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Can I use local farm fresh eggs in my restaurant?

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Question: My neighbor has chickens, and I own a restaurant. Can I buy their eggs to use in my restaurant?

TRIGGER WARNING - This blog contains the use of Dad jokes and puns, so reader beware.

“Eggs-empt or not?”

Personally, my wife and I would like to have chickens one day, but until we move from under the totalitarian regime of our HOA, and our daughters (plural = I’ll be poor forever) get married, then I’m not going to count chickens before they hatch. We do, however, have friends and family who have chickens and we will often score some fresh farm eggs, and if you’ve ever seen or tasted the difference between a typical grocery store egg and a “normal” unmanufactured egg produced by free range chickens, then you would know why we sometimes go way out of our way to procure these precious multi-colored butt nuggets. Yes, these free range eggs will vary in color from white, brown, green, blue, pink, or gray, and for the city folks, no, the different colors don’t represent different flavors.

Now, can a commercial kitchen or restaurant also prepare and serve these farm fresh eggs to the public? Technically, a restaurant or commercial kitchen is required to purchase food from an approved reputable supplier. So what constitutes whether or not the local egg farmer, who could be your neighbor, is considered an approved supplier of these free range eggs?

Well, it depends. In North Carolina, and every state is a little different when it comes to these kinds of food regulations and laws, so be sure to double check with your local state and/or county environmental health professional (health department, usually), it all depends on the amount of eggs which a farmer sells. To clarify, a farmer is literally just anyone who has chickens which can lay eggs, and the type of farmer is broken down into two simple categories, those who sell more than 30 dozen eggs per week, and those who sell less than 30 dozen eggs per week.

  • For farmers who sell to restaurants and grocery stores, MORE than 30 dozen eggs per week:

    • They are required to comply with the NC Egg law for farmers who have small flocks. A good resource for the specific requirements is HERE.
    • The eggs are not required to be washed, but clean.
    • They are required to grade the eggs and label the grade on the carton.
    • Only eggs which meet Grade A or AA requirements can be labeled “fresh” on the carton.
    • Must be stored at 45°F after collection until sold or discarded.
    • The carton label must have the grade, the word “eggs”, the quantity, applicable size, and the name and address of the farmer/producer.
    • An invoice must also be provided to the restaurant or commercial kitchen with the same information, and kept for 30 days.
    • The same also applies when selling at farmers’ markets.
  • For farmers who sell LESS than 30 dozen eggs per week:

    • Not required to wash or grade the eggs, but the eggs and packaging do need to be clean.
    • Must be stored at 45°F after collection until sold or discarded.
    • Can sell to anyone, including grocery stores and restaurants
    • The farmer’s name and address along with the words “ungraded eggs” are required to be on the carton.

In conclusion, yes. A restaurant or commercial kitchen could buy eggs from their neighbor, so long as the neighbor doesn’t sell more than 30 dozen per week. The caveat is these eggs are “ungraded” and it is possible the quality may not be consistent.

Therefore, the food service operation may want to consider looking for an egg farmer who sells more than 30 dozen per week and is required to abide by standardized grading and packaging standards.

As with any TSC (time/temperature control for safety) food, all eggs regardless of where purchased, need to be handled and stored safely in order to prevent cross-contamination, and cooked according to the guidelines outlined in the NC Food Code manual to reduce the risk of foodborne illness.