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How Do I Choose the Best Vegetarian Eggs?

By Eugene P.
Updated May 17, 2024
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Depending on the exact type of vegetarian diet being followed and possibly the reasons for adopting a vegetarian diet, several factors can help to determine the best vegetarian eggs, as well as which eggs are not suitable for some diets. One thing to look for in vegetarian eggs is the use of organic feed, sometimes also indicated by a statement on the packaging indicating that the eggs are vegetarian. The color and size of the eggs generally do not affect the quality or taste of the eggs, although the age of the eggs will, so fresh eggs are better. Free-range or cage-free eggs might not be vegetarian, because the chickens would have access to any food that is outdoors and could eat an insect. The best vegetarian eggs will feel heavy in the hand, have no off odor and feel firm when shaken.

Finding the best vegetarian eggs involves ensuring that the eggs conform to whatever definition is used by the diet being followed. Eggs that are from free-range chickens or chickens that have regular access to the outdoors might not be vegetarian, because the chickens will have a chance to eat things such as insects. Fresh, locally grown farm-fresh eggs also might not be vegetarian because, without a controlled environment, the eggs the hens lay could be fertilized if there are roosters on the farm; a fertilized egg technically is a developing chicken, meaning it is no longer vegetarian. If the chickens laying the eggs are not specifically fed a diet of organic feed, then the eggs most likely are not vegetarian, because most animal feed contains some type of animal byproduct.

On the shelves of a grocery, vegetarian eggs are sometimes clearly marked as being vegetarian, although what exactly that entails could be misleading, especially if the chickens are free-range or raised outdoors. Some eggs are marked as having increased omega-3 fatty acids and, in most cases, this process does not affect whether the eggs are vegetarian, because the additional nutritional values are achieved by feeding the hens flax seeds. It also is important to note that the grade of the egg, such as A or AA, and the color, do not affect its taste or vegetarian status.

When choosing the best vegetarian eggs from a grocery store, one should look for eggs that are being properly refrigerated to ensure they are safe to eat. The packaging around the eggs also should be in good shape and allow air to flow around the outside of the eggs without exposing too much of their surface. Checking the date on the packaging is a good way help determine which vegetarian eggs are the best, because fresher eggs tend to taste better than older eggs in most recipes.

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Discussion Comments
By pleonasm — On May 10, 2014

@irontoenail - People should do what they want, but I really think that some folk who claim to be concerned about animal welfare need to look at what they are eating and really think about where it comes from.

Eggs are a good example, because it's not just a matter of preventing the chickens from eating insects or meat products and then you've got an ethical egg. Chickens produce a lot of waste and guano is difficult to break down quickly to use as fertilizer. So eggs produce a lot of pollution.

You have the same problem with almost any kind of food that isn't produced locally, or in small quantities. There can be exploitation of workers, pollution that ends up hurting the environment, gross animal cruelty, and so forth.

It's not just a matter of going vegan or becoming vegetarian. If you are truly trying to be ethical in your consumption, you have to look at the bigger picture.

By irontoenail — On May 10, 2014

@bythewell - Some people really want to ensure that no deaths were part of their food though. Like those monks who would carefully move worms out of the way of their garden tools so that they wouldn't accidentally hurt one of them.

I'm sure there are ways of keeping hens in a clean, safe place without providing them with insects.

Although I'm not sure if there are many retailers who would check that distinction. Becoming vegetarian can be difficult when you discover how many different products are made with animal parts. I'd never really thought about eggs as needing to be labeled as vegetarian. But then, even wine needs that kind of labeling, so I guess it's not surprising.

By bythewell — On May 09, 2014

I guess it really depends on what you think of as vegetarian. To me, eggs are naturally vegetarian, because they have no meat additives, with a possible exception being eggs from hens that were raised on meat products (which is a possibility).

I would prefer that the hens were able to eat insects, because that's a natural process and impossible to prevent without keeping the hens in cages (which goes against my ethics much more strongly).

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