your local area.
You can also sell your eggs direct to customers at a local public market – however, for public health reasons (i.e. to be able to trace any outbreak of illness, etc.) you must put your name and address on the boxes, provide advice on keeping the eggs chilled after purchase and provide a best before date (maximum 28 days from laying.) Unlike commercial producers, you do not need to mark your eggs; however, you cannot sell them as graded eggs (e.g. Class ‘A’) either.
Another restriction that you have to be aware of is that you can only sell direct to final consumers, not to shops or other establishments like cafes, restaurants or hotels. These establishments must buy their eggs from producers registered with Animal Health EMI and those eggs must be Class A – which yours, as ungraded, can’t be.
The exception to this is if you own your own B&B with three rooms or less and it is on the same site where you keep your chickens. If this is the case, you can serve your own eggs provided you tell the guests that the eggs are from your own hens and that they aren’t Class ‘A’. You must also advise them that, because the eggs are not Class ‘A’, that they might want their eggs thoroughly cooked.
Only sell eggs which are safe for human consumption
You have a responsibility to ensure that the food you supply is safe for consumption. There are a number of things you need to do to ensure this:
1) Make sure, first of all, that your hens are healthy. If any chicken is sick, remove it from the rest of the flock until it is better and throw away any eggs it lays. If there are several sick hens in your flock, avoid eating any eggs until they are well. If in doubt always seek veterinary advice. Sometimes you cannot eat eggs from chickens which are on certain medications – this often includes a period after medication has finished. Always stick strictly to the manufacturer’s advice.
2) Make sure that you do not sell any cracked or damaged eggs. Check them carefully. Once the shell is compromised there is no protection against bacteria or fungal spores.
3) To make sure that the eggs are fresh, put eggs you intend to sell straight into a box and write the date of laying on the box. This way you won’t unwittingly sell eggs with an incorrect use by date which may go off before they are eaten. Putting them in a box also helps prevent against damage.
4) Don’t sell dirty eggs. Naturally, people don’t want eggs which have any trace of hen droppings on them – you don’t want to handle them whilst you are cooking and don’t want faeces in the fridge. You can wash the eggs, but doing so will remove their own natural, protective barrier called a ‘bloom’, which has anti-bacterial properties. The best way to clean them is to rub them gently with a dry kitchen sponge, try using the scouring side if necessary. (Remember not to use the sponge for any other purpose once you have done this.)
If you absolutely have to wash them because the poo won’t come off or if there is the yolk of a broken egg all over them, then you can wash them under running warm water. If you use cold water, the inside of the egg contracts which creates a vacuum that sucks bacteria and fungal spores through the semi-porous shell. Warm water, however, makes the inside expand and blocks the microbes entering. Do not soak eggs in the water and under no circumstances should you use any cleaning product on them, not even natural cleaners like vinegar.
We would suggest that any washed egg is kept for home consumption and used before any other egg in the fridge.
5) Keep all the eggs in a cool, dry place. You will notice in supermarkets that eggs are not refrigerated when you buy them but that you are advised to refrigerate them at home. Government guidelines suggest you do not refrigerate prior to sale because when you refrigerate, the rapid temperature change can cause condensation to occur on the shell and this can lead to bacterial or fungal damage. The chances of this damage increasing are even worse if the eggs are then taken out of the fridge to be transported to the buyer’s house before being rechilled.
Packaging your eggs for sale
It is always best to pack your eggs in egg boxes, this protects the eggs from damage whilst they are being carried. If you are just selling to family or friends, you can use recycled egg boxes from the supermarket provided that they are clean and that you have clearly written on the box when the 4 weeks after laying use by date is.
If you are selling to other people, then it is best to package them in unbranded boxes, simply for the reason that they might be confused by the two use by dates, the one that was originally printed on the box and the one you have written or stuck on. You should also provide them with your name and address so that any problems with the eggs can be traced back to source.
