A Brief Run-Down of the Rules
Farmers can sell eggs directly from their farm to individual customers with no licensing, registration, or inspection.
Farmers who want to sell eggs at their farmers' market stall may do so without licensing or registration. The eggs must be candled, labeled with the farmer's name and address, and kept at temperature of 45 degrees F or less. Eggs can be kept in a cooler with ice for up to 4 hours. For storage beyond 4 hours they should be in mechanical refrigeration.
Farmers with fewer than 3,000 hens who want to sell eggs to grocery stores, restaurants, or other food businesses can do so without a license, but they should register with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture as an exempt egg producer. There is a simple one-page registration form, and no fee for filing the form. Normally there is no inspection of a registered exempt egg producer. However, the MDA does have the right to inspect if they receive a complaint.
Exempt egg producers who sell eggs to food businesses must candle and grade eggs, and pack and label eggs according to federal regulations. Candled and graded eggs must be stored at a temperature of 45 degrees F or less. More information on candling, grading, and packing requirements can be found in the Shell Eggs fact sheet, below.
Authority of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture
The ultimate source of information on egg sale regulations is the Dairy and Food Inspection Division of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. That division is responsible for the regulation of egg sales in Minnesota, and the inspectors on staff there work directly with farmers and processors.
Telephone number for Dairy and Food Inspection Division: 651-201-6027.
Meat, Poultry, and Egg Inspection Web Page:
Form to Register with MDA
Julian Date Tables for Determining "Use By" date (Excel file, 30 kb)
Free-range eggs: These are eggs from hens that have access to a large outdoor area, although they may be fenced in to protect them from predators and thus not totally "free." The "have access to..." phrasing can also be an issue. Standards that require poultry to have access to the outdoors do not require the poultry to actually use that access. In some cases, the access provided is through a doorway so small that few or no birds venture outside. This situation has received some media coverage, and if you advertise free-range eggs you may be asked by customers to explain what you mean by free-range.
Omega-3 eggs: Research has shown that including about 10% flaxseed in laying hens' diet results in eggs with a high level of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are a desirable component of a heart-healthy diet. Eggs labeled as high in omega-3 must be tested to verify their omega-3 composition.
Organic eggs are produced in compliance with the National Organic Program standards.
Pasture-raised eggs: This is nearly the same as free-range eggs; it assumes that the hens have a large outdoor area. Pasture-raised also means that the hens get a portion of their diet from grasses and other pasture plants.