Are eggs dairy? The answer isn’t totally clear to everyone

·2 min read

Here’s a question you can ask your friends to spark a heated debate: Are eggs dairy? While it might seem obvious, considering the fact that dairy mostly comes from cows and cows do not lay eggs, you’d be surprised by how many people are confused on this issue. So, here’s the short answer: No, eggs are not a dairy product.

What is dairy?

According to the USDA, dairy consists of “all fluid milk products and foods made from milk.” Furthermore, they declare that “dairy products include fluid beverage milk, cheese, butter, ice cream, yogurt, dry milk products, condensed milk, and whey products.”

See? No eggs!

Another way to look at it, according to Delish, is that milk comes from mammals like cows, sheep and goats, and mammals have mammary glands. However, eggs come from chickens, which are birds, not mammals.

If eggs aren’t dairy, then what are they?

The USDA categorizes eggs as an animal product and puts them in the protein foods group.

In fact, they say that “all foods made from meat, poultry, seafood, beans and peas, eggs, processed soy products, nuts, and seeds are considered part of the protein foods group.”

For reference, there’s about 6 grams of protein in one large egg.

Doesn’t milk have protein, though?

Yes, milk technically contains protein, but it also contains lactose and high amounts of calcium, making it different from all the other proteins. Milk is milk, and milk is dairy.

Why do some people think eggs are dairy?

If you thought eggs were part of the dairy food group, you’re not alone. First of all, growing up, you probably saw eggs and dairy on the same line of the food pyramid. Luckily, today, the USDA has swapped the pyramid for a plate with easier guidelines (you can check it out here if you’re curious).

Also, milk, cheese, butter and eggs are often all sold next to each other in the grocery store, many times in what is deemed the dairy section.

And lastly, here’s where it gets complicated—vegans. If you have a friend who is vegan, they probably have told you they are dairy-free. Vegans avoid all products produced by animals though, which includes things like eggs and even honey. However, someone can be dairy-free and still eat eggs, like someone who is lactose intolerant.

So, the short version of this debate: Dairy is milk, milk comes from mammals (like cows), and eggs come from chickens (birds). Therefore, they're not dairy. There you go. Now, here’s a question for your next debate: Are eggs considered vegetarian?

Hungry for eggs now? Check out our favorite egg recipes in the slide show below: