Selling or giving away eggs in California
A lot of people don’t know you’re required to have a permit to sell, give away or donate eggs in the state of California.
The reason behind this is food safety for the consumer. It creates a standard of care in handling the product and accountability of the producer to provide a safe, clean and quality product.
The great news is that it’s really easy to get your permit. Simply go to California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA)’s website and print out the application. You’ll enter what you’re doing, i.e., producing eggs, what species be it chicken, duck, quail, how many birds you maintain so they can gauge the size scale of the operation and what quality eggs you expect to produce. Send this in with your application fee; $150 for new applications and $50 annual renewal if you renew within a certain timeframe each year. It’s good for the calendar year, Jan-Dec of that period so if you get your permit in June for instance, your permit will be due to renew that December 31st.
I would highly recommend purchasing the inspection handbook and the note cards on the ring. These are particularly useful when you’re learning and first getting started.
You’ll receive your permit in the mail with your handler ID number.
Eggs will nave to be washed prior to sale, refrigerated and labeled according to what the state has outlined. Consider your layers’ set-up for the cleanest possible eggs as eggs with debris above a certain size are not eligible to sell or give away.
After getting my label text set-up, what helped me was printing my own labels at home and anytime we processed eggs I could click on a quick link in my browser to know the Julian date (day of the year) to put on my printed labels. I used Microsoft Publisher, but this could be done with Word, Adobe InDesign, possibly even Canva. I used half-sheet labels which can be found at any office supply or online.
I would also recommend a separate fridge for the eggs, away from personal groceries. If/when you receive an inspection from CDFA this is one of the areas they’ll inspect is your egg storage, so keep it nice and neat.
We found our best egg carton deals on Eggcartons.com but Amazon occasionally has okay deals for small quantities. The more you buy the bigger price break. If you’re a small producer, consider partnering with a neighbor or friend to take advantage of bulk order discounts.
You may also need a sellers permit with the State Board of Equalization or a business license for the area you’re in. Make sure to do your own research on these items. If selling at a farmers market or event, you’re often required to purchase a business license for that area and to carry liability insurance which can sometimes be purchased through the event’s organizer.
I’ve heard a lot of people saying their hesitation to apply for a permit was the thought of having the government ‘snoop about their place’. To be frank, unless you have a complaint or obvious health code violation most small producers aren’t a concern to CDFA. They’re most likely interested in the farms who have poultry in the thousands and are an integral part of the food supply in California or shipped across state lines. Most of us are small and not worth the time unless there’s an issue that needs to be addressed. Selling eggs without a permit, for example, could be deemed an issue that attracts CDFA’s attention.
I’ve always had a great experience with the folks at CDFA. They’re always been polite, helpful and want to see our small farm succeed. If you make an effort in good faith, most agriculture offices in the state are accommodating and helpful to keep producers compliant and in-business offering safe, quality products to the public.
Food poisoning, botulism and salmonella aren’t cool. Having the permit and following the regulations on handling the eggs shows a dedication to the consumer to provide them a safe product for their families to eat.
A question I get sometimes is do you have to have a food handlers permit to sell eggs? The answer is no, but it’s definitely an enlightening education about food safety. (I will personally never buy food from someone operating illegally out of a non-licensed, non-commercial kitchen. They give me no reason to trust them with mine and my family’s health and safety and may not have the education to know what steps should be taken for food safety integrity.) I love supporting other small farms and homesteads, and will shop from them all day long if they have the appropriate permit or license telling me their product is safe and they’re educated in how to handle the product safely. It’s personally not worth risking my family’s health with anyone who compromises on this aspect.
Link to CDFA’s page:
CDFA - AHFSS - Egg Safety and Quality Management Program (ca.gov)
Permitted Egg Handlers get added to the online list. This makes checking to see if the person or farm you’re buying from is licensed and following safety protocols. The PDF link is from April 2022, recent updates can be found on CDFA’s page on the right side menu of the link listed above.
Current Registered Egg Handlers List (ca.gov)
New Registrant Application:
Egg Handler and Producer Registration Form (ca.gov)
Egg Handler and Producer Registration Renewal Form (ca.gov)