Help small poultry farmers today!
Small farmers can sell “ungraded” eggs at the farmers’ markets in Texas, but regulations prevent restaurants and retailers from buying those exact same eggs to serve or sell to their customers.
“Grading” eggs involves weighing each egg, looking at them with a special flashlight for visible defects, getting licensed by the Texas Department of Agriculture, and paying fees. Grading is entirely a marketing issue and provides no health or food safety benefits — but it takes time and money that small farmers don’t have.
SB 1805 would allow farmers to sell eggs clearly labeled as “ungraded” to restaurants and retailers who in turn sell directly to consumers. The eggs would be labeled to ensure that the consumers know who produced the eggs.
The bill was unanimously approved by the Senate.
But the Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, Representative Drew Springer, isn’t allowing a vote on the bill. And if it doesn’t get a vote within the next two weeks, this bill dies.
This one legislator is blocking a bill that could help small farmers all across the state. Can you take two minutes to call his office?
Please be polite – rudeness or anger will backfire.
Call or email Chairman Springer and tell him to allow a committee vote on SB1805, the ungraded eggs bill.
Committee office: 512-463-0762
Email for committee staff: Alexander.McMillan_HC@House.texas.gov (use a subject line like “Vote Yes on SB 1805”)
A phone call has the greatest impact, but a personalized email also works. Remember to keep the conversation polite and short.
Sample message: “Hi, my name is ___. I urge Chairman Springer to allow SB 1805, the ungraded eggs bill, to be voted on by his committee. This bill helps both small farmers and the consumers who want greater access to locally raised foods.” Add just one or two sentences about why this is important to you, whether you are a farmer or like eating at local-sourcing restaurants or as a consumer who buys local, you want farmers to have more options.
Call your own State Representative and urge him or her to co-sponsor SB1805 and urge Chairman Springer to move the bill forward.
You can find out who your State Representative and Senator are by going to www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us or calling the Texas Capitol Switchboard at 512-463-4630.
You can read the bill here: https://capitol.texas.gov/tlodocs/86R/billtext/html/SB01805E.htm
It can be confusing seeing an action alert aimed at Representatives but dealing with an “SB.” That simply means that the bill started in the Senate. The Senate has already approved it – but unless we can get it approved by the House Agriculture Committee and then the full House, it will die. So please make the call today!
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/.