So you got a bunch of chickens and now you’re overrun with eggs and not sure what to do? That was our story this past summer. We built a 8x16 coop on skids we’ve been moving around our pastures all summer. We got 80 new layers in the spring and once they started laying, we were sure we’d be able to sell all the eggs directly to consumers. Supposedly at all the local farmers markets, pasture raised eggs sold out right away. People were going to be beating down our doors for our amazing eggs!
Well, you can produce an amazing product but if no one knows about it or how to buy it, you’re not going to sell it. This is one of the biggest failures of all businesses (not just farm based ones). It takes a lot of time and work to get your name out there (building your brand).
We were absolutely overrun with eggs. We were giving them away to family, eating them at almost every meal, and feeding some to the pigs. We finally decided we should try and get them in the grocery store.
Luckily for our community (and us), we have a customer owned Co-Op focused on natural and local foods. We reached out to them via a form on their website for new vendors and after a week or so we heard back. They were excited about the prospects of another local egg vendor.
Every store is going to be different with how they do pricing, markups, etc. With our specific case, we had the flexibility to set our pricing. We just wanted to be similarly priced as other locally grown, pasture raised eggs. Our store has a 25% markup on eggs which isn’t bad.
This may seem like the easy part, and usually it is. There are a few special things to note about collecting eggs. We currently use rollaway nest boxes from Best Nest Box. These work great because as the hens lay, the eggs roll into a separate compartment thus keeping them cleaner and also preventing broody hens.
The other important factor is the weather. If it’s much below freezing, as it is here right now, it’s wise to collect several times per day to prevent eggs from freezing and splitting. All it takes is a few hours at temperatures below 28 degrees to freeze and split down the middle of the egg.
Again, this is going to vary state to state (here is a list of links to each state’s laws). Here in Kansas, you’re required to have a $5 annual egg license and also pay a tax of $0.0035 per dozen eggs either by purchasing egg stamps from the state or paying a quarterly fee. You must also affix safe handling instructions to the outside of the carton along with the pack date and use by dates. You can see a video of this process we use at the bottom of this post.
Sizing, and Grading
So as part of the licensing process, you need to be selling that size and quality of eggs the consumer is expecting. For a 56 page read on how to grade eggs, check out the USDA Egg Grading Manual. We’ll give you the TL;DR below.
The main things you’re looking for from a grade stand point to be Grade A, are uniform shell textures, no splotchy colors, no cracks, and a standard egg shape. We’ve all had those crazy tall cone-head looking eggs - keep those for yourself, we call them “rejects”.
Weighing eggs is what’s going to determine if you’re selling Medium, Large, X-Large, or Jumbo. What’s interesting is it’s not the weight per egg that determines the size, rather it’s the weight of the entire dozen. Here is a list of the official weights per dozen from the USDA:
Peewee: 15 ounces
Small: 18 ounces
Medium: 21 ounces
Large: 24 ounces
Extra Large: 27
So while it’s best to try and have a consistent size of eggs for your dozen, if there are a couple that look a little smaller or larger it’s okay as long as the total dozen hits your target weight.
We went with a vintage 4x3 egg cartons from eggcartons.com. We then purchased a custom made, 3” x 5” stamp from an artist on Etsy. The stamp has our farm’s logo, our address, and pack and sell by date spaces that we then make using a date/price label gun. We then bought an extra large ink pad and use a piece of 2x6 lumber as the support when stamping the cartons. Finally we affix the safe handling instructions required by our state using Avery 8160 labels which fit on the back of the carton just perfectly.
We deliver eggs once per month (usually on Sundays). Our store staggers which days local farms bring in eggs so they can maximize shelf space and not have too much overlap. Our eggs usually sell out within a day or two and by then they’re getting eggs in from other farms.
To transport the eggs, we just load them up in several coolers and add ice packs if it’s hot. There is a delivery entrance in the back of the store that takes you right into the storage/cooler area where we unload them into crates, get our invoice signed, and we’re on our way.
Invoicing and Payments
We use Quickbooks for bookkeeping and generating invoices. Our store has us drop off an invoice for them and signs a copy for us to take. They cut checks which are mailed out within a couple weeks. Once we receive and deposit the check, we mark the invoice as paid in Quickbooks.
I wish we’d reached out to the stores sooner. It would have been taken away a lot of stress. You should definitely have a plan with what you’re going to do with your eggs before your ladies all start laying at once 5 months after you bring home the cute little chicks.
Here is a video of how we stamp our egg cartons: