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Hidden in your foods: animal by-products

Animal By-Products in Common Places
Animal By-Products in Common Places

In being a vegan, it is essential to know not just the main ingredients that exist in the food you eat, in order to maintain your dietary choice, but also the vast array of by-products that exist along with them as well. Obviously, our exploration of veganism will constitute the food & beverage aspect, but it is important to note, with the full meaning of veganism in mind, there are also a vast array of other sources that we utilize in our lives every day which also contain many animal by-products and derivatives. Below, are listed some of the most common ingredients found in food, whether they may be plant sourced as well as animal sourced, a definition of the use for each (as some you can barely pronounce nevertheless know what it actually is), and the types of food that they can be found in. Keep in mind, this is only a very partial list, as there are too many to name here and several (of these) ingredients have a variety of variations in their names. For example, a key point of reference to remember is anything with ‘casein’ or ‘lact’ in its name would be a dairy by-product.

Animal (lactalbumen; a combination of egg white and dried blood powder) or vegetable (legumelin) sourced Use: as a binder
Found in: pastries, baked goods, imitation sausage, soups and stews

Casein (and any of its many variations)
Animal sourced: The main protein in cow milk, (80%, as it is used to help calves grow and gain weight)
Use: for a source of protein (protein shakes), a food additive and as a binder
Found in: cereals, baked good and dairy

Clarifying Agent
Animal sourced: Organic compounds, egg whites, casein, gelatin, isinglass (a collagen from the dried swim bladders of fish – an organ that expands or deflates in order to allow the fish to rise or sink)
Use: to filter the particulates in liquids in order to make them clear
Found in wine, vinegar, soft drinks, beer (removes yeast), fruit juice

Animal sourced: obtained from the dried bodies of female beetles
Use: for food coloring
Found in: confections (ex. purple and red smarties), juice, yogurt, ice cream, fruit filling and pudding

Animal sourced: a protein obtained from cows or pigs
Use: for its thickening and binding abilities
Found in: pudding, Jell-O, yogurt, marshmallows, sour cream, desserts, candy, ice cream, cheese spreads, soft drinks, wine, juice, vitamin capsules and coatings, (as well as common everyday items such as sandpaper, matches and matte photographic film)
* Agar agar, sometimes named as “gelatin,” is a derivative of seaweed used as a replacement and 100% vegan

Glycerides (mono, di and tri)
Vegetable, animal (hog or cow) or vegetable sourced (soybean oil)
Use: to blend ingredients that do not naturally mix together well (oil and water)
Found in: baked goods, pastries, beverages, ice cream, chewing gum, peanut butter, shortening, chocolate, whipped toppings, candy, desserts, jelly, and margarine

Animal sourced: 80% of all use is animal sourced (extracted from duck feathers)
Use: a conditioner for dough
Found in: mainly in baked goods

Palmitic Acid
Animal sourced: A fatty acid; although it can be vegetable sourced, it is typically and most commonly derived from animals
Use: to blend ingredients that do not naturally mix together well (oil and water)
Found in: baked goods

Animal sourced: enzymes from cow or pig pancreas
Use: as a digestive aid
Found in: dietary supplements

Sodium stearoyl lactylate (v. calcium lactylate and lactate and potassium lactate)
Animal or plant sourced
Use: to blend ingredients that do not naturally mix together well (oil and water)
Found in: baking mixtures inc. pancake, baked goods, pudding mix, dehydrated fruits and vegetables as well as the juice made from them, desserts, liquid shortenings, precooked instant rice, coffee whiteners, and margarine

Whey (and any of its many variations)
Animal sourced: from milk, extracted during the cheese making process
Use: as flour conditioner, substitute for milk in baking recipes and protein supplement
Found in: baked goods (muffins, pancakes, bread), ice cream, dry mixes, processed foods

On the flip side; here are some common ingredients that are vegan.

Xantham gum
A vegetable gum derived from corn, wheat or soy
Use: for a thickener, emulsifying and stabilizing agent, as well as in ice creams to prevent the formation of ice crystals
Found in: baked goods and ice cream

Calcium Propionate
Mineral sourced (the result of a chemical reaction of calcium hydroxide and propionic acid)
Use: as a preservative
Found in: most foods (example, and especially, baked goods)

Obtained from seaweeds
Use: as a thickener and binding agent (as aforementioned, often in place of gelatin)
Found in: baked goods, ice cream, custard, meringue, and confections

A starch
Use: as an artificial sweetening additive and as a thickener
Found in: baked goods, candy (esp. chocolate), beverages, crackers and pudding

Propionic Acid
Synthetically sourced
Use: as a preservative and additive
Found in: most breads

For a more detailed list visit:

As well, a great resource which is easy and accessible to you when you are out shopping are phone apps. Here are two great (and free!) ones:

Cruelty free: A guide to companies for cosmetic, personal care and household; available for both the Android as well as the iPhone.
Android -

Free: A reference for identifying common and hidden animal ingredients in products.
iPhone -

Lastly, here a few more good reads and resources:
A great article by Christine Wells regarding animal by-products in your bread:
A blog of common foods that are animal by-product free:

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