This post about 7 Sneaky (and Gross) Animal Ingredients in Your Everyday Food is a kinda-awkward-but-totally-necessary discussion on what’s going into the food you eat every day! I find this to be true whether you are vegan or not.
For reasons too numerous to get into here, knowing the facts is not always an easy thing to do. Take a good marketing plan, for example. It allows companies to misrepresent or downright omit information that can be really important to consumers! Luckily, labeling laws do seem to be improving, so yay!
If you want to read about some snacks that ARE vegan, check out my list of 12 Indulgent Vegan Snacks Available at Every Store!
Oh and by the way, there is nothing scary in this or any of my posts about animal cruelty or anything else. So, if you are an awesome vegan kid or vegan-kid-to-be, you’re safe with us!
For those of you who are vegan already or transitioning to a vegan lifestyle, I know you’ve done your research and you know what foods contain meat, dairy, eggs, and honey. While it’s hard at times to find foods that are free of those products, they are at least usually easy to spot on a label. This isn’t the case for some other, lesser known ingredients that also contain animal products.
If you are here and not quite (or at all) vegan, you just might want to read on anyway. Your everyday favorite foods and snacks are hiding some pretty DISGUSTING ingredients. Ones that I don’t really think ANYONE wants to eat…
I hope this list will open all kinds of eyes and allow you to make awesome choices while still having some super yummy and animal friendly snacks! Because there’s always that real life thing I talk about. Sometimes, you JUST DON’T WANT TO make hummus and take it with you in a cooler wherever you go. Gosh!
What’s really tough in making vegan choices is that it’s just about impossible to eliminate all animal products form our lives. An awesome fellow blogger named Emily at Bite Size Vegan said something really poignant once. If the world becomes less dependent on animals, it will be easier one day not to find weird ways to use their by-products in our food. I paraphrased that, but I completely agree with her!
For the time being, we just have to do what we can. No one can ever be perfect, and that is okay! Don’t get overwhelmed by trying to be perfect. We don’t live in a world that allows that and it’s not your fault. Do the best you can.
So, without further adieu! I present to you…
This one is probably the most commonly known sneaky ingredients on our list. Most people are aware that gelatin is made from the collagen, horns, hooves, and god knows what else of animals such as cows, chickens, pigs, and fish. Yum. I stayed away from gelatin even before going vegan because I find connective tissue and horns in my gummy bears to be highly disgusting? You?
Furthermore, most of the animal parts, like horns and hooves, are not even food. So why are we eating it?
2. Red Food Coloring:
Also referred to as carmine or cochineal extract, many red food dyes are made from nothing other than the dried, crushed up bodies of Cochineal bugs.
Considering we live in a highly bug-aversive culture, how someone thought this was a good idea is beyond me. To avoid this nastiness, stay away from anything labeled as having carmine or cochineal extract. Additionally, you’ll want to avoid red dye no. 4. for the same reason. Red dye no. 2 and red dye no. 40 are vegan because they are coal and petroleum derived, but are known to carry far greater health risks than their non-vegan counterparts.
Artificial food coloring is something we should probably stay away from in general, no matter the color. So, consider this one a blessing!
3. Lactose, Casein, and Whey:
These 3 milk-derived ingredients are usually really easy to spot on a label. Oftentimes, they may even be highlighted on the label. The bottom of the ingredient label may also tell you the product contains milk whenever lactose, casein, or whey are involved.
However, not every company makes these ingredients easily visible nor does everyone know where lactose, casein, and whey come from. Now you know!
4. Sterol Lactate or Stearic Acid:
This one is oftentimes difficult to spot. I didn’t even realize it was animal-derived at first. Stearol lactate is made from Stearic acid, so they are quite similar and both should be avoided! Stearic acid comes from animal fat but it can also be derived from vegetables and other sources. Again, the best way to find out is to call up that company!
Stearic acid is used in thousands of beauty and food products, so keep a good eye out for this one and don’t be afraid to check its source!
Just like it sounds, urea is literally concentrated pee. It is most often added to beauty products like shampoo, makeup, and deodorants. Urea is sometimes added to foods such as pretzels to give them their nice dark color. Just wow…
Urea is also carcinogenic. Added bonus there.
6. Cane Sugar:
This ingredient is a little different. While cane sugar in itself is vegan, the process through which it is refined is not. In short, the bones of animals are taken and charred to a crisp at high temperatures. This leaves something called “bone char”, which is used to filter cane sugar.
If you are new to being vegan, you probably don’t need to worry yourself too much about this. As we mentioned before, one day when we aren’t so set on exploiting animals, their by-products won’t be used in weird ways to produce our food and life will be much easier. In the meantime, you just have to take things one step at a time. Decide what will lead you to a sustainable vegan lifestyle and work to continually improve on your efforts.
Aside from being questionable in vegan status, cane sugar is just pure garbage. There is not one benefit of cane sugar and so many drawbacks. We ditched white sugar in our house a long time ago, and the only time we ever consume it is if we are having a treat that we did not make ourselves. Maple syrup and coconut sugar do us just fine around here 🙂
Last thing I’ll add about cane sugar, is that some companies, especially those who practice organic or more sustainable manufacturing, are likely to NOT use bones to process their sugars. The best way to go about this is to contact the company directly and ask. Consider it your 5 minutes of activism for the day 🙂
Finally, we come to our final nasty ingredient, the one I know you’ve been waiting for…
7. Natural Flavoring:
I can hear you over there saying what?? Yes, ladies, gentlemen, children and grown-ups alike. Even something as seemingly wholesome as “natural flavoring” has a very dark, gross side.
Before I get into it, let me say this: Today, most natural flavors are NOT animal-derived. This is only because it’s cheaper to use synthetic flavoring. However, this does not mean it’s not out there. Also, it is more likely used in cosmetics and beauty products than it is food. That’s great news, but it’s not fool proof. When in doubt, call the company and ask!
Natural flavoring is derived from something called castoreum. And what is castoreum? Well, it is none other than a secretion that comes from the castor glands located in a beavers anus, right next to their anal glands.
Ya just can’t make this stuff up, people.
Yes, somewhere along the line, someone discovered that beavers have glads in their butts. Then, that someone thought that the nasty goo in there should be eaten and worn by all for all eternity.
And vegans are the crazy ones?? Why would someone do this??
Well, apparently beaver butts smell really good….unlike other butts I suppose. And that uhm, tasty scent has been used to mimic flavors such as vanilla, strawberry, or raspberry for nearly 100 years.
Like I said, the GOOD news is that castoreum is expensive and cumbersome to collect. However, as it is an FDA approved ingredient, anyone can use it under the misleading cloak of “natural flavoring”.
So, when you see natural flavoring on an ingredient list you can do two things. Skip that product just to be safe, or you can give a quick call to the company. Ask them if their natural flavoring is derived from castoreum.
But in conclusion, just…eeww!!
So how was it? Is the information in this post news to you?
How many of these did you already know about? Which one grossed you out the most?
(Me, totally the beaver goo).
And what I’m most curious about out of all of this is, will you be doing anything different in your grocery shopping after reading this?
Either way, I would really love to hear from you, so please comment below and tell me your answers, thoughts, and plans!
Also, be sure to share this post with someone you know who you think would find this information interesting!
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