Some New Brunswick egg farmers say red tape is preventing them from delivering their products to consumers after a Department of Health crackdown on ungraded eggs last week.
Provincial health inspectors ordered a Fredericton shop that specializes in local food to stop selling eggs supplied by small-scale local farms because they have not been inspected and graded.
Real Food Connections has been running a farm-share program, getting eggs from small local farms into the hands of eager consumers.
According to provincial regulations, farms with fewer than 200 hens can sell directly to customers or at farmers' markets, but don't qualify for the commercial inspection program.
Eggs that are not graded can be sold at a farmer's market and direct from farms to customers, but not on store shelves.
'We want to be able to still supply our customers ... with quality eggs from cage-free hens.' —Lora Carter, farmer
Lora Carter, a farmer who owns Hilltop Pork Products in Tracey Mills, near Centreville, said Real Food Connections helped her reach nearly 500 customers a month.
She said it was a Real Food Connections customer who reported the eggs to the health board.
"It's becoming an issue of not that we want to buck any rules with the public health department, we do not, we are supportive of them. But we want to be able to still supply our customers ... with quality eggs from cage-free hens," she said.
Carter said if Real Food Connections had a farmer's market section they could still carry her eggs.
Since Carter's flock is under 200 hens her eggs are not commercially inspected.
"We're hoping that the laws and barriers that are preventing us from connecting with our customers in Fredericton can be re-looked at," she said.
May be time for review
David Coburn runs an egg farm in Keswick Ridge and is a director on the board of New Brunswick Egg Producers.
He said it's responsible for eggs to be graded before they can be sold in stores.
"I can tell you that this is an ungraded egg, OK. It has not been inspected. And that's a conversation between me, the producer, and you, the purchaser.
"If you go out third party, there's no chain of command on that. And that's a provision I believe they put in to allow for the small producers back when the act was first put in place," he said.
Coburn said it might be time to review the Natural Products Act, which has been in place for 40 or 50 years.