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What is Gelatin?
Gelatin, according to dictionary.com, is:
A virtually colorless and tasteless water-soluble protein prepared from collagen and used in food preparation as the basis of jellies, in photographic processes, and in glue.
So is gelatin vegan? To discern whether or not gelatin is vegan, simply explore the definition of the word vegan. A vegan is a person who does not use or consume animal products. An animal product is anything that is derived from an animal. Gelatin is derived from animals, making it an animal product. Therefore, gelatin is not vegan. Although this explains in a cut and dry way why gelatin isn’t vegan, one must delve into exactly how gelatin is made to understand why consuming it does not follow vegan ethics.
How is Gelatin Made?
Collagen is the main structural protein that is found in skin and other connective tissue. Gelatin is made from skin and connective tissue of animals. Gelatin is yellowish in color, and made simply by boiling skin, cartilage, and bones from animals. Taking this a step further, the origins of these bones, cartilage and skins is leftovers from the meat industry. The meat industry quite literally boils pig skins, animal horns, and bones from cows. Not only is this not a vegan practice or final product, it is quite disgusting a process to watch. The meat industry has “trash” left over after animals are slaughtered for meat, but instead of leaving more potential money on the virtual table, they boil these leftovers and make gelatin.
Without realizing it, vegans and non-vegans are ingesting this substance by consuming products like gelatin (“jello”) desserts, fruit snacks, marshmallows, and some medicines, whether it is an ingredient inside of a liquid or medicine in pill form, a gelatin capsule, or as a gummy vitamin or something similar. Additionally, gelatin is in some glues and can be used in photography processing. Additionally, some people consume or apply gelatin to hair and skin for attempts at youthful appearance and elasticity of the skin, as well as for growth and strength of the hair.
What are the Vegan Alternatives to Gelatin?
Very occasionally, however, a product called agar agar, which is derived from seaweed, is marketed and labeled as gelatin. It does have similar properties and can be used as a substitute for gelatin; however, agar agar is NOT actual gelatin, as it is not derived from animal bones, skin, or cartilage. Agar agar is essentially the vegan version of gelatin. Gelatin in the true sense of the word is NOT vegan. Gelatin is not vegan simply due to the fact that it is made using parts of a living thing.
Here is a chart of common items containing gelatin and vegan alternatives:
|Gelatin Medicine Capsules||Vegetable Medicine Capsules|
|Gelatin Fruit Gel Dessert (brands like Jell-o)||Agar or Pectin Based Fruit Gel Dessert (brands like Simply Delish)|
|Gelatin powder||Agar Agar powder, fruit pectin, cornstarch (depending on the purpose of usage)|
|Marshmallows||Vegan Marshmallows (Dandies & Trader Joes have packaged brands, many vegan bakeries make vegan marshmallows like Sweet & Sarah’s, or you can make your own using recipes online)|
|Cook and Serve Pudding||Instant pudding or vegan brands of cook and serve pudding-like Simply Delish and European Bakery Organics|
|Gelatin Containing Cosmetics||Vegan alternative brands like ELF, Kat Von D, Beauty Without Cruelty, most NYX products, some Wet N Wild products, learn more|
|Fruit Snacks & Gummy Candies||Fruit snacks and Gummies that use pectin (brands like Annie’s, most Yum Earth, and some of the gummy candies at Ikea|
|Frosted Cereals (like Frosted Mini-Wheats) and cereals containing marshmallows (Lucky Charms, etc.)||Cereals that are not frosted and do not contain marshmallows|
|Gelatin Containing Candies like Star Burst||Vegan Alternatives (brands like Torie and Howard’s Chewie Fruities|
For more candy options check out our article on Vegan Halloween Candy.