Is eating eggs natural and ethical? We’re looking at all the types of foods that humans eat, to work out whether or not it’s natural (are we designed to eat them) and, because we are conscious of right and wrong, whether it’s ethical.
Eggs are used in so many different meals and recipes, it’s hard to imagine not eating them. Scrambled, boiled, fried, poached, omelette, eggs Benedict, eggs Florentine, frittata, tortilla, eggs in pancakes, crumpets, cakes, sauces, desserts, puddings, fritters, quiche, kedgeree, fried rice, pasta, mayonnaise, custard, eggnog, icecream, meringue, meatloaf, scones, croissants, bread and rolls.
Eggs must be one of the most versatile foods as well as being high in protein. So, is eating eggs a good thing?
Is it natural?
Can we (human primates, equipped only with our bodies and natural items such as rocks, sticks, soil, fire, etc) gather, prepare and eat eggs? In the wild, eggs are found in bird’s nests. So, providing the human primate can climb up to nests in trees, or on cliffs, or find carefully-hidden nests on the ground, this is easy to do.
Eggs can be eaten raw, though in this primitive scenario, they could be cooked on a hot clean rock, or inside an orange skin (as the Boy Scouts do) or left in the ashes of a fire to harden.
Also, many animals, including monkeys, chimpanzees and baboons, eat eggs. Some birds eat eggs. Snakes and lizards, foxes, dogs, wolves, mice and rats, hedgehogs, squirrels, mink and stoats all eat eggs, if they can get them. An interesting observation is that the largest and most powerful primate, the gorilla, does not eat meat or eggs.
The conclusion is that eating eggs is natural.
Is it ethical?
a) Has it suffered the least harm?
Providing the mother bird has not started sitting on the eggs to incubate them or, if she has been sitting for fewer than two days, the chick embryo heart has not started beating. One could assume, then, that the embryo would not feel pain, and technically, there is no life to lose. But, from day three of incubation, the heart starts beating.
Here is a beautiful illustration by Caitlin Johnston, that shows the embryonic cycle:
Another consideration is, of course, the potential impact on the bird species. Should nests be robbed at an unsustainable rate, this would be unethical. Most often, birds lay only two to three eggs at a time, most often only once a year. This is to counteract the natural losses that can be expected in the nest. So, providing the human primate’s gathering of eggs equals what would normally happen in the wild, this should not upset the balance.
Obviously, if eggs aren’t fertilized, the above issues don’t count, and the eggs would not be conscious of pain or loss of life. But, this is unlikely to happen in the wild, although it is standard in the modern world. About 30 million unfertilized eggs are eaten daily in the UK, alone.
However, the bigger issue here is the welfare of the laying hens. There has been a lot of fuss over caged hens vs free range hens, due to the utter cruelty that laying hens suffer during their brief span of productive life – brief only due to the intensely unnatural conditions and the burden of production laid on them.
Here is a video showing how these creatures suffer to produce eggs for humans:
And, here is an even more disturbing side of what these creatures suffer in commercial enterprises, in order that the world is supplied with eggs. Warning: disturbing
b) Has it had the best life possible?
Only if the bird has been living a completely natural life would you be able to say yes to this. Although it’s eggs we are talking about here, the source of the food is our concern and, as can be seen in the above video, billions of hens suffer to produce eggs for humans.
c) Is this food good for us?
Eggs are full of protein, fats, vitamins, minerals and trace elements which are there to furnish the embryo with all it needs to grow in the record time of only three weeks. There is controversy about cholesterol, which is something you need to decide for yourself. However, on the whole, eggs seem to be good food.
Final verdict – my opinion:
Eggs are natural, healthy food for humans.
Eggs can also squeeze past our ethical issues should they be sourced from the wild before incubation, or sourced from ethical domestic operations where they are unfertilized and the birds living a life that could be compared favourably to a wild and natural life.
They are unethical if they are sourced from caged hen operations, or some so-called barn-egg farms or even some organic egg farms. One would have to either keep one’s own hens in as wild a condition as possible, or visit the site to be sure of its ethical standards, or gather eggs in the wild in a sustainable and ethical way, to avoid violating the ethical issues mentioned in this post.
So, eggs are borderline.
What do you think?
Next post: honey