If you have a carton of eggs in the fridge, take a look at the packaging. Does it say the eggs are cage-free? That the chickens were 100% vegetarian-fed? Humanely raised? Is there a picture of a happy-looking hen, or a quaint little farmhouse? Is there a logo that says your eggs are UEP (United Egg Producers) certified? And if it does bear the UEP-certified label, what does that really mean anyway? Wait a second… aren’t all hens vegetarians? What does “humanely” mean, and who decided what it meant? The companies who make the eggs? Aren’t all eggs, which come from animals — namely, the hens — all-natural? How would it be possible to have a 95% “natural” egg? Welcome to Confuse-the-Consumer 101…
If you’re looking to make some initial changes, choosing cage-free or free-range is commendable, but it’s important to know the facts so that you are actually buying what you think you’re buying. Here in the US, we’re a little behind the times: in the European Union, it’s required by law that eggs are labeled on the cartons as well as the eggs themselves as “Free Range,” “Barn Eggs” (Cage Free), or “Eggs from Caged Hens.” Here, it’s a little trickier to make sure you’re not being duped; the egg industry remains unregulated, and only a few states have imposed bans on the use of battery cages. A friend of mine buys her eggs from a local farmer with a free-range setting for the hens. Difference between cage-free and free-range? Free-range hens have access to the outdoors; “cage-free” means the hens are not in battery cages but potentially are still jam-packed in poultry houses. Also, the cage-free label does not mean antibiotics-free or that the hens are given pesticide-free meals. OK, so free-range wins, right? But note that I said free-range hens have access to outside. Does that mean they actually are out there, all happy and free?
When so many people have managed to reduce, if not altogether eliminate, their consumption of eggs because of allergies or because they’re managing cholesterol levels, why not the rest of us, too? It might be difficult to ensure that a product made with eggs never passes your lips again, but I can tell you that the switches we’ve made at home were pretty easy for us, and we’re constantly discovering new dairy-free, egg-free foods that are simply delicious.
Suggestions to help break the egg habit:
I know plenty of people who swear by scrambled tofu. I’m just as happy with a plate of non-dairy pancakes or a waffle for breakfast. A newly-discovered fave at the house is mochi drizzled with brown rice syrup. The pups, Galileo and Otis, who once upon a time had a Sunday breakfast of scrambled cage-free egg whites and veggie bacon, now look forward to either organic O’s with rice milk or bagel pieces with Tofutti non-dairy cream cheese. (Yes, I’ve been told I spoil them. My reply: Galileo says I spoil them just right.)
Though I love to cook, I’m not a baker. When it comes to non-dairy desserts, I’ve had plenty, though, thanks to friends and some wonderful restaurants and bakeries. Even bakeries that do not “specialize” in vegan desserts often have a couple of non-dairy options. Cupcakes, cakes, cookies — you name it, there’s a scrumptious non-dairy option out there. A bakery in my neighborhood recently made a vegan wedding cake for a couple, and their guests absolutely raved about it.
So, what’s the trick to baking without eggs? Some easy substitutes (each the equivalent of one egg):
- ¼ cup applesauce + 1 teaspoon. baking powder
- ½ banana, mashed
- 2 tablespoons water + 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 2 tablespoons corn starch
- ½ cup tofu, blended
- Ener-G Egg Replacer (directions on box)