With your pullets laying regularly, you’ve decided to share the wealth—and earn some spare change—and sell your girls’ delicious eggs. You’ve checked with your town’s ordinance director or home owner’s association (HOA) to see what restrictions, if any, are in place regarding the sale of backyard-flock eggs. You’ve also reviewed your state’s cottage-food laws and Department of Agriculture regulations regarding the sale of shell eggs.
Armed with plenty of product and a newfound familiarity for egg-sale laws, you’re ready to to start selling.
Almost. A key point to bear in mind while preparing your eggs for sale is who your customers will be.
While some of your prospective buyers may look forward to the full farm-fresh experience, the majority most likely will be accustomed to the perfectly oval, perfectly clean egg. Your hands may be tied by guidelines specifying whether—and how—your eggs must be cleaned. But it’s up to you to choose which of your eggs you sell.
Follow these four guidelines for sorting your eggs successfully for sale.
No customer wants to open a carton of eggs to see 10 lovely, large ovals and two teenie-weenie ones. They’ll feel cheated, even if the peewee pair are the tastiest eggs ever laid.
Keep your buyers smiling by offering matched sets of eggs, all similar in size.
Fortunately, sorting eggs by size is an easy task—just eyeball them as you pack them up. If you keep only one breed of chicken, sorting will go quickly. If you keep a variety of breeds, you’ll end up with an array of egg sizes that will require a more intensive review.
Our Orpingtons lay large eggs, while our Ameraucanas lay comparatively small eggs … but not as small as the eggs laid by our Silkies. We keep the Silkie eggs for our own consumption, as very few of our customers desire bantam eggs.
If you choose to sell mixed sizes, make sure you convey this clearly so that nobody opens their cartons to find one or more unexpected surprises.
In a perfect world, every egg would be perfectly rounded on one side and perfectly tapered on the other. Our world, however, is far from perfect. And the eggs that our girls lay are anything but uniform in shape.
Some do approach that coveted eggy oval. But most are somewhere between that and the elongated torpedo that pullets tend to lay. Then there are the geometric oddities: the eggs that taper on both ends, the eggs that are perfectly golf-ball round, the eggs that resemble Frankenstein’s head.
While all of these eggs may yield identical yolks and whites once cracked, their misshapen appearances might be off-putting. Reserve the golf balls, the torpedoes and the freeform eggs for your own personal use. Then offer the ovals to your customer base.
Perhaps the biggest surprise I’ve experienced as an egg farmer—other than the triple-yolk egg our Buff Orpington, Edna, once laid—is that people don’t understand eggshell color.
Many supermarkets now sell brown eggs. But most city dwellers and suburbanites grew up on and still purchase white market eggs. They are uncertain about brown, blue and other colors.
I’ve had customers wonder if brown eggs are simply dirty white eggs. I’ve had others ask if supermarkets bleach brown farm eggs to turn them white. I still remember the time a customer called me to vent about the rotten eggs I’d included in the dozen I sold her. I had to explain that no, those were actually blue eggs laid by our Ameraucana flock.
When packing your eggs, make absolutely certain that you clearly label their color, then let people choose which eggs they want. Curiosity usually leads our customers to peek at the different colors we offer, then ask if we can substitute in a few of the differently colored eggs.
You may wish to consider offering a mixed-color dozen for curious customers and for those who admire the variety of egg colors.
Just like we get freckles and moles, eggs can also have complexion irregularities. Some brown-egg layers occasionally produce eggs with a smattering of freckle-like spots due to inconsistencies in how pigment is added to the shell.
Our customers don’t seem to mind speckled eggs. But they do mind eggshells with calcium deposits.
These deposits, which result from excess calcium in a layer’s diet, resemble warty growths on the outside of the eggshell. While they don’t affect the egg itself, deposits detract from an egg’s aesthetic. Buyers tend to find them unappealing.
The same holds true for eggs with naturally occurring stains and waves or ridges in the shell. Always remember that customers often judge egg quality by appearance. Keep any irregular eggs for yourself and pack up only the best for sale.