A lady came to my house for some eggs. She said, “I’m a vegetarian. I need vegetarian eggs. Are these vegetarian eggs?”
I said: “Well, hmmm….maybe yes….and maybe no.”
· Vegetarians do not eat animal flesh. The eggs in question are not fertilized. We do not have a rooster in with our flock. These eggs will never develop into a living animal.
· We feed our chickens organic feed that contains no animal by-products.
· Treats that come to our chickens from the house are for the most part organically grown vegetables and fruits–apples, greens, grapes, etc. or whole grains and pasta.
Maybe no because:
· Chickens are NOT vegetarians. They are omnivores.
· Our chickens do not technically “free-range”, although they have daily access to a large fenced yard, as do various flying insects and crawly bugs. Our ladies will chase down a grasshopper and devour it.
· At any time, we may have two or three hens in a screened summerhouse—on the lawn, in a field or on a garden bed. While scratching and digging, a chicken often finds a juicy grub or some other non-vegetarian item. They don’t cast it aside, and I don’t make them spit it out.
· Healthy chickens need protein in their diet. The feed they receive contains plant proteins, but there are times – like right now, when the flock is molting and needs extra protein for feather replacement—that we add mealworms to their diet. Dead or alive, mealworms are non-vegetarian snacks.
So. It depends on your interpretation of “vegetarian”.
If you feel that unfertilized eggs are vegetarian, then that’s what we have.
If you believe that eggs coming from a chicken with access to the outside world—eating what a chicken eats naturally—means that the eggs are NOT vegetarian, well, then that’s also what we have.
The only thing I can tell you for sure is that if you are buying eggs in the store that are marked as coming from vegetarian hens – you are buying factory farm eggs or the label is misleading.
How would YOU have answered?
I can not even begin to understand why in the world you would withhold feed with animal byproducts in it for chickens that produce eggs. If I were you, I’d stick with hatchery birds. You couldn’t handle raising Heritage breeds. They need a ton of protein to survive and non-vegetarian feed is the only way they’ll live through a month.
What you say isn’t true – eg English game hens do fine with vegetarian feed. I am not vegetarian, but I understand the reasoning of many of those who are. Many of them are healthier than average, regardless of their reasoning, so more power to them. If you have heart disease, high blood pressure or cancer in your family, vegetarianism is worth serious consideration.
Yesterday one of my hens was running through the yard with the rest chasing after her…She had caught a mouse and didn’t want to share, apparently. If it moves, it is going to get eaten…no matter what it is.
I used to be vegan and I don’t think it’s a funny question. People have different values and different wants. My flock is free range, so they do eat bugs. But my own preference is to feed them more expensive feeds without animal by-products. That’s my choice. I don’t want to feed them animals. I prefer they eat a plant based diet. I give them black oil sunflower seeds for added protein. Moral of the story, do what YOU want to do with YOUR flock. Isn’t that one of the reasons you got chickens in the first place?
Any one who deprives their chickens of their natural diet, which includes bugs, grubs, and any other animal protein they can get their beaks into, is guilty of animal abuse. If some one doesn’t want to eat eggs, then they shouldn’t eat eggs, but lets not deceive ourselves, chickens are not vegetarians . Sorry if I sound harsh but come on people.
Do you think a farmer who raises veal calves is guilty of animal abuse? The law does not think so. Opinions naturally vary. I feed my dog dogfood, which certainly is not a natural diet, whether it be vegetarian dogfod or not. I am not guilty of animal abuse. The world is complex and so is the English language.
I’m not a vegetarian, and I don’t consider eggs a vegetable..
i’ve seen my chickens chasing each other when one has a juicy frog or pinkie (baby mouse). i know my girls aren’t vegetarian but they are happy, healthy, spoiled little birds that give me delicious eggs. and we are mostly vegetarian (but i do agree that eggs are a meat product).
Vegetarians sometimes commit to no meat except seafood, but that’s where it ends. Vegans on the other hand, will forego any animal product whether eggs, milk, cheese, honey, etc. If it came from something that had a face, or a mom & dad, vegans won’t eat it or wear it in the case of leather. Vegans are vegetarians but not all vegetarians are vegan.
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If I understand correctly, the root word of “vegetarian” is “vegetation”, there is *no way* for an egg to be made vegetarian.
It’s just not possible 🙂
In the spirit of answering the question she meant to ask rather than the question she actually asked, though, I too would have probably just spelled out the conditions of my product and let the buyer decide. Pointing out a customer’s silliness is a fruitless task.
If someone is asking for vegetarian eggs, then it is my belief that they are just “band-wagoners” and have no *real* convictions.
That can frequently easily be solved by a polite succession of “If you don’t mind me asking, I’m curious why … ” questions.
Free choice is a powerful tool that is all too often taken for granted.
Since the chicken and the egg themselves are clearly animal matter, an egg can’t be “vegetarian” in the strictest sense of the word! But people can choose whatever diet they like and vegetarians are all over the map as to what they will or won’t eat and why they have adopted their stance.
Pefect answer! Let her decide — especially if she’d like a totally caged bird to justify “vegetarian.” I was at a local health food store looking at the high price of organic chicken meat and the employee said, well, these naturally raised chickens are organic but they are guaranteed vegetarian. And, thinking like you, I just looked at him — even in a factory farm, how would you exclude the bugs or keep the chickens from eating them?!
I think you gave a great response to her inquiry, but – for my own purposes – I really do believe chickens and their eggs are a meat product. I feel situations on “users” perspectives come up like this all the time, but I think if we take a moment to analyze the lifecycle of our food, we would be able to find the true answers to whether an item is a meat product, or a dairy product, etc. In my opinion, calling chicken eggs “vegetarian” (even if they are not fed meat bi/products) is like calling them “dairy” because they are next to the milk and butter in the grocery store.
Great post, and your last line was a great kicker – I think this is something that brings up the importance of understanding the marketing behind labeling.
Thank you for sharing!
I would lay out the facts like you did and let the buyer decide. I, personally, would not consider that the mother eating bugs to contradict “vegetarianism”.
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I laughed my way through your post! I have been thinking about this for a long time, and you expressed it perfectly.
A good post to ponder. Chickens aren’t vegetarian and to ensure the eggs could be labelled vegetarian, they would have to be kept in a most unnatural state. I just wrote a quick post about this in regards to yours.
Take their money and send them on their way. People with any sense don’t ask questions like that.
If they are that worried about it, let them eat oats for breakfast
Some people who self-identify as vegetarian eat fish. Some people who self-identify as vegan use bee products. Its all so personal–based on personal standards. So, I think you answered right by spelling out the potential no-nos and letting the individual vegetarian decide.