What is an Ovo-Vegetarian?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

An ovo-vegetarian in the strictest sense is a person who does not eat meat, fish, or dairy products. The diet of this type of vegetarian would generally consist of grains, legumes, fruit and vegetables, and eggs. Sometimes people confuse ovo-vegetarian with lacto-ovo vegetarian. The latter type of person also consumes dairy products, making him different from someone who only eats eggs in addition to standard vegetarian items.

Ovo-vegetarians can eat eggs.
Ovo-vegetarians can eat eggs.

Some people find ovo-vegetarianism more attractive and in general kinder to animals. Many feel that the conditions of animals raised as dairy animals are not kind, and that especially large dairies do a number of things to animals that represent cruelty. These include practices like making sure that cows are pregnant regularly so that their milk production level remains high. Given the resources, an ovo-vegetarian could raise cows or goats and only collect milk from the animals after their naturally occurring pregnancies, thus avoiding cruelty, but not everyone has these resources.

Ovo-vegetarians choose not to consume any dairy products because they believe the treatment of dairy animals to be inhumane.
Ovo-vegetarians choose not to consume any dairy products because they believe the treatment of dairy animals to be inhumane.

Alternately, the ovo-vegetarian might not object to dairy practices, but could have lactose intolerance or dairy allergy that prevents consumption of milk or milk byproducts. They might willingly eat these otherwise, but simply cannot. They thus simply remove the lacto aspect of lacto-ovo vegetarianism, and restrict meat byproduct consumption to eggs.

A number of vegetarians believe they do not get enough nutrients from even a well-planned diet, and certain vitamins like the B vitamins and minerals like iron are hard to get without consumption of some meat byproduct. Eggs, especially because the circumstances under which these animals can be raised can be controlled. These provide good vitamins and they can significantly vary the diet, offering a number of options unavailable when eggs are not used. There are books and websites designated to ovo-vegetarian recipes that can help people get started.

There has been expressed concern that the ovo-vegetarian may have a diet too high in cholesterol. This is usually not a great concern if the vegetarian eats a varied diet and exercises portion control on any foods that contain eggs. Since few cholesterol sources are being consumed, like red meat, cholesterol levels can usually stay fairly low.

The danger of a high cholesterol diet may come for vegetarians who don’t prefer vegetables. If a large part of the diet includes eggs, then cholesterol levels could jump to an undesirable range. A diet that is mostly vegetarian with a few eggs thrown in each week is unlikely to have this result.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments


I recently went from lacto-ovo to just ovo vegetarianism. This is partly for health reasons, including the fact that my doctor said dairy could be triggering my eczema, but also because I have never agreed with the dairy industry. I'm on a tight student budget so it would be difficult to cut out eggs so that is my reason behind not becoming a full vegan.


I am a pesco ovo vegetarian. That mean that I eat fish and eggs but not milk or any other kinds of meat.

I tried being a full vegetarian but I found that my body could not handle the lack of protein. I got sick a lot and never felt fully satisfied by the choice that I had made. I think it was mostly dragging me down.

So I decided to start eating fish and things got a lot better. I am lactose intolerant so I have always avoided dairy. Now between the fish and eggs I get all the protein I need. I feel happy and healthy and I am glad that I can participate in a diet that it is good for the earth.


Eating eggs is a great way for people who do not eat meat or diary to supplement their protein intake every day. Eggs have a lot of cholesterol, but they have a lot of positive benefits and when eaten in moderation they can be a fantastic compliment to the ethical eater's diet.

But for people who care about animal rights it is important to buy eggs that come from organically raised chickens who are allowed to graze free range. Most factory produced eggs come from chickens who are fed hormones and medications all day, stuffed into tiny cages where they live miserable lives before dying violent deaths. If you are going to eat eggs you have to be responsible about it.


I have been an ovo vegetarian for about two years now. For the longest time before this I ate a strict vegan diet. I did not eat any animal products of any kind. But a good friend of mine was moving away and she had five backyard chickens that she was trying to give to a good home.

I fell in love with the chickens and agreed to take them in. Well, as you might expect, they began to lay eggs. There was more eggs than I knew what to do with an eventually they started to go bad. I decided that since the eggs were produced organically and sustainably in my own backyard that I could eat them without compromising my principles.

Now I eat eggs almost every day. But I only eat my own eggs and not any other animal products. Some people might call me a hypocrite but a person's diet is a complicated and very personal thing and I think what I am doing is right.

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