Buying egg boxes
If you are selling quite a few eggs, having plain boxes allows you the option to brand your own eggs by printing out sticky labels and putting them on the box lid. These boxes are cheap and can be found easily on Amazon.co.uk or on eBay (the links take you directly to the egg box search results). You can find prices from £5.25 for 100 1/2 dozen boxes and even cheaper if you buy more. You can also find some which are pre-printed with designs if you are going to brand your eggs. They are available in cardboard, polystyrene and clear plastic.
Supermarkets are notoriously bad at standardising sizes and shapes of things. You rarely find a curly carrot or wonky spud anywhere except a proper green grocer these days. This is also true of eggs. Eggs from supermarket are graded into sizes and when you open up the box, they are all the same size and colour. If you were to find one that was a bit on the small side you’d probably think there was something wrong with it. There isn’t.
Eggs come in lots of different sizes, depending upon the age of the hen and the breed. Different breeds also produce eggs of varying colour, from very white to deep brown and almost every shade in between. Younger hens, or pullets at they are called, start by laying smaller eggs. Inside, these eggs tend to have a bigger yolk and less albumen (egg white), than those of more mature hens, but they are highly nutritious and very tasty. Unfortunately, supermarkets won’t touch them simply because of their size, and it is estimated that in the UK alone, 1.5 million of these eggs are thrown away every day.
Depending upon your flock, especially if you have a mix of breeds and ages, you are going to find yourself with eggs of different sizes and colours. When selling, it does not matter at all if there is a mixture in the box. In fact, it’s nice to have the variety. The only issue could be that of people’s perceptions after years of buying supermarket eggs. However, once they have eaten eggs of different sizes, they’ll soon realise there is no difference. The big difference is that the eggs you sell are locally produced, delicious and freshly laid by well cared for hens who have been given a healthy, nutritious diet.
If you so wish, you could always try putting eggs of a similar size in each box, or alternatively, always making sure there is a range of different sizes. If you sell to the same people each week, try not to make the weekly difference too drastic.
Advertising eggs for sale
Once you have spare eggs which you wish to sell, you then need to find ways to market them. As you are only trying to sell small numbers of eggs, it’s not worth investing in a website or getting professionally produced marketing materials.
The first thing you need to do is let your friends and extended family know. If you can sell directly to your friends and family chances are you may be able to use up all of your spare eggs.
If this can’t be done, then you can put a sign outside your house – a laminated A4 sheet with Fresh Eggs For Sale and details of how to get them will suffice. You can also print these out and put them on notice boards in the local community or in shop windows. Many people leave the eggs outside on a small table with an honesty box for them to put the money in.
Technology is also a good way to get your eggs on the local market – many people buy and sell things on local Facebook groups. Join one of these and post your eggs for sale together with a picture of your eggs or showing your hens. This way people can reply to you if they want to buy.
Legal terms when advertising eggs
Chances are, that from a legal point of view, you can sell your eggs as fresh, if freshly laid, or non-cage eggs. To use the term Free Range your hens must have constant daytime access to an outside range with vegetation and each hen must also have at least 4 m2 of outdoor space. This would mean having a very big run, or letting your hens out to roam in a larger area.
To use the term Organic, firstly, the hens have to be free range and additionally they can only be fed on certified organic feed. You are not allowed to feed your hens animal byproducts or any food that has come from a genetically modified crop. One further requirement is that you cannot give your hens antibiotics except in a medical emergency. Surprisingly, even in free range farming, many farmers use low levels of antibiotics on a regular basis as a preventative measure against infections spreading in their flock.
If you think your eggs may qualify to be marketed as either free range or organic, I suggest you check on the DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs) website to make sure you have met all regulations, otherwise you could be in breach of advertising regulations.
Making money from selling eggs
You are not going to make a fortune selling eggs. If you sell thousands of eggs a day, the average price paid by a supermarket to a free range egg producer is about 4 pence an egg. If you pay 20p an egg to the supermarket, they make the 16p profit, not the egg producer.
As a smaller producer, in reality, you are looking to make money to reduce the cost of keeping your hens rather than actually make a profit. If you are lucky, you might be able to pay for your feed and the cost of upkeep. You can sell the eggs at supermarket prices, or thereabouts, but over pricing them may prevent you from selling them. Keep the prices realistic and use the money wisely.
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