Cottage Food Laws and Egg Production Requirements

Cottage Food Laws and Egg Production Requirements

I’m a fan of George Orwell’s classic allegorical novel “Animal Farm” written in 1945.  A story about an organized uprising of pigs, dogs, horses, goats and other common farm animals against their insolent owner, Orwell’s fictional account addresses the sociopolitical wrongs adopted by the rising communist Russia of his day.  The story depicts the animals making a progressive series of governing mistakes in their efforts to replace the old rules of “Manor Farm” with a better set of rules for their new “Animal Farm.”  What begins with a few well-intended reforms proposed by the ruling pigs on behalf of the farm-at-large quickly becomes an overreach of dictatorial power that, once instituted, is impossible to overturn.

Ironically, I think many farmers and small-scale homesteaders today can feel like they’re living the Animal Farm story.  Granted, their situation is nowhere close to the conditions found in communist Russia, the gradually rising number of rules and regulations they are required to adhere to can seem, at times, unnecessary and, in some situations, unfair.

I’ll leave the charge for legislative changes to those who understand the industry far better than me, but where laws and regulations are on the books that I am responsible for obeying, it’s best to know what those laws and regulations are so I can best follow them and not get in trouble with the Gestapo (I’m speaking slightly tongue-in-cheek here since I happen to know of some great people who work in these regulating agencies).

By working at a law firm, I’ve learned that if there’s one thing I’m supposed to do before starting a new venture it’s my due diligence.  Since one of Amy’s strongest skill sets involves baking, and because eggs are one of the biggest-selling items we have to offer at our homestead, it was important for me to know what laws and regulations applied in Arkansas.

Arkansas Code § 20-57-201

In Arkansas, the sale of Cottage Foods does not require a permit or license from the Arkansas Department of Health (“ADH”).  According to Section 20-57-201 of the Arkansas Code, a “Cottage Food Production Operation,” in contrast to a formal “Food Service Establishment,” means a person who produces food items in the person’s home that are not potentially hazardous foods, including without limitation:

  • Bakery products
  • Candy
  • Fruit butter
  • Jams
  • Jellies
  • Chocolate-covered fruit and berries that are not cut

Food items that are considered “potentially hazardous” do not qualify as a Cottage Food and, therefore, do require a permit or license to sell from the ADH.  These items include:

  • Food items that must be kept refrigerated or hot to remain safe  (Examples: cheesecakes, Tres Leches cakes, cream or cheese filled items, cream pies, meringue pies, custard pies, items containing meat, and cream cheese based frostings or fillings).
  • Food items made with splenda and similar sugar substitutes.

Cottage food operations are limited to offering their products directly to the consumer by the following means:

  • From the site where the products are produced;
  • At a farmers’ market;
  • At a county fair; or
  • At a special event.

Because of these limitations, Amy and I have had to narrow the number of products we offer and the locations we can offer them.  Because it is our understanding that online stores are not included in the list of locations we can sell our products, online payments and shipping options are unavailable through our website.  Instead, when requests to purchase an item are received by us, we simply contact prospective customers by phone or e-mail to confirm the details of their request and to make arrangements for a direct (in-person) sale.  Because of this, use of our online catalog is for information, inventory, and notification purposes only and any submitted requests to purchase an item does not constitute a purchase.

Arkansas Livestock and Poultry Commission Requirements

According to the “Arkansas Livestock and Poultry Commission Requirements” as described in the “Farmers Market Vendor Guidelines” made available by the Arkansas Department of Health and Arkansas Agriculture Department:

“The egg producer shall be permitted to sell ungraded eggs to a retailer or at farmer’s markets provided the producer owns less than two hundred (200) hens and the following requirements are met:

  1. Eggs are washed and clean;
  2. Eggs are prepackaged and identified as ungraded with the name and address of the producer;
  3. Used cartons are not used unless all brand markings and other identification is obliterated;
  4. Retailer must keep invoice for two (2) years indicating who the eggs were purchased from, date, and amount of eggs bought; and
  5. Eggs are refrigerated and maintained at a temperature of forty-five degrees Fahrenheit (45°F) or below.

Having some customers who take issue with Rule #1, being well aware that farm fresh eggs will stay fresher without being washed because of the natural “bloom” coating that helps keep out bacteria, we try to clean our eggs as non-invasively as possible and only when ready to sell.

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