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Selling eggs, meat, and poultry in North Carolina: What farmers need to know

By Debbie Roos, Agricultural Extension Agent
Posted Thursday, October 30, 2008

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Pittsboro, NC - 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.

Egg Cartons
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.

Questions? Contact Richard Hoyle, Poultry Program Administrator with the NCDA&CS Meat and Poultry Division at 919-733-7576.

Tips for Egg Safety from Farm to Table
Meat and Poultry

Meat and Poultry Handler Registration
Any farmer who receives, stores, transports, and/or sells (wholesale or retail) meat and/or poultry products must register as a meat 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 "temperature abuse". Transport vehicles must be clean and in good working condition.

To register as a Meat 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 919-733-4136 to make an appointment.

Small-scale producers who fall under the exemption (described below) are not required to register as meat handlers.

See Meat and Poultry Handler Requirements for more information.

List of Registered North Carolina Meat Handlers

Packaging, Labeling, and Marketing
Meat and poultry may be sold fresh or frozen. You can freeze a fresh product but you are not permitted to thaw a frozen product prior to sale. In other words, if you receive processed meat or poultry already frozen from the plant, then it must remain frozen through sale. If the product is not yet frozen, it can 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 Handlers may not open packages, relabel products, repackage products, or apply net weights.

Exemption for Small-scale Poultry and Rabbit Producers
The NCDA&CS law allows an individual to process and sell without inspection in intrastate commerce up to 1,000 chickens, 250 turkeys, or 1,000 rabbits per calendar year of his/her own raising*. If in excess of 1,000 animals are processed, NCDA&CS must inspect the facilities for sanitation. Above 20,000 per year requires full NCDA&CS inspection. The farmer should keep accurate records to prove to Department of Agriculture officials that the bird/rabbit limit has not been exceeded. See Inspection Requirements for Meat and Poultry Businesses for more information.

The law permits uninspected poultry and rabbits to be sold at farmers' markets and to restaurants as long as it is properly labeled with the farmer's name and address.

* Federal meat inspection rules state that a processor may not simultaneously operate under more than one exemption. Therefore, a producer of chickens, turkeys, and rabbits may only process one of these species under the exemption.

Questions? Contact the NCDA&CS Meat and Poultry Division at 919-733-4136.

Processing Facilities

  • Caldwell Meats
    828-428-8833; Maiden, NC
  • Chaudhry Halal Meats
    919-742-9292; Siler City, NC
    USDA-inspected; does not process pork


  • K&B Meats
    828-488-2533; Bryson City, NC


  • Matkins Meat
    Gibsonville, NC


  • Mays Meats
    828-632-2034; Taylorsville, NC


  • Wells, Jenkins, Wells
    828-245-5544; Forest City, NC


Web Resources





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