More CSA members are opting to have their shares delivered to World Harvest this year (rather than to home/work). Under our interpretation of Missouri law, we cannot deliver our eggs to the store, because we have chosen not to get an egg license. But it’s just a $5 egg license, right? Why not get one? Read on for our more detailed explanation of why we are choosing not to do so.
Missouri law sets out a complex set of regulations on how chicken eggs may be legally sold; you can read all the details in chapters 196.311-196.361. It’s worth noting that the state defines “egg” as solely eggs from chickens: duck, goose, quail, etc. aren’t covered by these or any other regulations. However,
196.313. No person shall buy, sell, trade or traffic in eggs in this state without a license with the following exceptions:
(1) Those who sell only eggs produced by their own flocks, provided such eggs are not sold at an established place of business away from the premises of such producer;
We’ve always sold our eggs under this exemption, because we sell straight from the farm to the consumer with no middlemen. Thus we’ve never had to deal with licensing. But if we were to deliver eggs to World harvest, our understanding is that we’d have to be a licensed egg retailer because now a third party would be involved. (Granted, it is a gray area, since the sale still be directly from us, but we’ve learned our lesson about asking MDA about gray areas.)
Here’s roughly what we’d have to do to get an egg license; it starts out sounding not too bad, but then the requirements pile on:
1) Obtain the license. This sounds easy, only $5/year, with one minor annoyance: “The license year shall be twelve months, or any fraction thereof, beginning July first and ending June thirtieth.” This doesn’t really make biological or accounting sense from our perspective. Why not 12 months from whenever you obtain the license? Granted, after the first year, no big deal.
2) Keep detailed records. We currently keep basic records on laying rates and sales, but not on grading and other matters that would be required by the state.
3) Grade & separate eggs. Our pastured flock of mixed breeds (above) lays a wide variety of size, shape, and color eggs. We don’t grade these but simply sell them to customers as a mix; grading is impractical for farm-fresh eggs like ours from such a diverse (& relatively small) flock. It would add expense disproportionately to value for the customer. If we were to license, we would have to obtain the equipment to do grading and go through all that rigmarole.
4) “Properly” label containers. Right now we handwrite basic labels with farm name and date packed, all the customer really needs. If we license, we’ll have to invest in a label-printer with very specific requirements for how to print the labels:
designations of size and quality upon containers and subcontainers of eggs shall be plainly and conspicuously marked in boldface type letters on a contrasting background of (a) not less than three-eighths of an inch in height on the outside top face of each container holding less than fifteen dozen eggs, and (b) not less than two inches in height on one outside end of any oblong container holding fifteen dozen or more eggs, and on one outside side of any other container holding fifteen dozen or more eggs.
5) Submit to unannounced inspections. We’re not particularly keen to have uninvited bureaucrats poking around our farm any time they want. We maintain good and open relations with our customers precisely for that reason; we trust them more than the government to make good decisions for themselves (and to have proper respect for us).
6) Expose ourselves to higher legal risk. Selling under the exemption rule, we only have to worry about one line of law. If we become licensed, we’re suddenly responsible for fully complying with the ~40 sections of the full egg law and all the details set forth in the Code of State Regulations, upon penalty of misdemeanor charges if we miss something or a bureaucrat interprets something differently than we did (again, see the pig-feeding story). This is not a risk we’re interested in taking.
Most of these things, in a vacuum, sound reasonable. But taken together, from the perspective of self-employed farmers, they’re just a lot of unnecessary hassle and time. We don’t earn a stable salary, we have to earn the value of our time through efficient work & sales. Every minute we spend understanding and dealing with regulations like this doesn’t earn us anything, it just makes our lives more complicated. The profit margin on eggs is already pretty small, even reckoned at minimum wage, and we’re just not interested in reducing that margin further and giving ourselves more headaches when our eggs are already cheaper than soda, coffee, or candy bars. We just want to sell fresh eggs to educated consumers who already know how they’re produced, without the government intervening on either of our behalf.
Finally, we don’t want to burden the store with a different kind of product. Bags of produce are pretty stable and easy to handle, but if we delivered eggs they’d have to store those separately, pay attention to orders, fetch the right eggs for the right people, and generally do a lot more work. They don’t otherwise sell or handle eggs, and we also don’t want to create regulatory problems for them. They’re doing us a significant favor by hosting deliveries, and we don’t want to impose more than necessary.
So we’re genuinely sorry that CSA members with World Harvest delivery won’t have easy access to eggs, but that’s the way things are right now. One alternative will be to attend monthly CSA events, where you can buy eggs straight from the farm. Particularly if you let us know ahead of time, we can build up a stash of a set number and have them waiting for you. Eggs are very shelf-stable for weeks or longer and this will work very well; you can likely also simply drive out on an arranged time and pick them up with minimal hassle. Anyone who wants to do this can let us know.
NOTE: we don’t deliver milk to WH for similar reasons. That exemption is even more clear on such milk only being sold/delivered directly to the final customer, and there’s no way we’re exposing WH to the liability risk of having raw milk on the premises given the current culture of local and state health departments.