Locally raised eggs are in high demand by restaurants and consumers, but existing regulations on “grading” create unnecessary barriers for farmers who wish to sell their eggs to chefs and grocers.
“Grading” eggs involves weighing and measuring each egg, sorting them by size, and obtaining a license from — and paying fees to — the Texas Department of Agriculture. Grading is entirely a marketing issue, and provides no benefits from a health or food safety perspective.
Texas law already allows farmers to sell ungraded eggs from their own flocks directly to consumers. But state health department regulations prohibit restaurants and retailers from buying ungraded eggs, preventing farmers from selling their eggs to chefs or grocers unless they get a license, pay the extra fees, and grade their eggs.
This requirement is a significant barrier for many small farmers, because eggs have a very small profit margin, and the additional expense and hassle cannot be justified.
HB 1284/ SB 1805 address this problem by allowing farmers to sell eggs clearly labeled as “ungraded” to restaurants and retailers who in turn sell directly to consumers. It includes labeling requirements to ensure that the consumers know who produced the eggs.
This bill will help small farmers better market their eggs, and allow chefs and consumers greater choice in buying locally raised food. Please call your Texas State Representative and Senator today and urge them to co-author HB 1284/ SB 1805!
If you don’t know who represents you, visit the Texas Legislature Online website, or call the Capitol Switchboard at 512-463-4630
Frequently Asked Questions
Did you know?
Egg grading is strictly a marketing tool. In fact, it is administered by the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS).1 According to the AMS, “Grading provides for a standardized means of describing the marketability of a particular food product.”
Is egg grading mandatory?
No. USDA’s grading service is a voluntary program.2
Can ungraded eggs be sold under current law?
Yes. Farmers can sell ungraded eggs from their flock directly to consumers. They just can’t sell them to restaurants or retailers.
What do egg graders check for?
Egg weight, the condition of the shell, the size of the air pocket on the inside of the egg, and firmness of the egg white and yolk.3
Does egg grading detect bacteria that can cause foodborne illness?
No. For example, egg graders don’t check for salmonella.4
When and why did egg grading begin?
Justin Keely, a federal/state supervisor for the USDA’s poultry programs for Texas and Oklahoma, explains that USDA poultry quality procedures were developed around the time of World War II, at a time when American agriculture was moving away from small family farms to a large-scale agribusiness model.5
HB 1284/ SB 1805 helps small family farms reconnect with the chefs and retailers who want to return to a local food system.
1 Quality Grading & Inspections. USDA Agricultural Marketing Service, www.ams.usda.gov/services/grading.
2 “Questions and Answers – USDA Shell Egg Grading Service.” USDA Agricultural Marketing Service, www.ams.usda.gov/publications/qa-shell-eggs.
3 USDA FSIS. Shell Eggs from Farm to Table, www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/food-safety-education/get-answers/food-safety-fact-sheets/egg-products-preparation/shell-eggs-from-farm-to-table. (“what are egg grades?”)
4 Kim, Gene. “The Difference between Grade AA, A, and B Eggs.” Business Insider, Business Insider, 10 Nov. 2017, www.businessinsider.com/grade-a-vs-grade-aa-vs-grade-b-eggs-quality-difference-2017-11.
5 Wood, Virginia B. “Crackdown.” If Local Eggs Are Outlawed, Will Only Outlaws Have Eggs? – Food – The Austin Chronicle, www.austinchronicle.com/food/2009-11-27/921339/.