A common question when starting a vegetarian or vegan diet is whether or not eggs are meat. Are eggs considered meat or are eggs considered dairy? Can you eat eggs if you're a vegetarian? Keep reading to learn more about eggs' nutritional information and how they compare to meat.
What is Meat? What is Dairy?
Before we get into the discussion about whether or not eggs are considered meat or dairy, let's first define what these categories mean.
In general, meat refers to food that comes from a living animal. It is high in protein and is usually made from the animal’s muscles, tendons, and other lean fibers.
Poultry is a subgroup of meat and is considered a lean protein from the specific food group. Not only is it high in protein, but it is low in carbs - just like the majority of meat. Poultry meat is not a good source of calcium, but you can use it to supplement iron, vitamins, and magnesium.
Dairy includes food items like cheese, milk, and yogurt. According to the USDA, the average adult should have about three cups of dairy products each day. All of the foods in this category are milk-based and are a great source of calcium in your diet.
Dairy foods can also have a wide variety of fat content, and the lactose or whey proteins that they contain can cause serious sensitivity issues for many individuals.
What are Eggs classified as?
So, now that you understand the difference between meat, poultry, and dairy, let's figure out how to classify eggs by process of elimination.
Even though you will often find eggs next to the milk in the grocery store, eggs are not considered dairy. Eggs do not have any components made from milk, which is why people who are lactose intolerant can still eat them! Similarly, they are not a good source of calcium.
Okay, so eggs are not dairy. Does this mean that eggs are meat? Not necessarily.
Like meat, eggs are a good source of protein and are not made up of much fiber. The key difference here is that eggs have never been alive. Most of the eggs that we eat come from chickens and have never been fertilized, meaning there is no animal inside the egg.
Essentially, they are made up of non-living materials. These nutrients would nourish a baby chicken if the egg was fertilized. They are more similar to an animal byproduct than an animal themselves - which is why sometimes they are compared to milk from a cow.
Since we can't call eggs meat, we also cannot consider them to be poultry. Poultry is a subgroup of meat, so eggs cannot fall into either category.
To make things more confusing, though, eggs have a quality of protein comparable to chicken. That means when it comes to nutrition, you can use them interchangeably.
The best way to describe eggs is a protein food group. They are not dairy or meat, which encourages some vegetarians to include them in their diets. However, eggs are animal byproducts, so vegans will not consume them.