There has been debates all through the years about whether consumption of an egg is appropriate for a vegetarian diet. Some of the confusion derives from ones own definition of meat and the state of the egg itself. One of the definitions of a vegetarian reads: a person who does not eat or does not believe in eating meat, fish, fowl, or, in some cases, any food derived from animals, as eggs or cheese, but subsists on vegetables, fruits, nuts, grain, etc.
There are different degrees of vegetarianism which may be what causes confusion with caterers and the general public. The four most common forms of vegetarianism are:
Lacto-ovo-vegetarian. Eats both dairy products and eggs. This is the most common type of vegetarian diet.
Lacto-vegetarian. Eats dairy products but not eggs.
Ovo-vegetarian. Eats eggs but not dairy products.
Vegan. Does not eat dairy products, eggs, or any other animal product.
So, can consumers eat eggs and still be considered vegetarians? Yes. Lacto-ovo or ovo-vegetarians, but still vegetarian.
Meat is the flesh of an animal. Dairy constitutes the milk and products derived from milk of an animal. Eggs are closer to dairy in the sense that they are produced from an animal like milk, but don’t contain flesh, hence not meat. On the other hand, as food source, its nutritional value is closer to meat in the sense of marconutrients: protein, fat and nutrient content which is why it is paired with meat on the food pyramid. Although eggs have the potential to contain meat, that requires fertilization. Not all eggs are fertilized. A hen can lay eggs with or without the presence of a rooster.
Can a person going on a “meat-free” diet eat eggs? Yes.
Eggs are eggs. They are often included in a vegetarian diet because they are a by-product from birds, most commonly chickens. They are an excellent source of protein and offer a fine substitution for humans who choose not to eat meat. It is true, they are still an animal product, and for those who choose to eat a diet free of all animal products (a vegan diet), eggs are not acceptable.
It is still widely debatable due to the interpretation of the definition of diary, meat, veganism, and vegetarianism. Various definition sources have even changed over the years to accommodate for various points of views on subjects such as these.
What do you think?