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Aug 15, 2007 10:25 AM

Can Roe be considered Vegetarian?

I know chicken eggs are considered vegetarian, but not vegan. What about the different kinds of fish roe?
Any opinions? (I'm trying to figure this out for myself)
Any insights on the process of obtaining roe?


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  1. 1st I've thought about it. I would think it depends on the method of extraction. If the fish dies to be able to obtain the roe then I'd think not. If there is a way to remove the roe with out killing the fish then you seem to be in line with chicken egg logic. No idea if this is possible though!

    1 Reply
    1. re: meatn3

      That's assuming that the individual's rationale for being a vegetarian is animal-friendliness, as opposed to dietary preference. The former, for example, would preclude wearing leather, while the latter might or might not. Same principle here.

    2. I think you can safely assume that "many fish were harmed in the production of" edible fish roe, certainly the commercial stuff... and I doubt many amateurs do abdominal surgery on their fish to remove the egg sacs intact. ;)

      3 Replies
      1. re: MikeG

        Not to mention, I can't recall any underwater surgical facilities that specialize in delicate egg sac removal procedures.

        1. re: MikeG

          If you use the criteria of "harm to animals" to determine if something is vegetarian, than most of the egg & dairy industry would be classified as producing non-vegetarian prodocts. Perhaps you are more barking up the tree of "cruelty-free".

          1. re: Leonardo

            That was a somewhat dated pop culture reference, I thought it was clear I was being mildly sarcastic and in context, also clear that fish are not simply "mistreated" for their roe, they are gutted. As in killed, gutted, and mostly, at least in mitagation, the flesh eaten. I thought that was clear by the reference to imaginary surgery to remove intact egg sacs. Fish are not chickens, one does not "harvest" the eggs after expulsion from the fish, one removes the intact sacs. Which are only accessible INSIDE the fish...

            Your allusion would be more applicable to something like stone crabs, whose claws (one of 'em only, legally) are broken off and the crab thrown back where the claw eventually grows back. They survive and I suppose they're better off alive than dead, but I dare so they might not be amused if they understood what was happening to them....

        2. roe = fish, so no, not vegetarian

          1 Reply
          1. re: pescatarian

            That makes no sense. Ovo-lacto vegetarians do not consider chicken eggs to be meat, so why would fish eggs equal fish? Fishy, certainly. Fishoid, perhaps. But fish per se, not so much.

          2. Eggs are eggs. So, I believe that "lacto-ovo-Vegetarians" can eat them, but "Traditional" Vegetarians can not. However, Vegans would absolutely not be able to eat them.

            Ian Lewis

            8 Replies
            1. re: DougRisk

              Eggs are certainly not a vegetable, but if they're unfertilized, they certainly aren't meat. For what it's worth, when vegetarians started becoming more visible (and ready guests at the table) in the late 80s and early 90s, I remember that eggs were often served as the protein.

              1. re: DougRisk

                If "vegetarians" couldn't eat eggs and dairy, then why would we need a separate word for "vegans"?

                1. re: danna

                  I always thought that Dairy was OK for Vegetarians, but Eggs were not. I didn't realize that Eggs were part of the basic Vegetarian diet.

                  1. re: DougRisk

                    Hey, don't quote me...I may be confused. ;-)

                    1. re: danna

                      Well, now that I think about it, a friend of mine is Vegetarian and he eats eggs. That does not make it absoluteley correct, but it certianly is one more piece of evidence.

                      1. re: DougRisk

                        My vegetarian friends all eat eggs - on the premise that the hen is not killed to obtain the eggs.

                    2. re: DougRisk

                      Since all of it is about personal choice anyhow, seems like whatever someone wanted to eat or not eat would work for them. I think eggs are basically generally accepted by most people who call themselves vegetarian, but that's just a personal impression from the people I know who call themselves vegetarian.

                      1. re: DougRisk

                        Etymologically vegetarian means eats only vegetables. So many people did not add the ovo-lacto part that the term became confusing and eventually vegetarian came to mean Ovo-lacot-vegetarian (and occasionally the infuriating pesca-avio-ovo-lacto-vegetarian). Those who wanted a true vegetarian lifestyle therfore had to invent a new word to differentiate themselves from those "I'm a vegetarian but I eat cheese, sushi and bacon" crowd.

                        Anyway, a vegetarian could not eat roe and even an ovo-lacto-vegetarian would be hard presses to explain why they eat it. Just think, would a vegetarian eat those fabulously tasty immature eggs from a freshly slaughtered hen?

                  2. I originally responded on an "is it possible" note using the lacto-ovo method of logic. After working in natural foods industry for many years I certainly am not trying to provide a definition of what vegetarian means. There are as many answers as there are practitioners.:)

                    However, I was fairly sure I had come across info that indicated that it could be done. Whether it can be done in a way business would find commercially viable is a whole nother kettle of worms (live ones only!)...

                    For more info go to then click on press room, then find article from Slate "how do they harvest caviar, they suck it through a straw".