Whether you are a backyard chicken keeper looking to expand your flock for selling eggs as a business or a total newbie to chickens hoping to create a livestock business, there are a lot of factors to consider when selling eggs in the retail market. To be successful at selling eggs, not only do you have to learn about raising birds on a larger scale, but you must also gain skills in marketing and business. Much like selling homemade food there are a lot of laws that govern the sale of livestock products. It’s important to keep in mind liability and ensure you follow appropriate laws.
Where Do you Plan on Selling Eggs?
The first consideration, which will determine many other factors, is where do you plan on selling eggs? There are three main options for selling eggs: direct marketing from the farm, selling at farmers markets, or wholesaling to a store.
Direct Marketing to Individuals
If you have a farm that is located along a well-traveled route, you may do well simply selling eggs from your home or farm store. You will, of course, need signage to let customers know what you are offering, when you are open or available, and how to contact you for more information. It’s helpful if you have regular hours that can be posted or at least a phone number people can call to schedule a time to pick up. If you have a number of regular customers, you might even set up a regular pick-up time, kind of like a CSA’s weekly pick-up windows.
You will need a place to refrigerate your eggs, where you can guarantee they are kept at no higher than 45 degrees. Many farmers keep unwashed eggs at room temperature, but if they are to be sold or distributed, the law requires that they be refrigerated.
People coming to your home or farm to buy eggs might not expect labeling detailing egg sizes, weights, grades, etc. but technically this is still required. Look up the law for your state to see what information you must provide. You can make a simple label on your computer with the necessary information. One nice thing about people coming to your farm to purchase directly is that your packaging doesn’t have to grab their attention like it does in a retail setting. Keep it simple and just provide what’s necessary.
Another option is selling eggs at a farmers market. This could work well for you if you live in a more remote area where you wouldn’t have the passing traffic to support direct marketing from the farm. This could also be a good option if you are working another job during the week and can’t be home to sell to customers stopping by. You can concentrate your sales on the weekends. Consider if you can commit to going every week, though, to make it worth the cost.
A downside to selling eggs at a farmers market can, in fact, be cost. The busier the market, the higher the cost of a booth tends to be. On the other hand, if you can get into a busy, high-end market, you can adjust your dozen egg price up a little. If you sell your eggs for $4/dozen from home, maybe you could get $5/dozen at a busy market. Do your research into what eggs sell for in the target area. Are there other vendors selling eggs there? What are they selling them for? How much are eggs in the local grocery stores? It’s okay to be higher than the grocery store if you can talk up the benefits of your farm fresh eggs (freshness, how the animals are raised, health benefits of free-ranging, etc.) but you certainly won’t want to be way higher than other farmers selling in the same market.
The same storage and packaging requirements will apply if you are selling eggs at a farmers market and it is likely there will be an official checking that you have labeled your products correctly according to the law. How will you keep your eggs no higher than 45 degrees? Do you have access to a refrigerator or can you monitor coolers to make sure they stay cool enough?
Our main outlet for selling eggs is through a large local grocery store. We were lucky enough to find a connection through a neighbor who worked there and put us in contact with the buyer. We exchanged emails to work out a price and to set up a delivery schedule. It will vary from store to store, of course, but our retailer simply asked us what we wanted to make per dozen and then they marked that price up 15%. We had to consider the competition’s prices. If we asked for our usual $5/dozen, our price would have been $5.75, higher than almost all the others. We settled on $5.49, which yields $4.77/dozen for us. The $.23 per dozen lost saves us a tremendous amount of time since we deliver once each week and don’t have to make all those individual sales ourselves. For us, this was really the only way to do this business.
The store provided us with a UPC so they could scan our product at their checkouts, which I added to our label. In the store setting, you need to put some real time and effort into your packaging. Your carton not only needs to include the legally required information, but it must also be sturdy, attention-grabbing, and show how your product is unique. For us, the really big sell is colorful eggs. Families with children adore the green and blue eggs, so we put color photos of our eggs on the carton. We would love to have a clear carton to let the egg colors shine through, but this isn’t cost-effective for us yet. We also only live six miles from the store, so the truly local farm is a selling point. I made a sign that hangs by our eggs, which shows our birds free-ranging in the clean grass and says in large print: We live six miles from here!
No matter where you end up selling eggs, figure out what makes you special and use it to draw in customers. Happy selling!