Eggs in a carton
Updated: May 11, 2022
By Jonathan Moyle

Poultry Meat

(Meat requirements provided are for less than 20,000 birds.)

State or federal inspection is not required if you are producing and processing less than 20,000 birds for meat annually and do not sell other than directly from the farm. You must register any poultry premises with the Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) as part of their avian influenza control efforts. There are no fees for registering your premises unless you have laying hens in excess of 3,000 birds. MDA now has a Rabbit and Poultry On-Farm Slaughter/Processing Program. Producers who participate in this voluntary program will be certified to sell anywhere intrastate (restaurants, retailers, farmer’s markets). Both parts and whole poultry and rabbits certified by this program are allowed to be sold; however, ground meat is not permitted to be sold. For complete details on this program, visit the website or call the MDA at 410-841-5769. You will need to process the birds in a clean environment and in a clean manner so that no feces or contaminants are visible on the final product. The presence of feces or other contaminants would constitute an adulterant and would, therefore, subject your farm to scrutiny by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Food Safety Inspection Service, or the MDA. Packaging can be as simple as a clear plastic freezer bag. If you process less than 1,000 birds annually, the packaging must contain a label with the name and address of the seller, contents, and net weight. If you process more than 1,000 but less than 20,000 annually, you must also put the statement "Exempt-P.L.-492." Once processed, the carcasses must be held at a temperature of less than 40 degrees F until sold. In Maryland, you may sell your products from your property, but you may not sell at a farmer's market location or any other location off the farm unless you have been certified by MDA’s Rabbit and Poultry On-Farm Slaughter/Processing Program. Be aware that carcasses must be kept at or below 40 degrees F until purchase by the consumer. Alternatively, be sure you have your clientele already committed to purchasing your poultry before beginning to raise birds (this is where a down payment and contract comes in handy). 


(Egg requirements provided are for less than 3,000 laying hens.)

In the state of Maryland, all eggs must be graded and sized if they are for sale. The sale of unclassified eggs is not permitted. If you package your eggs in used cartons collected from friends and neighbors, you must be sure to do the following:

1. Completely mark out the USDA grade shield.

2. Completely mark out logos such as PA certified, UEP certified, MEQAP, PEQAP, etc.

3. Completely mark out the packer or distributor's information.

4. Completely mark out sell by date.

5. Completely mark out any claims made by the original producer, unless you can substantiate your eggs meet the claims (ex. Omega Three).

You may accomplish all of this by marking with a large black marker found at most drug stores, grocery stores, or office supply stores. Be sure to label the egg carton with your name, address, and telephone number. You will also need to label your carton with the Lot number (#). The lot number (#) corresponds to your flock number. For most small flocks this is the same flock they have always had and therefore should be labeled as Lot #1. Additionally, you will need to write the egg registration number on the carton (you will receive this number when you register with the MDA to sell eggs). Remember, it is free to get an egg registration number if you have less than 3,000 birds. Once you have 3,000 birds, you will pay a $30.00 per year registration fee and $.08 per 30 dozen sold assessment fee. If you plan on transporting and storing your eggs, be sure to keep the eggs at or below 45 degrees F until sold to the customer. That means you should hold your eggs in a refrigerator or cooler with ice packs. Warning, in a cooler, ice will melt and cause regular cardboard egg cartons to become soggy. This water can also contaminate the eggs so the practice is prohibited by the MDA. This is undesirable and all efforts should be made to prevent this occurrence. Keep a small thermometer in the cooler with your eggs as evidence that the correct temperature is being maintained. You must register to sell eggs by contacting the MDA, and by registering a layer flock to sell eggs you are also automatically registered in MDA's mandatory poultry premise registration.

Grading and Sizing of Eggs

Be sure to mark your label on each carton of eggs with both the grade and size once you have determined each. Egg sizes are determined based upon the weight (ounces) of a dozen. It is recommended to weigh your dozen using a simple kitchen scale or egg scale before placing into the carton. This provides the true weight of the dozen without adding the weight of the carton. The grade of eggs (from best to worst), AA, A, and B is based on compliance with quality tolerances. Eggs labeled Grade A must be fresh, clean, no bloodspots, and unbroken. At retail sale, at least 82% of the eggs in a carton labeled Grade A must meet the A quality standard or better. The sale of restricted eggs (cracks and dirties), unclassified eggs, and eggs labeled Grade B to consumers in Maryland is prohibited. To determine the quality of an egg, the eggs must be examined for both external and internal defects.

External Defects

You will need to downgrade eggs that have slight stains, localized moderate stains less than 1/32 of the shell or scattered moderate stains that are less than 1/16 of the shell to a B quality. Localized moderate stains covering more than 1/32 of the shell, scattered moderate stains covering more than 1/16 of the shell, prominent stains, and any kind of adhering dirt (yolk, manure, etc.) are considered dirty. Thin spots in the shell or irregular texture, ridges, and shape all should be considered before deciding the quality of an egg. In general, if the shell defect weakens the egg or makes it not fit into the carton cell, it should be downgraded to a B quality. Eggs labeled Grade A cannot have more than 18% B quality shells (if they have other defects the amount of B quality shells allowed would be reduced because they still have to be a minimum of 82% A quality or better). Be sure to lightly wash your eggs before packaging to remove any adhering dirt, feathers, or shavings. Stains may be buffed out under running hot water that is at least as warm as the egg (perhaps with a little food grade soap in the sponge - see the USDA-APHIS website for soaps and sanitizers approved for use on food). Dirty eggs that have been cleaned should be sanitized by spraying with hot water containing 100 part per million of chlorine. The size and intensity of any remaining stains should be considered before packaging. At the time of publication these regulations were current. It is recommended to visit MDAs website for updated or revised regulations.