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No, eggs are not vegan. Vegans do not consume any animal products or byproducts, including dairy and eggs.
While manufacturers attempt to give consumers the impression that chickens are well cared for, this is not always the case.
Labels such as free-range create an illusion that the chickens are allowed to do whatever they like, but this is not the case.
Or keep learning more about eggs…
Trigger Warning: discussion of animal cruelty
One of the biggest injustices about the egg industry is the treatment of the baby male chicks. About half of all chicks born are male, and these have no use to the egg industry.
They have not been selectively bred to grow as large as females, or as large as chickens bred for meat. Additionally, they cannot lay eggs due to their biological sex.
This means that keeping them alive is an unnecessary expense for the egg industry. The chicks are thrown into boxes and suffocated, or sent through something known as an instant mechanical destruction (IMD) device.
This is a machine that macerates the male chicks through the process of squashing them between moving rollers or mincing them using sharp, rotating blades. Many companies try to excuse this by saying the chick mince is not a waste product.
It is often sent to pet food companies to form a base ingredient in many commercial pet foods.
Hens and laying
The female chicks have a longer lifespan than the males, but this is not necessarily a good thing for them. They are often crammed into small cages and very densely packed.
Despite legislation dictating minimum requirements for living space, laying hens are not afforded much.
Female hens also commonly have their beaks trimmed with an infrared laser when they are younger than 10 days old. This is not done out of care and consideration for the comfort of the animals, but instead to make the farmers’ lives easier.
The hens can become irritable and stressed from living in such close and uncomfortable conditions. This can lead to them pecking at one another which could cause serious injury. This in turn could lead to infections spreading among the chicken population. This could potentially be very costly for the farmers.
Egg production and life expectancy
Chickens that are cared for correctly have been known to live as long as 16 years. The oldest chicken recorded was called Matilda and even made a TV appearance on the Jay Leno Show!
In the wild, hens would lay eggs at the rate of about one a month, much like regular human periods. Over time, and due to selective breeding, laying hens now lay around 300 eggs each per year.
Naturally, they would have a laying period of about 7 years of their lives. Due to the intense stress, their bodies are forced under because of this massive increase in egg production, many laying hens’ bodies burn out after a mere 72 weeks.
Their egg production has not halted completely by this point, but it will have drastically reduced. This means that it becomes more cost-effective for the farmer to raise new laying hens and dispose of the old.
The old hens are either sent straight to slaughter or sent to a farm to be raised for meat.
Illness in the chicken population
Every time a chicken lays an egg they excrete roughly 10% of their body’s natural calcium stores. In the wild, they would consume the shell of the egg to upkeep their natural calcium levels.
As this cannot happen when the eggs are removed, the laying hens quickly become calcium deficient. This then leads to the development of osteoporosis, a brittle bone disease.
May old laying hens will also suffer from a disease known as ascites or water belly. This can be a natural result of the aging process, but can also be caused by a reproductive system tumor. This is an incurable disease and will eventually cause the death of the hen.
Many vegans will have been asked if they would consume eggs from their own, or a friend’s, chicken. This is a matter that is decided at each individual’s discretion.
Many are likely to say they would not consume these eggs wither. This is due in part to the nutritional benefits the chickens feel from eating the eggshells. Chickens also lay eggs to keep replacing ones that are taken from them.
For this reason, many chicken owning vegans are likely to leave the eggs with their hens. This will reduce the level of stress the chickens are under and make for happier animals.
A lot of chickens are also purchased from breeders. By giving these people money, many vegans will see this as a way of contributing and supporting their exploitation.
However, some vegans (now more commonly known as veggans) will eat eggs. This is because they are a nutrient-dense food source and some people prefer this to planning out their meals more carefully.
What are some vegan egg substitutes?
There are many commercially available egg replacements on the market in 2021 that serve to closely replicate the taste, appearance, and texture of real eggs.
These often come in a powdered form and need to be combined with water before use. They can be used to create omelets, bake cakes, and more! The exact quantities of liquid and egg replacement will be stated on the packaging.
Some vegans like to eat a dish known as tofu scramble instead of scrambled egg. Many add a substance known as Kala namak or black salt. This is said to give the tofu that eggy taste.
Aquafaba is another great egg substitute. If you don’t know what this is, it is the drained liquid from a can of unsalted chickpeas. The proteins that have escaped from the chickpeas give the aquafaba a similar structure to egg whites.
This works amazingly well in a vegan meringue recipe, or for making marshmallows. 2 tablespoons of aquafaba should be used to replace 1 egg white, and 3 tablespoons should be used to replace 1 whole egg.