If you’re vegetarian, or thinking of going vegetarian, there’s always that great gray area in the vegetarian world. The elephant in the room.
Can vegetarians eat eggs?
You may have even had some crass individual ask you Can vegetarians eat eggs? if that particular vegetarian is pro-choice. Or can vegetarians eat eggs if the eggs for sure are never going to become a chicken anyway? Or is it ok to eat the white of the egg, since the yolk is more of what becomes a chicken?
It’s honestly even a bit of a philosophical gray area among vegetarians. That fact is, some eat eggs and some don’t.
The case for eating eggs
If you’re a pure vegetarian and eat eggs, you’d technically be considered a lacto-ovo vegetarian. It’s the classification for people who eat eggs and diary products, but no meat whatsoever, including fish.
The most common argument for eating eggs is that commercially farmed eggs will never even have a chance at becoming an animal. Most hens that lay eggs are kept away from roosters so those eggs are never even fertilized, placing it somewhere closer to the ethical levels of drinking milk or eating butter.
However, that doesn’t eliminate the chance completely that chicken eggs could be fertilized, especially on smaller scale farms where chickens are more free-range. Yet eggs are usually refrigerated as soon as possible, halting all development and returning the egg to a state where an animal was never going to born out of that egg anyway. In fact, there are even FDA regulations preventing the sale of eggs that contain a chicken embryo.
Eggs are even making their way into some vegan diets recently. It’s called “vegganism,” and it’s for people who just can’t give up their love of pure eggs. Many veggans have decided to make an exception if they’re sourcing their eggs from a farm that is known for taking care of its animals well.
The case against eating eggs
This is where you have to define your own feelings on the matter. Some vegetarians simply are not ok with an egg that might have even had the potential for fertilization, since there is no way to know whether an egg has been fertilized or not. Further, chilling a fertilized egg could be considered something akin to slaughtering an animal, depending on where your definition of life begins.
Many vegetarians also become so in order to divorce themselves from an industry that sees animals as disposable food machines. And harvesting eggs falls right into that category, as hens tend to be kept in cramped battery cages while they produce eggs.
Worse, hens are only highly productive for one to two years. After that, egg production drops radically and then those chickens may be sent off for slaughter. So while they’re not eating the meat directly, some vegetarians feels they’re helping contribute to that eventual slaughter.
So at the end of the day, it comes down to personal opinion. There appears to be a place for free-range eggs in several types of vegetarian and vegan diets, but some vegetarians prefer to keep it simple and cut any ties to an industry that profits from death.