Eggs are almost always in your kitchen, in one way or another. It’s something you rarely think of, but you notice when they’re missing. They’re such an essential part of everyday life, in so many recipes, that it’s almost like missing meat or bread. So every time you pick up a carton of fresh eggs, you head to the dairy section of the supermarket without ever questioning why they’re there.
Why are eggs in the dairy section ? Are they actually dairy ? Are they meat ? The truth is actually a bit different, and there are a few good reasons why you almost always find eggs in the dairy section.
Why are eggs in the dairy section ?
Eggs are usually placed in the dairy section due to a mix of tradition, eggs needing to be kept cold, a much lower risk of cross-contamination, and a vague similarity between eggs and dairy in terms of packaging.
Despite being associated with dairy eggs contain absolutely no lactose. This means they won’t trigger an allergic reaction in those with lactose intolerance. You may be thinking of some packaging that has a label stating ‘the product may contain traces of eggs and dairy’ because they are often processed within the same plant. It’s also a very vague label that can be applied even if the only traces are dairy.
Now let’s take a closer look at why eggs are found in the dairy section.
1. Eggs and dairy used to be delivered together
The first and possibly most reasonable point is that back when eggs were first found outside of farms, they were delivered alongside milk and butter. Remember the old milkman job ? When more and more people left farms and settled in cities and suburbs, they didn’t have any quick access to eggs or dairy.
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So the milkman would bring as much milk as each household wanted, along with as many eggs as they needed. People started to associate eggs with milk, and as time went on stores started keeping them together.
If you’re wondering why the eggs weren’t sold at butcher shops, they were. But butcher shops usually had meat from larger animals, not just chicken. So only the butcher shops specializing in domestic birds like duck, geese, turkey, and chicken would carry eggs as well.
2. Eggs need to be kept cold, like dairy
In America eggs need to be washed before they’re sold, to prevent the spread of Salmonella. But once they’re washed, the protective barrier on the shells is lost (it’s a thin, shiny film) and Salmonella can easily contaminate the outside of the eggs. Then when you crack the eggs, it can get into the egg white and yolk.
So the eggs need to be kept at a cold temperature, to prevent Salmonella, at least in America.
Each country has its own rules regarding this. Some don’t wash the eggs, relying instead on the protective barrier found on the shells. They don’t need refrigeration because of this. The debate is still ongoing on whether the eggs need to be washed or not.
But to answer your question, in America at least, eggs are meant to be kept cold. This means they need to be kept in an open fridge, just like dairy.
3. Cross-contamination is much lower
You may be wondering why the eggs are kept with dairy if meat is also kept in a fridge. It’s mostly to do with cross contamination. If the meat package ever were to break, and spill onto the egg cartons, the leftover blood and meat juices can easily contaminate the eggs.
4. Both eggs and dairy are fragile, need to be handled with care
Another reason is that, despite eggs being kept in cartons, they can easily break. In a meat fridge the packages are always moved around, often without much care. So it’s safer to keep the eggs with dairy, which is often packaged in a way that can easily break. Or rather the containers have a high degree of moisture inside, so everything must be handled carefully.
Placing the eggs there make sense, because both the workers and shoppers will be careful when handling the eggs cartons.
Are eggs dairy ?
No, despite being placed next to dairy products eggs are not dairy. Often the egg section has a transparent panel separating the rest of the fridge from the dairy like milk and cheese and yogurt.
Eggs contain no lactose, so they are not dairy.
Are eggs meat ?
No, eggs are not meat as they are not fertilized, and do not contain meat fibers. The eggs sold for human consumption are unfertilized eggs. This means that they have the nutrition necessary for a young chicken to grow, but the hen has not been fertilized by a rooster.
If you’re wondering, hens lay eggs even if unfertilized, simply because their instincts tell them to lay eggs, up until they get a 12 eggs clutch. This means that in nature, the hen would produce an egg but not lay it, be fertilized by a rooster, and then lay said fertilized egg. All this until the laid about 12 eggs in a clutch, then she would proceed to hatch the eggs.
Nowadays the hens are kept away from the roosters, but they still have this urge to lay eggs. Even if they weren’t fertilized, they will still form and must be laid. SO each time an egg is laid, it is collected and the hen notices it needs to lay another egg.
Unless the roosters are let into the hen enclosure, the eggs will never be fertilized, so they cannot grow into chickens. So, they are not considered meat, despite having a lot of protein.
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Are eggs vegetarian ?
Yes, eggs are considered vegetarian as they don’t require the hen to be slaughtered, nor are they fertilized so you are not sacrificing a baby chicken when cracking an egg.
And that’s pretty much it about why eggs are in the dairy section. They’re not meat, they’re not dairy, but they still need to keep somewhere safe and cold. The dairy fridge seems like the best option. Even fit there where a separate section for eggs, it would be small compared to the other sections. So it would still be somewhere in the fridge section.