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Safety tips for handling farm fresh eggs

Hens roosting in a small coop.

Demand for eggs from local sources is increasing. More individuals are raising chickens for their eggs. Menus in Minnesota restaurants feature dishes made with fresh locally raised eggs.

In Minnesota, people who sell or donate eggs from their own flock do not need a food handler license. They must however, complete a licensing exemption form and register with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. For more information, contact the Food and Feed Safety Division staff at 651-201-6027.

Are there food safety concerns with 'farm' or 'yard' fresh chicken eggs? Whether you raise, sell, give away or purchase farm fresh shell eggs, you can enjoy safe fresh local eggs when they are properly cleaned, candled, graded, sized, packed and stored.

Food safety checklist for farm fresh eggs

Egg collection

  • Eggs are collected or picked two to three times a day.
  • Discard eggs with broken or cracked shells.

Egg cleaning

  • Shells are cleaned using a dry cleaning method such as fine sandpaper, a brush or emery cloth. Using rags or sponges to scrub the eggs is not allowed.
  • If wet cleaned, must meet water and egg temperature requirements and spray-rinsed with a sanitizing agent (Minnesota Statutes 29, Rules 1520).
  • Eggs are dry. If shell gets wet, bacteria can pass through the shell.
  • Wash hands with soap and warm water before and after cleaning eggs.

Clean chicken house

  • The chicken house is clean and dry. Floor litter is in good condition.
  • Nests are cleaned once a week and nesting materials are replaced.
  • A perch is mounted away from the nest to allow birds to sleep. Place a wire-mesh box under the perch to collect feces.
  • There is a plan to control Salmonella carriers such as rodents, flies, beetles, wild birds and cats.
  • Feed is stored to prevent contamination.
  • Feeding and watering equipment cleaned in a sink other than the kitchen sink.

Candling

  • Look for defects inside the shell by holding the egg up to a bright light. (Done by the egg producer or by the purchaser.)
  • Discard eggs with abnormal shape, spots, cracks or other irregularities.

Grading

  • Clean, well shaped with no evidence of defects after candling eggs meet USDA Grade AA quality standard if less than 15 days old. After 15 days without temperature and humidity control, the quality decreases to Grade A. After 30 days, egg quality decreases to Grade B. Eggs older than 30 days cannot be sold.

Sizing

Weight of one dozen eggs determines the size.

Size Weight per dozen
Jumb 30 oz.
Extra large 27 oz.
Large 24 oz.
Medium 21 oz.
Small 18 oz.

Egg packaging and labeling

  • Fiber egg cartons can be reused if they are clean. Remove prior packing information from the label. Blacken out the dates, the packers name and contact information with a permanent marker.
  • Label eggs cartons and/or flat cases with:
    • Grade and size of the eggs
    • Name, address and zip code of the farmer, egg producer or individual selling the eggs.
    • A package date in Julian calendar (day of year) format. See Colorado State University's julian calendar.
    • Freshness date not to exceed 30 days from the date of packaging.
    • Safe handling instructions: "To prevent illness from bacteria: keep eggs refrigerated, cook eggs until yolks are firm, and cook foods containing eggs thoroughly."

Egg storage

  • Refrigerate eggs at 45 degrees or less after grading.
  • Keep eggs in the carton. Store in the coldest part of your refrigerator away from fresh fruits and vegetables.

Preparation

  • Inspect eggs. Do not use if shell is cracked.
  • Check carton's pack date. Eggs have a shelf life of four to five weeks from pack date.
  • Crack eggs into bowl before using. Throw away if you see any defects. According to the American Egg Board, a blood spot found on an egg yolk is most often a ruptured blood vessel which happens during the yolk formation. Eggs with blood spots are safe to eat. You can remove the spot with a spoon or knife.
  • Wash hands, utensils and equipment with hot, soapy water after contact with eggs.
  • Never eat raw eggs. Outbreaks for Salmonella illnesses have been associated with undercooked egg whites and yolks.
  • To avoid illness, cook eggs until yolks are firm. Cook foods containing eggs to 160 degrees F as measured by a food thermometer.
  • Throw away raw or cooked eggs left at room temperature for more than two hours.

Suzanne Driessen, Extension educator

Reviewed in 2018

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