Farm gate sales can cut red tape on eggs

FARM gate sales of eggs ensure local hen keepers who want to produce eggs on a small scale can do so without all the red tape.

It's all about traceability, said Pauline Mullarkey, Incredible Edible Todmorden (IET) member and hen keeper, who was instrumental in setting up the Every Egg Matters campaign.

"If you have fewer than 50 hens you can sell your eggs at your gate, direct to the public, without having to stamp them with identification codes because the consumer can trace the egg straight back to you."

Increasing the number of eggs laid in Todmorden for local consumption was the key factor of the Every Egg Matters campaign launched last February.

Although small producers are a key element to the campaign there is another aspect too.

Pauline said: "If you are paying 80p a dozen for your eggs there's a reason they're so inexpensive. For some people there is no choice as they are on such a tight budget but not everyone. You've got to ask yourself, 'if you are paying 80p per dozen how much is the farmer getting?'

"Farmers have been cutting back on the number of different types of food they produce because there's been a shift in the market but we should be encouraging farmers to keep hens again. We have to consider where our food is coming from in the future and we need to find a more sustainable way of producing it."

If farmers did re-enter the egg market, and did so with more than 50 hens, they would have to follow the legal requirements, including the stamping of eggs.

To enter into this regulated system a farmer would have to believe it was worthwhile and profitable so it is important that the people of Todmorden can demonstrate their appetite for locally produced eggs, explained Pauline.

The stamps on eggs give the consumer information on the conditions in which the hens are kept: O denotes organic, 1 free range, 2 raised in a barn and 3 caged; how far the eggs have travelled with the letters indicating the country of origin; and the final set of numbers are the farmer's unique identification number.