We have been baffled for years by a steady stream of questions asking whether eggs are classified as meat or dairy products. We attempted with wit and/or biting sarcasm to explain that they are neither, but the questions kept coming. Finally one question seemed to ask whether there was a religious dietary rule classifying eggs as dairy or meat. Unfortunately, it didn't ask about a particular religion, so we began scouring the world's religious food laws for an answer.

According to kashrut, or Jewish dietary laws, eggs may be eaten with dairy foods, so they are not meat. Eggs also may be eaten with meat, so they are not dairy. Some orthodox Hindus and some Jains do not eat eggs. Hare Krishnas and Brahmakumaris do not eat eggs. Taoist monks generally do not eat eggs, and their followers may follow that practice during festivals.

The Catholic church, however, did classify eggs as meat in the Middle Ages. Certain rules of fasting and abstinence have changed in the intervening centuries, and eggs are not currently categorized as meat.

We have found nothing in researching these and other religions to suggest that there is a divine reason for lumping eggs into the dairy category.

Moving from religion to bureaucracy, the United States Department of Agriculture's Food Pyramid has eggs in the same category as meat - but then nuts and beans are in there, as well, and they have no connection to animals.

In the vegetarian world, there is a special name - lacto-ovo vegetarian - for people who consume dairy products and eggs, but for most people (at least in Western cultures), the term vegetarian implies someone who eats fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, chocolate, eggs, and dairy products, but not meat or fish.

If you simply will not rest until we offer an edict on the official classification of eggs as either meat or dairy, we'd have to lean towards meat. After all, with the aid of a friendly rooster, drake, or gander, the egg at least has the potential to eventually become meat. But it was never, ever related to the lactating of cows, sheep, goats, water buffaloes, camels, or yaks - the sources of virtually all dairy products.