About a week ago I started eating eggs again after being on a whole foods, plant-based diet for more than a year and a half. The decision weighed heavily on me for several months, and I’d like to use this platform to explain myself…
The Back Story
When I transitioned from a fully carnivorous diet to “being vegan” in January 2013 there were a lot of factors that came into play including health reasons and compassion for animals. The documentary Forks Over Knives had a huge impact on me. I really identified with the film’s approach to eating, and I like the fact that they refer to a “whole foods, plant-based diet” as opposed to throwing around the term “vegan” everywhere. With this said, I do typically refer to myself as “vegan”, but only because makes it a lot easier and quicker to explain my lifestyle to other people.
What’s Wrong With Eggs?
When considering compassion for animals or “animal rights”, eating eggs has a little bit of grey area. The eggs you buy at the grocery store were never fertile and would never produce baby chicks, so it’s not like you are aborting an unborn chicken. In that case, no harm done, right? Wrong…
Most of the eggs available for mass-consumption in the US come from factory farms, and even those labeled “organic” or “cage-free” come from places that I don’t think hatch, raise, and treat the birds ethically. There are many issues that go into this such as cutting off the beaks of baby chicks along with housing and transporting the chickens, but another huge issue with egg-laying hens is their male counterparts. When factory farms hatch baby chickens, if the chicks are male (meaning they won’t produce eggs for the farm), they often get thrown into grinders and are killed just after hatching. You can learn more about this the videos below…
(*For this first video, fast forward to the 3:00 mark to learn specifically about chickens and eggs…)
When I got on a vegan diet I had my blood checked by my primary care physician to make sure my biomarkers were where they should be. I wanted to make sure I was as healthy as I felt…and I was for the most part. However, my HDL (the “good cholesterol”) was low, which I later found out runs in my family as my father also has low HDL. About a year later I went back to have my levels checked again, and my HDL was still low. Both times my doctor recommended I eat eggs or other animal products to help raise my cholesterol.
Shortly after I transitioned to the whole foods, plant-based diet I also began working out and doing CrossFit. Since beginning my fitness journey I’ve gotten to the point where I work out five to six times per week, and sometimes multiple times per day. I have personal goals with my strength and fitness that have been proving difficult to reach on a strictly plant-based diet, mainly when it comes to putting on healthy weight from lean muscle mass.
After giving this a lot of thought over several months I found a small, local farm just four miles from my house that sells fresh eggs one day a week. I visited the farm to see the chickens and their environment and to talk to the farmers. After my visit to the farm I was convinced as much as I could be that the eggs were as ethical as I could possibly get, so I decided to buy some (For $8 a dozen—eating healthy and ethically is expensive!). I’m currently eating two to four eggs per day (strictly those eggs I personally get from my local farm) and will monitor how things go, then in a few months I will go back to the doctor to get my levels checked again to see if the eggs have affected my cholesterol in any way, and of course I’ll be paying close attention to my muscle and weight gain during this time.
For now I’ll continue to refer to myself and my diet as “vegan”, but again, that’s only out of convenience. I don’t really care what label I’m stuck with or what other people call me. The important thing to me is that I’m doing everything I can to ensure my body is healthy, my personal goals are being met, and my mind is at ease knowing that I’m doing what I feel is morally right when it comes to the food I put into my body.