The Reason Some People Mistakenly Believe Eggs Are Dairy

Unless you follow a specific diet with restrictions, you might not have spent too much time considering the separate food groups and what belongs in each category. Diagrams such as the familiar food pyramid and more recently MyPlate, are designed to help guide healthy nutrition choices. Unfortunately, they often create confusion and various limitations as demonstrated by MedicineNet. One particular change in the latest rendition is that instead of having milk products on the same level as meat and eggs, MyPlate has a section for protein and one for dairy (via Family Consumer Sciences). Perhaps this shift will help settle the mistaken belief that eggs are dairy.

If you already had it straight, you might be bewildered at the thought of eggs being considered dairy. However, if you think about why this misunderstanding has been perpetuated, it'll make more sense. At least enough to explain to the next person who says eggs are dairy that it is certainly not the case. 

As mentioned, the original food pyramid designed by the USDA placed dairy products next to meat and eggs, creating an inadvertent connection between dairy and eggs in our mind. Delish points out that supermarkets reinforce the association by storing eggs in the refrigerators alongside milk and dairy products. To top it off, Go Dairy Free shares that it is not easy to find a picture without eggs when searching for dairy products online.

How are they different?

The main overlap that might contribute to confusion is that both milk and eggs are non-meat animal by-products. Healthline also points out that both eggs and dairy come from animal sources and are high in protein. Another factor that leads to them being lumped together is that vegans avoid both eggs and dairy, leading to many products being branded as egg and dairy free. Meanwhile, Eat This, Not That! notes that some vegetarians eat both dairy and eggs, while lacto-vegetarians stick to dairy and ovo-vegetarians to eggs. This highlights the fact that they are not a single group, which the site indicates is also the case with Kosher food categories. According to the Kosher Certification, eggs are considered neither meat nor dairy, and are therefore neutral.

Let's get the definitions straight to settle that eggs are most definitely not dairy. The USDA defines dairy as milk or milk products, including cheese, cream, butter, yogurt, powdered milk, and ice cream. As Delish emphasizes, dairy comes from mammals with mammary glands, most commonly but not limited to cows, as well as sheep and goats. As Go Dairy Free explains, mammals produce milk for their young, whereas eggs are laid by birds, often with the result of creating offspring. With these differing purposes, a distinction between eggs and dairy is more obvious and should be enough to convince anyone who thinks otherwise.