In the guide
Note: although the United Kingdom has left the European Union, certain pieces of legislation (formally known as 'retained EU law') will still apply until such time as they are replaced by new UK legislation; this means that you will still see references to EU regulations in our guidance.
This guidance is for England and Wales
This guidance applies only to hens' eggs being sold to consumers by retail.
All eggs sold by retailers must be stamped with a specific code.
There are labelling requirements for eggs; those sold in boxes require a greater level of detail than those sold loose in trays.
Markings stamped on eggs
All eggs sold at retail level must be stamped with a code stating the farming method, the country of origin (UK), and the individual code for the production site.
The farming method codes are as follows:
- 0: organic
- 1: free range
- 2: barn
- 3: caged hens
A typical egg may be stamped, for example, 3UK12345, which means:
- 3: caged hens
- UK: country of origin
- 12345: production site code
A production site code can be obtained by registering with The Animal and Plant Health Agency [egg marketing inspection (APHA EMI)].Back to top
Labelling accompanying eggs at retail level
There are some differences between the labelling required for packed and loose eggs sold at retail.
Both packed eggs and loose eggs sold from trays must be accompanied by the following information:
- quality grade (grade A for retail)
- weight grade
- farming method with number code (see above). These markings may be added to the production site code. The information, including the production site code, can be explained on a separate notice for clarification
- best-before date in the format 'Best before: day / month / year' (maximum 28 days from date of laying)
- the storage instruction 'Keep refrigerated after purchase'
- explanation of the code stamped on the eggs (as in the example above)
Packed eggs must be labelled with the above and the following:
- name of product ('eggs')
- number of eggs (unless this can be easily determined from outside the package)
- name and address of packer or seller
- packing centre code
Eggs can only be packed into boxes by a registered packing centre. Unmarked boxes may be provided for customers' convenience for sales of loose eggs.
Packed eggs of different sizes (not including 'extra' sized eggs) must be labelled with the above and the following:
- an indication of the sizes of eggs in the pack
- the declaration 'eggs of different sizes'
- an indication of the sizes of eggs in the pack
- minimum net weight of the eggs in that pack
For all types of packed eggs, the pack may also be labelled with the following information:
- the selling price
- the packing and/or laying date
- a trader name, advertising or statements designed to improve egg sales (providing the information is not misleading)
- information as to the origin of the eggs
- information as to how the hens were fed
'Best before' and 'sell by' dates
Eggs, whether loose or packed, must be marked with a best-before date. It is best practice to sell eggs within 21 days of laying.
There is no legal requirement to have a sell-by date on eggs but it may help you to ensure eggs are sold within the 21 days. Where no sell-by date is shown, it is best practice to remove eggs from sale seven days before their best-before date.Back to top
Weight grades of eggs
Only the following weight grades are permitted for eggs; no other terms may be used to describe the weights of eggs on retail sale:
- 'XL' or 'Very Large': 73 g upwards
- 'L' or 'Large': 63-73 g
- 'M' or 'Medium': 53-63 g
- 'S' or 'Small': below 53 g
The method of farming relating to the stamped code can be indicated using the wording below, where applicable. These descriptions also apply if you wish to voluntarily describe your eggs when selling from your premises or door-to-door:
- free-range eggs
- barn eggs
- eggs from caged birds
If the eggs have not been produced in accordance with the methods set out for free-range eggs or barn eggs, then they are automatically classed as eggs from caged hens.
All caged hens must be kept in 'enriched cages' and it is no longer permitted to keep hens in a 'conventional cage' system'. Please refer to the Code of Practice for the Welfare of Laying Hens and Pullets for more information.
Eggs described as 'free range' must be produced in poultry establishments in which the hens have:
- continuous daytime access to open-air runs
- access to ground mainly covered with vegetation
- at least four square metres of ground available per bird
In addition, there are requirements in relation to the hens' housing and fittings.
Barn eggs must be produced in a poultry establishment where the hens:
- are provided with at least 15 cm perch space per hen
- have floor space providing at least one square metre for every nine chickens
- comply with requirements relating to the hens' housing and fittings
If you need further advice about the other descriptions of methods of farming, or the hens' housing requirements, please contact APHA on 03000 200301 in England and 0300 303 8268 in Wales.Back to top
- eggs should be kept chilled to a temperature between 5 °C and 17 °C
- eggs should be kept out of direct sunlight and away from other goods that might flavour them, such as onions or washing powder
- stock must be rotated to ensure that it remains within the stated weight and quality grade
- visibly cracked eggs should not be sold
Extra / extra fresh
Packs may be labelled as 'extra' or 'extra fresh' until nine days after laying.Back to top
This is carried out by APHA. Further information relating to the above legislation, and advice on registering as a packer etc, can be found on the GOV.UK website.Back to top
Eggs sold directly to consumers
For the sale of eggs by the producer directly to the consumer - for example, from the farm gate - please see 'Egg producers selling directly to consumers'.Back to top
For more information on the work of trading standards services - and the possible consequences of not abiding by the law - please see 'Trading standards: powers, enforcement and penalties'.Back to top
Regulation (EC) No 589/2008 laying down detailed rules for implementing Regulation (EC) No 1234/2007 as regards marketing standards for eggs
Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011 on the provision of food information to consumers
Last reviewed / updated: July 2019