Selling Eggs, Meat, and Poultry in North Carolina: What Farmers Need to Know
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by Debbie Roos, Agricultural Extension Agent
Farmers who sell meat, poultry, and eggs in North Carolina must comply with state and federal laws designed to ensure that meat and poultry products sent into commerce are wholesome, unadulterated, and properly labeled. The North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (NCDA&CS) enforces these laws.
Farmers wishing to sell eggs should be familiar with the North Carolina Egg Law. The Egg Law addresses labeling, standards, invoices, advertisement, displays, sanitation, and marketing.
Eggs that are for sale must be clean (not necessarily washed, but clean).
Anyone selling more than 30 dozen eggs per week must grade the eggs and label cartons with the grade. Eggs are graded based on federal quality standards. See the United States Standards, Grades, and Weight Classes for Shell Eggs for guidelines.
The eggs must be refrigerated to 45° F or less after gathering. Do not allow them to freeze.
The Egg Law does not require that eggs be sold in new cartons. Re-used cartons must be “clean, unbroken and free of foreign odor”. Any incorrect information on a re-used carton must be marked through.
Carton Label Requirements
The carton label must include the consumer grade, applicable size (based on weight), the word “eggs”, the number of eggs, and the name and address of the producer. If eggs are not separated according to size, they should be labeled as “mixed size”.
The eggs can only be labeled as “fresh” if they meet the Grade A or AA Standard.
Any sign used to promote the sale of eggs that includes a price must also include the grade. If the eggs are ungraded, the farmer must put “ungraded eggs” on the sign.
Sales to Restaurants and Grocery Retailers
The supplier must furnish an invoice showing the quantity, size, the word “eggs”, the grade, and the farmer’s name and address. This invoice must be kept at the restaurant or store for a minimum of 30 days. This also applies to farmers’ market sales. Farmers must keep a running log of the total number of eggs sold each market day.
If a farmer sells over 30 dozen eggs per week, then all of the Egg Law applies. Farmers who sell fewer than 30 dozen eggs per week (total, through all markets) are not required to wash and grade the eggs. Farmers who fall under the 30 dozen or fewer per week exemption must include their name and address on the carton and the words “ungraded eggs”. These eggs are legal to be sold just like graded eggs – to restaurants, retail grocery stores, farmers’ markets, etc.
Contact Jim Melvin the at the NCDA&CS Food and Drug Protection Division at 919-733-7366.
Meat and Poultry
Meat and Poultry Handler Registration
Any farmer who receives, stores, transports, and/or sells (wholesale or retail) NCDA (State) or USDA (Federal) inspected meat and/or poultry products must register as a meat and poultry handler with the NCDA&CS.
The registration requirements are fairly simple. The producer must have an acceptable storage facility that is clean and free from rodents and other pests. The product must be handled and stored under acceptable conditions (appropriate temperature, product rotation, etc.) to prevent the product from becoming adulterated. There are no maximum and/or minimum temperature parameters set by the NCDA&CS. They only require that the product be stored and transported properly to prevent product adulteration due to “temperature abuse”. Transport vehicles must be clean and in good working condition.
To register as a Meat and Poultry Handler, you must meet with a Department of Agriculture official on your farm to ensure compliance with all of the requirements. Contact the NCDA&CS at 919-707-3180 to make an appointment.
Small-scale producers who fall under the exemption (described below) are not required to register as meat and poultry handlers.
See Meat and Poultry Handler Requirements for more information.
Packaging, Labeling, and Marketing
Meat and poultry may be sold fresh or frozen. Farmers selling at farmers’ markets should check the market’s rules governing the sale of meat and poultry, as some may only allow frozen product.
Product labels must include product name, statement of ingredients, inspection legend (applied by processor), net weight statement, farm name and address, and safe handling statement (applied by processor). The processing plant will apply the labels. If you want a custom label, you will need to work with your processor to get USDA approval. Verify that all your product is properly labeled before you leave the processing facility; otherwise you will not be able to sell it. You may not alter labels in any way, nor add any additional labels. Price and UPC stickers may be added by the retailer or vendor.
Meat and Poultry Handlers may not open packages, relabel products, repackage products, or apply net weights.
Producer/Grower 1,000 Poultry Limit Exemption
This exemption from NCDA&CS law allows an individual to slaughter and/or process poultry of their own raising (on his or her premises) and sell the poultry products in intrastate commerce without mandatory (daily) inspection. To operate under the limited provisions of this exemption the individual must meet the five (5) requirements as stated in MPID Notice 08-10, titled “Poultry Exemption Requirements.”
Producer/Grower 20,000 Poultry Limit Exemption
This exemption from NCDA&CS law allows an individual to slaughter and/or process poultry (on his or her premises) that he/she raised and he/she may distribute the poultry products in intrastate commerce without mandatory (daily) inspection. To operate under the limited provisions of this exemption the individual must meet the nine (9) requirements as stated in MPID Notice 10-10, titled “Requirements for the Producer Grower 20,000 Poultry Exemption.”
The law permits poultry processed under this exemption to be sold at farmers’ markets and to restaurants.
Contact the NCDA&CS Meat and Poultry Division at 919-733-4136.
Visit the NC Choices website for a list of North Carolina meat and poultry processing facilities.
- Meat and Poultry Division – North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
- Rabbit Processing – North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
- Meat Handlers – North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
- North Carolina Egg Law – North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
- Pastured Poultry Resource List – North Carolina Cooperative Extension
- Links for Small-scale Livestock Production – North Carolina Cooperative Extension