Egg producers – are you registered?

The View from Northern Ireland: Throughout the year, Department of Agriculture and Rural Development’s (DARD) Agri-food Inspection Branch receives many queries about egg producer registration and how and where eggs can be sold.

Everyone who keeps birds of any species must register with DARD’s Veterinary Service under Avian Influenza ‘Bird Flu’ Regulations. Only pet birds kept in cages indoors are exempt.

Additionally, premises with 350 or more laying hens must be registered with DARD’s Egg Marketing Inspectorate, regardless of how or where the eggs are sold. A unique producer number (code) will then be issued. This code has to be stamped on all Class A eggs and ensures their traceability.

A producer with more than 50 hens who wants to sell their eggs at a local market must also register with DARD’s Egg Marketing Inspectorate and stamp the eggs with the producer code issued.

Application forms and guidance on registration can be downloaded from the DARD website: http://www.dardni.gov.uk/index/farming/livestock/poultry/registration-of-laying-hens.htm or alternatively may be requested from Agri-food Inspection Branch  – see contact details below.

A producer can sell their own eggs directly to the consumer – at the farm gate, door-to-door or at a local market. Eggs sold this way don’t have to be graded in a packing centre but they should be fresh, clean and safe to eat.

However, if eggs are to be sold to a shop or a butcher, a restaurant or bakery, they must first be graded as Class A quality in an authorised packing centre which has also been approved under EU Food Hygiene regulations. Even if the eggs come from a very small flock of hens, the production site must also be registered with the Egg Marketing Inspectorate and the producer code allocated stamped on all Class A eggs.

A Packing Centre application form and explanatory leaflets can be downloaded from the Egg Marketing page on DARD’s website: http://www.dardni.gov.uk/index/farming/livestock/poultry/egg-marketing.htm or alternatively may be requested from Agri-food Inspection Branch  – see contact details below.

The EC Egg Marketing Regulations enforced by DARD refer specifically to hen eggs. Sales of small quantities of duck and goose eggs, directly to the consumer or to a local shop, are covered by general food safety legislation which is enforced by District Councils. Other forms of sales are subject to Food Hygiene legislation which requires eggs to be kept clean, dry and insulated and delivered to the consumer within 21 days from lay.

Regulations enforced by DARD’s Veterinary Service require most egg producers (but particularly those with more than 350 hens) to have samples from flocks tested for Salmonella.  If the hens are found to be infected, the eggs cannot be sold as Class A or for direct human consumption but must be heat treated or disposed of at an approved establishment.

Further information on these requirements is available from DARD’s Divisional Veterinary Offices.

For further information or advice please contact:
Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, Egg Marketing Inspectorate,
Agri-food Inspection Branch, Room 1019 Dundonald House, Upper Newtownards Road Belfast BT4 3SB. Tel:  028 9052 4687 Email: [email protected]

By Dianne Bell, Egg Marketing Inspectorate, Agri-food Inspection Branch, DARD