Eggs, Meat, and Poultry in North Carolina:
What Farmers Need to Know
Roos, Agricultural Extension Agent
EGG LAW EXEMPTIONS
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,
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.
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.
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
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.
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,
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
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
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.
and Poultry Handler Requirements for more information.
of Registered North Carolina Meat Handlers
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
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
for Small-scale Poultry and
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
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.
Contact the NCDA&CS Meat and Poultry Division
- K&B Meats
828-488-2533; Bryson City, NC
- Matkins Meat
- Mays Meats
828-632-2034; Taylorsville, NC
- Wells, Jenkins, Wells
828-245-5544; Forest City, NC
This page last
updated February 3, 2008.
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