Have you ever replaced a broken egg at the grocery store? Well, unfortunately, in Kentucky anyway, you broke the law. But a new bill awaiting Gov. Steve Beshear’s signature aims to allow grocers to do the mixing and matching for you.
In February, at a Paducah Chamber of Commerce legislative briefing, Graves County Rep. Richard Heath seemed a bit disappointed about the progress of the 2014 General Assembly.
“It just seems like we’re halfway through and we haven’t accomplished much," Heath said.
Heath extolled Representative Will Coursey’s efforts to make Benton’s annual Tater Day festival an officially-designated Department of Agriculture event, as well as making the fourth Saturday in July “Cowboy Day” in the commonwealth.
But the bell cow of the Agriculture Committee's 2014 session seems to be House Bill 181, or as co-signer Heath called it – “the all-important egg bill.”
The audience and Heath, himself, laughed as he explained the bill’s purpose. Currently, it’s illegal for the customer or grocer to replace broken eggs that they find in-store. In the event of a bad egg, the grocery store is supposed to sell the carton with 11 eggs or send it to the store’s bakery or deli.
Heath says HB 181 will let the grocery train an employee to undertake the good work of egg re-purposing.
“They have to make sure that the egg they put in place of that broken one comes from the same lot number, has the same expiration date and is the same size – you know, large, medium or small, so the customer is not getting ripped off," Heath said.
But what was the necessity behind the bill? Are groceries hemorrhaging money? Are people being prosecuted left and right for plucking a single egg out of its carton?
Tom Litzler, an egg lobbyist who has served on the Kentucky Egg Marketing Board for almost a decade, says he doesn't know of anyone that has been prosecuted for egg-related chicanery, but the status quo has created pricing problems and a waste of product.
“I can assure we have more eggs available this way than we have use for in our delis, and there are a lot of retailers that don’t even have delis," Litzler said. "So it has put Kentucky retailers that sell eggs into a situation where they’ve had to throw good eggs away.”
Murray State University student Jordan Dodd, 22, has worked for the Food Giant grocery in Eddyville for five years. He said he stocks eggs regularly and that it’s not uncommon for the deli to be given more eggs than they need.
“Out of 20 cartons, I’d say that more than half would be, you’d probably find a broken egg, due to, like, rough handling," Dodd said.
Dodd said in his time at Food Giant he has also seen entire cartons that were cracked or broken.
Litzler said that cracked eggs are largely the result of curious shoppers, not the distributors.
“People want to open up that carton and make sure all those eggs are good in it," Litzler said. "When they do that, there’s sometime the danger of dropping a carton or sticking a finger into an egg. Something like that.”
Taking care not to stick any fingers into eggs, an informal, extremely un-scientific survey of cartons at a Murray grocery revealed more than half of cartons had at least one broken egg in them. If and when Gov. Beshear signs the bill into law, grocery store managers will be able to apply for certification so they can begin to correct this problem themselves.
Now… what was that about Cowboy Day?