Why are Eggs Often Mistaken for Dairy Products?

Why are Eggs Often Mistaken for Dairy Products
7 min reading time

Have you ever wondered why eggs are sometimes placed next to milk, cheese, and butter in the grocery store? Are you one of those who mistakenly believes that eggs are dairy products? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. It’s a common misconception that eggs belong to the dairy category.

In this article, we are going to explore why eggs are often mistaken for dairy products. We will delve into the reasons behind this misconception, examining various factors such as nutritional composition, culinary usage, cultural and historical perspectives, to name a few.

By the end of this article, you will have a clear understanding of why are eggs often mistaken for dairy products and where this misunderstanding comes from. So, let’s dive in and unscramble the myth surrounding this confusion.

The Categorization of Eggs in the Grocery Store

When you walk into a grocery store, you may be surprised to see eggs next to the dairy products. But why are eggs categorized this way?

Firstly, both eggs and dairy products are perishable and need to be kept at a consistent temperature. Therefore, grouping them together in refrigerated sections is practical for store management.

Secondly, eggs share some similar characteristics with dairy products. For instance, they are both rich in protein and are commonly used in baking. They also have a similar texture and appearance, which can lead to confusion among shoppers.

Finally, categorizing eggs as dairy products may be a matter of tradition. In the past, dairy farmers often also raised chickens for eggs, and both products were sold in the same location.

However, it’s important to note that eggs are not classified as dairy products. Dairy products come from the mammary glands of animals, while eggs come from chickens and other birds.

So, while it may be convenient and traditional to categorize eggs with dairy products in the grocery store, it’s important to remember that they are not the same thing.

Nutritional Similarities between Eggs and Dairy Products

When it comes to nutritional composition, eggs share a number of similarities with traditional dairy products. While eggs are not a dairy product themselves, they can often be mistaken for one due to these nutritional similarities.

A large egg contains around 6 grams of protein, making it a great source of this important macronutrient. Dairy products, such as milk and cheese, are also high in protein, with one cup of whole milk containing 8 grams of protein and one ounce of cheddar cheese containing 7 grams of protein.

Additionally, both eggs and dairy are rich in important vitamins and minerals. Eggs, for example, contain vitamin D, vitamin B12, selenium, and choline. Milk is a great source of calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin B12. Cheese is also high in calcium and vitamin B12.

 Egg (1 large)Milk (1 cup, whole)Cheddar Cheese (1 oz)
Vitamin B120.6mcg1.1mcg0.8mcg

As shown in the table above, eggs, milk, and cheese have similar caloric content and macronutrient compositions, making them functional substitutes in many recipes. However, while eggs and dairy products have nutritional similarities, they also have distinct differences that set them apart.

It’s important to note that, despite their similarities, eggs and dairy products are not interchangeable in all recipes. Understanding the unique properties of each is essential for creating successful culinary dishes.

Culinary Usage and Functional Similarities

When it comes to culinary usage, eggs and dairy products share many functional similarities. Their ability to bind, emulsify, and leaven is crucial in cooking and baking, which can lead to a confusion between the two.

Binding: Both eggs and dairy products can function as binding agents in certain recipes. Eggs are often used to hold ingredients together in dishes like meatloaf, while cheese can be used similarly in casseroles or as a topping for pizza.

EggsDairy Products
Bind ingredients together in dishes like meatloafFunction similarly in casseroles or as toppings for pizza

Emulsification: Both eggs and dairy can emulsify ingredients that typically don’t mix, creating a smooth and stable texture. For example, mayonnaise is emulsified using egg yolks, while hollandaise sauce uses butter to create a smooth texture.

EggsDairy Products
Used to emulsify ingredients in mayonnaiseUsed to create smooth texture in hollandaise sauce

Leavening: Both eggs and dairy products can be used to leaven baked goods, making them rise. Eggs can be whipped into a foam to create light and fluffy cakes, while yogurt or buttermilk can be used as a substitute for eggs to create a similar effect.

EggsDairy Products
Whipped into a foam to create light and fluffy cakesCan be used as an egg substitute to create a similar effect

Thus, it’s easy to understand why eggs and dairy products are sometimes confused with each other in culinary contexts. However, it’s important to note that these functional similarities do not make eggs a dairy product. Eggs are an animal byproduct, while dairy products come from milk.

Cultural and Historical Perspectives

Understanding the cultural and historical perspectives can shed light on why eggs are often mistaken for dairy products. The customs, traditions, and dietary practices of various societies may have contributed to this misconception.

“In many cultures, eggs are grouped together with dairy products because they are considered animal-based foods that require refrigeration,” says Susan Bowerman, a registered dietitian and assistant director of the UCLA Center for Human Nutrition. “Eggs, like dairy products, are also high in protein, which may contribute to the confusion.”

In many Western societies, eggs are a common breakfast food and are often served with cheese, milk, or yogurt. This association of eggs with dairy products may have contributed to the confusion over the years. In some cultures, such as in the Middle East, eggs are traditionally served with yogurt or labneh, a type of strained yogurt.

Historically, eggs were also used as a substitute for dairy products in times of scarcity. During World War II, for example, when dairy products were rationed in many countries, eggs were often used as a substitute in recipes for cakes and other baked goods. This historical connection between eggs and dairy products may have also contributed to the confusion.

The Jewish Perspective

Why are Eggs Often Mistaken for Dairy Products

In Jewish dietary law, eggs are considered pareve, meaning they are neither dairy nor meat. This classification stems from the fact that eggs come from birds and have no connection to milk or dairy products. This distinction is important in Jewish dietary law, where meat and dairy products must be kept separate.

There is also a tradition of serving eggs during Passover, when dairy products are not allowed due to their leavening properties. As a result, eggs have become associated with Passover meals and are often included in traditional dishes such as matzo ball soup and gefilte fish.

The Chinese Perspective

In Chinese culture, eggs are often viewed as a symbol of fertility and rebirth. They are commonly used in traditional medicine and are believed to have healing properties for the liver and kidneys. In Chinese cuisine, eggs are used in a variety of dishes, including steamed egg custard and tea eggs.

Overall, the cultural and historical perspectives provide insight into why eggs are often mistaken for dairy products. While there may be similarities between the two in terms of nutritional composition and culinary usage, understanding the cultural and historical context can help debunk this common misconception.


After a thorough investigation of the frequent confusion between eggs and dairy products, it is evident that several factors contribute to this misconception. While eggs do not contain lactose or milk protein, they share many nutritional and functional similarities with dairy. Thus, it is understandable why they are often grouped together in grocery stores and considered part of the dairy category.

Furthermore, cultural and historical perspectives also play a role in this confusion. Many cultures and traditions consider eggs and dairy products as part of the same food group, leading to the belief that they are interchangeable in culinary applications.

However, it is essential to remember that eggs are not dairy products and should not be avoided by those with dairy allergies or intolerances. Understanding the nutritional composition and functional properties of eggs is crucial in making informed dietary decisions.

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