Whether eggs are vegetarian or not is a common question that vegetarians are asked. While it seems like a simple question, with a simple yes or no answer, unfortunately eggs are a bit of a grey area with vegetarians as it is not simply as case of whether or not eggs are vegetarian, but whether eggs are allowed in the particular school of vegetarianism that you choose.
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Lacto-Ovo Vegetarianism is by far the most common form of vegetarianism. In Lacto-Ovo Vegetarianism, you are only not allowed to eat meat and fish. The Lacto is based on the latin “lac” which means milk and “ovo” is latin for egg. This means that Lacto-Ovo vegetarians can consume both eggs and dairy products.
Can Lacto-Ovo Vegetarians Eat Eggs?
As mentioned above, the word Lacto is based on the latin word for milk, so a lacto vegetarian will consume dairy products such as milk and cheese, but not eggs. Many people are lacto vegetarians due to the cruel conditions that egg-laying hens have to endure, which can include being kept in tiny changes where they can barely move. Some lacto vegetarians would argue that eating eggs is not vegetarian because male chicks are thrown into a grinder at birth as they are considered useless to the egg industry.
Can Lacto Vegetarians Eat Eggs
Ovo is the latin word for egg, so you can probably guess from the name “Ovo Vegetarian” that they are vegetarians who eat eggs, but shun milk. People can be Ovo vegetarians for a variety of reasons but the most common are:
Ethical reasons – The dairy industry can be cruel, with young calves being taken away from their mothers so that the mother can be milked.
Allergies – Many people are allergic or intolerant to dairy products.
Can Ovo Vegetarians Eat Eggs
Vegans are people who do not eat or use any animal products whatsoever. As eggs are an animal product, vegans will not eat eggs or anything containing egg.
Can Vegans Eat Eggs
Why might some vegetarians avoid eating eggs?
Cruelty in the egg industry
Many people imagine their eggs coming from chickens that run around freely on pasture and occasionally lay eggs, but unfortunately, unless you are raising chickens yourself or getting them from a neighbour, this is unlikely to be the case. Most eggs come from chickens that spend their short lives cramped in tiny cages where they do not even have enough room to turn around, all they can do is eat and lay eggs. Even free range eggs usually involve huge numbers of chickens crowded into barns, with only a very small amount of outdoor space that most of the chickens will not even be able to reach due to over-crowding.
Some religions that advocate vegetarianism, such as Hinduism believe that eggs are effectively the same as meat. So, if someone is a vegetarian for religious reasons, they may also avoid eating eggs.
While eggs are not necessarily unhealthy if eaten sparingly, people who are trying to follow a low fat diet may also decide to avoid eating eggs as eggs are high in fat, especially in the egg yolk. Eggs are also high in cholesterol so vegetarians who are trying to keep their cholesterol levels low may also decide to abstain from eggs.
How can I buy cruelty free eggs?
The best way to obtain cruelty free eggs is to raise chickens yourself, however this is not possible for everybody. The second best way is to get your eggs from a neighbour or a local farmer who will allow you to see the how the chickens are kept, so that you can see for yourself if they are kept in a way that you are comfortable with. Another option is to buy from small-scale producers at a local health food shop or farmers market, this will enable you to ask more questions about the conditions in which the chickens produce the eggs. If none of these are an option for you, buying organic eggs is an option, though this does not 100% guarantee that they are cruelty free.
I’m a vegetarian, should I eat eggs?
Whether, as a vegetarian, you should eat eggs or not is a very personal question and it depends entirely on your personal beliefs and your current health goals. If you are concerned about the conditions in which hens lay their eggs, and you do not have access to eggs from a cruelty free source such as your own chickens, a neighbour, or a local farm, you may wish to avoid eating eggs. Similarly, if you have health issues that require you to be on a low fat and/or a low cholesterol diet, you should also avoid eating eggs.