eggs vegan
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Do Vegetarians Eat Eggs? Behind the Highly Debatable Answer

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Dec. 28 2020, Published 4:46 p.m. ET

Vegetarianism is a plant-based diet that typically excludes any and all meat sources — that means no chicken, pig, cow, turkey, or even fish. If it breathes and is not a plant, then typically, vegetarians don't eat it. Comparatively, vegans also do not eat any sources of meat, but unlike vegetarians, they also do not eat animal byproducts. Animal byproducts includes anything from milk, to cheese, honey, and eggs.

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So, do all vegetarians eat eggs? As with most things concerning diet and nutrition, the answer completely depends on the vegetarian. Diet is highly individualized; so even if you follow a plant-based diet, it might look vastly different from someone else’s who also says they are plant-based. So, with that in mind, let’s dive into whether or not eggs are considered to be vegetarian.

eggs vegetarian
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Do vegetarians eat eggs? Here's the scoop:

Eggs are certainly off the table for vegans, who stay away from both animals and animal byproducts, but the lines are slightly blurred for vegetarians. The “vegetarian” label generally refers to people who don't eat any type of meat, and since eggs are not considered animal flesh, they are technically classified as vegetarian. That being said, eggs do come from chickens, which makes it complicated, especially because “vegetarian” is no longer a catch-all term. Nowadays, it’s broken up into two segments.

If you want to get technical with labels, the “vegetarian” diet might technically exclude eggs. Because eggs are laid by a chicken and could technically turn into a baby chick, it’s often excluded from vegetarian diets. (Please note: there is a difference between eggs that have been laid for food and for the purpose of hatching; the eggs in your refrigerator will not hatch if you leave them in there long enough.) However, some vegetarians, called “ovo-vegetarians," do choose to eat eggs.

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“Ovo-vegetarian” is the technical term that encompasses vegetarians who do not eat meat flesh but still choose to eat eggs. Vegetarians generally still eat animal byproducts such as cheese, honey, and milk, though of course, it’s up to the vegetarian to make their own choices. Likewise, lacto-ovo vegetarians do not eat animal flesh but consume dairy and egg products, while lacto-vegetarians do not eat animal flesh or eggs, but consume dairy products such as milk and cheese.

are eggs vegetarian
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Where in the world are eggs considered meat?

In some parts of the world, eggs are considered a type of meat. In India, for example, many vegetarians refrain from eating eggs because eggs are specifically identified as meat in their religion. In Hinduism, eggs are considered meat. Likewiise, other Eastern cultures and religions also classify eggs as meat. 

Buddhism, for example, has a “do no harm principle” that is frequently interpreted as a vegetarian lifestyle. Many Buddhists are considered lacto-vegetarians, which denotes not eating meat, but allows dairy and animal byproducts. 

Diets are individualized and depend on the person. At the end of the day, a vegetarian can eat whatever they want, whether they identify as lacto-ovo vegetarian, ovo-vegetarian, lacto-vegetarian, or pescatarian.

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