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Tuesday, December 1, 2020

The Ethics Behind Eggs, and the Best Vegan Alternatives

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Eggs are used in every cuisine. Why aren’t they vegan? And what are their best alternatives?

Eggs are an animal product and, as such, the consumption of them is seen as exploitation of female chickens.

What’s more, the egg industry employs many cruel methods, such as beak cutting, squalid living conditions, and male chick maceration (grinding them alive). So why are some vegans still eating eggs?

This article will discuss whether or not it’s deemed okay to eat free-range and rescued chicken eggs and goes on to suggest some of the best vegan alternatives, including substitutes for baking, mayonnaise, scrambled eggs, etc.

Why don’t vegans eat eggs?

The overriding reason is that eggs come from animals and vegans do not eat animal products. Why? Because it is seen as exploitation and vegans do not deem anything sentient animals produce as consumables.

Are eggs cruelty-free?

From the caged conditions to the cruel practices of debeaking and male chick maceration, eggs are far from being cruelty-free. Even free-range, backyard, and rescue eggs cause physical and mental harm to chickens. Let us explain.

Caged Chickens

I’m sure you already know about the inhumane conditions of battery farms: large barns with no natural light that house thousands of hens, often packed into rows of tiny wire cages stacked on top of each other.

Although some countries have banned battery farms, they still exist and the policies introduced on the required amount of usable space per chicken are barely an improvement. In fact, the EU’s introduction of ‘enriched’ cages only offers 750cm2 of cage area per hen, limiting them from being able to act out their natural behaviour and denying them fresh air and daylight.

Not only are these cramped conditions incredibly stressful and anxiety-inducing for chickens but they also cause physical harm, including the pain of standing on wires every day and being savagely pecked by other hens stuck together in an enclosed space. Not to mention the risk of pandemics!

Sound awful? Here’s a heartwarming video about rescue chickens to make you feel better:

Debeaking

To prevent fights from damaging the hens, farmers will often debeak their birds using a hot blade and no anaesthetics! Reckon the hens can’t feel it? Think again. Research shows that chickens experience acute and chronic pain as a result of this horrific practice.

Male Chick Maceration

Male chicks (and unhealthy female chicks) serve no purpose for the egg or meat industry and are therefore disposed of at birth. This is either implemented using a gas chamber or a macerator, which grinds them alive.

Whilst a number of countries are introducing less inhumane measures, such as a sex determiner to be used before the eggs hatch, they still contribute to the production of both chickens and eggs as commodities.

Free-Range

Many egg producers claim to supply cruelty-free eggs because their chickens are “free-range” but, more often than not, these claims are deceitful, much like company greenwashing.

There is a common misconception that “free-range” means hens can wander freely outside. However, this is not necessarily the case. In fact, they can have even less space than chickens kept inside cages.

According to EU legislation, up to 13 chickens can be stocked per square metre of floor space as long as they have access to an outdoor area (1m2 per hen) for at least half of their lifetime.

Unfortunately, due to the sheer number of chickens usually kept in the same barn, most of them never reach the outdoor space and subsequently never see the light of day.

Can Vegans Eat Eggs From Rescued Chickens?

Eating eggs from rescued chickens is not considered vegan. Even if a person does not eat meat, fish, honey, or dairy and does not use leather, wool, silk, or suede, they would fall into the lacto-ovo-vegetarian category, although there has been some recent discussion of “veggans”.

Whilst keeping rescued egg-laying hens in your garden is a great way to help them, eating their eggs is not considered a fair exchange by many. By eating their eggs, one could argue that the hens are still treated as commodities.

Their eggs are not ours to take and many hens mourn their stolen eggs. Other chickens even choose to eat their unfertilised eggs to increase their nutrient intake. Therefore, the uneaten eggs are unlikely to go to waste.

If you need any further convincing, we couldn’t put it better than The Vegan Activist:

Do Egg Alternatives Exist?

Luckily, there are plenty of fabulous egg alternatives for vegans. We’ve listed them below and given details of their usage.

Looking for an alternative source of protein? Check out this awesome plant-based protein handbook!

Nevertheless, sometimes you don’t even need egg alternatives for vegan cooking! Check out these delicious spelt plant-based crepes as an example:

The Best Vegan Egg Alternatives

1. Mashed ripe bananas

1 medium banana to replace 1 egg

Bananas add lots of lovely naturally sweet moisture to cakes, brownies, and pancakes and help bind the ingredients together. Baking powder or self-raising flour should still be used to make sure your baked goods rise.

Why not try these delicious fluffy American-style vegan pancakes? They’re packed with protein and they can be made gluten-free!

Insert picture of pancakes

2. Aquafaba (chickpea water)

3 tbsp of aquafaba to replace 1 whole egg OR 2 tbsp to replace 1 egg white OR 1 tbsp to replace 1 egg yolk

This remarkable liquid can be obtained from cans of chickpeas or the strained water in which chickpeas have been cooked. The protein and starch content is similar to that of eggs and can be used as a direct replacement in a variety of recipes.

