The majority of vegetarians and vegans have unknowingly consumed a food containing an animal product only to realize later what has happened. Emotions can range from surprise to disappointment to, let’s face it, betrayal. It’s not fun to uncover the fact that an animal-derived ingredient has been lurking in your favorite food or drink. It’s a very real issue for anyone following any sort of diet – alien words on food labels are notorious for being synonymous with things we would otherwise choose not to eat if “ground up red beetles” appeared instead of “carmine.”
For people beginning the transition to a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, the vast scope of confusing ingredient names that are actually sourced from animals can be discouraging. Here are three such ingredients for both newbies and veterans to look out for.
Rennet is a worry for vegetarians who choose to imbibe in dairy products. Used to produce cheese, rennet is made of enzymes that are extracted from the stomachs of slaughtered unweaned calves as a by-product of veal production; rennet can also come from slaughtered pigs and goats. Lacto-vegetarians can buy vegetarian-friendly cheese by making sure that the rennet used is vegetable rennet, microbial rennet, or certain forms of (organic) genetically-modified rennet. Click here for more information, including a list of vegetarian-friendly cheeses by brand.
Cane sugar itself is both vegetarian and vegan, but the process by which it is whitened is not. To get the white color many consumers desire, cane sugar is filtered through cow bone char, or “natural charcoal,” as some refer to it. The answer for many vegetarians and vegans is to buy USDA organic sugar, which is minimally processed and never filtered through bone char. Go here for a list of bone char-free sugars produced in the US.
An essential step of the winemaking and brewing process is when the liquid is filtered through fining or clarifying agents to remove protein, yeast, and other particles. These clarifying agents can range from blood and bone marrow to fish oil and gelatin (a protein obtained by boiling cow or pig skin, tendons, and bones). However, there are animal-friendly clarifying agents like limestone and plant casein that can be used to make wine and beer. For a comprehensive and sortable list of vegan and vegetarian wine, beer, cider, and liquor, go to the experts at Barnivore.
Though it’s a difficult and never-ending journey for vegetarians and vegans to traverse the maze we call the food industry, remember it’s not about being perfect. Stay informed, ask questions, and keep fightin’ the good fight.
Are you going to avoid these animal additives after reading about them? We realize there is a plethora of more disgusting animal derivatives, let’s talk about them!