For example, aquafaba can be used as an egg substitute to make vegan meringues, ice cream, mayonnaise, brownies, and even marshmallows!

3. Chia and flax eggs

1 tbsp chia seeds/ground flax and 2 ½ tbsp water to replace 1 egg (can be blended if preferred)

These are both popular additions to vegan baking and have binding, leavening, and moisturising properties. Plus, they’re super easy to make!

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🌿Vegan Egg Replacement: Chia or Flax Eggs🌿 • When replacing eggs in baking, it’s important to make note of what purpose the eggs are serving (e.g. binding, leavening, moisture, flavour). • Flax/chia eggs work for recipes where egg is being used for binding. • Make sure the flax seeds are ground! I use a coffee grinder. You can grind the chia seeds if you wish but I usually use them whole. • Don’t use in recipes to replace more than 2 eggs. • Try flax/chia eggs with: pancakes/waffles, brownies, muffins, and banana bread. I have not tried them with cakes or cookies but have heard they work with sturdy (not delicate) cookies. I suspect they will work with a sturdier cake but perhaps not a light, fluffy one.

A post shared by Saloni | Ontario Vegan Eats (@ontarioveganeats) on

4. Silken tofu

60g (¼ cup) tofu to replace 1 egg

Silken tofu is packed full of protein and can be used for baking, such as cheesecakes, brownies, quick breads, cookies, etc. but be warned, they can lead to heavy and dense bakes.

It’s also great to add to savoury dishes, including breakfast scramble, quiche, pad thai, and lasagna. Firm tofu can be used in some cases as well.

We love this recipe for vegan omelettes:

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Vegan Garlic Mushroom & Spinach Omelette with Creamy Guacamole 😍 What do you think about this combo? Yay or nay? 😃🍃 . 👉🏻 Grab the RECIPE for the garlic mushrooms 🍄 and for the guacamole 🥑 on my blog – click the link in my Bio and google for ’Avocado Toast’ or check my insta-story👆🏻 . I also added a handful of spinach to the guacamole, making it more delicious 😋 Let me know in the comments if I should also share the recipe for the vegan omelette. . Enjoy your evening and happy #avomonday ! 😘 . . . 🇩🇪 Veganes Omelette mit Guacamole, Spinat und Knoblauch Pilzen 😍 Wer mag diese Kombination auch? 🙋🏼‍♀️🍃 . 👉🏻 Das REZEPT für die Pilze 🍄 und für die Guacamole 🥑 ist auf meinem Blog – klickt einfach auf den Link in meiner Bio und gebt ‘Avocado Toast‘ in die Suchleiste ein oder schaut in meiner Insta-Story vorbei👆🏻 . Ich habe außerdem eine Handvoll Spinat mit in die Guacamole gegeben und püriert 😋 Falls ihr Interesse an dem Rezept für das Vegane Omelette habt, hinterlasst mir gerne einen Kommentar. . Ich wünsche euch einen gemütlichen Abend und eine schöne neue Woche! 😘 . . . . . . . . . #avocado #veganfood #spinach #foodie #instafood #food #veganomelette #fitfood #vegan #bestofvegan #guacamole #dinner #LetsCookVegan #buzzfeast #gloobyfood #beautifulcuisines #veganfoodspot #f52grams #huffposttaste #foodandwine #plantbased #veganfoodspace #mushrooms #foodgawker #canondeutschland #foodblog #foodphotography #veganworldshare #thefeedfeed

A post shared by Bianca Zapatka | Vegan Food (@biancazapatka) on

5. Just Egg

1 cup of Just Egg to replace 1 scrambled egg breakfast

Talking of vegan scrambled eggs, would you believe that this is plant-based?

We can’t get our heads around how realistic Just Egg is! It’s made from healthy mung beans, has a high protein content, and cooks just like the real thing. The company’s website also has some delicious recipes for this ready-to-cook vegan egg alternative.

6. Ackee

100g ackee to replace 1 egg

Another great scrambled egg alternative for vegans! Ackee is the national fruit of Jamaica and it has been used in Caribbean and West African cooking for centuries.

Do you ever crave egg-fried rice? Well, luckily for you, there’s a great plant-based alternative: ackee-fried rice with pulled hoisin mushrooms.

vegan egg
Photo: Edible Ethics

Alice
Alice Johnson 
Alice Johnson is a freelance writer, keen musician, and co-founder of Vegan Sisters’ Online Community, which offers training courses for content writers. She is passionate about public health, animal rights, sustainable living, plant-based food, travelling, conservation, and rescuing stray animals on her way around the world. Alice has made appearances on BBC News and her work has been published in national scientific journals, print magazines, and on web-based news channels. When she’s not in the kitchen experimenting with cashew cheese, homemade body moisturisers, and vegan kimchi, you probably won’t be able to find her as she will be off gallivanting around the world.