Gelatin is not vegan because it is a byproduct of the meat industry. It is one of the major animal-based ingredients lurking in many popular products, including Jell-O, gummy bears and marshmallows, just to name a few. Even though gelatin can be found in numerous top-selling food items at supermarkets and convenience stores all across America and western Europe, it’s probably safe to say most people don’t know much about it, like what it actually is, where it comes from, and how it’s made.
What Is Gelatin?
Gelatin is collagen that has undergone the process of hydrolysis – the process by which chemical bonds are broken using hydrogen molecules. Collagen is a protein that exists in animals, including humans. Collagen can be extracted from bones, skin, connective tissue.
Where Does Gelatin Come From?
Most gelatin comes from the meat industry. The most common animals that are used to produce gelatin are pigs, horses, cows, chicken, and in some cases fish.
How Is Gelatin Made?
Gelatin is predominantly manufactured on an industrial level, but it can also be made at home. The commercial production of gelatin involves gathering raw materials, preparing them for collagen extraction, and then extracting the collagen. The raw materials typically consist of hides and bones. They are first cleaned and stripped of any unwanted materials, such as fur, then they are prepped and extracted using chemical solvents, like acid, and/or hot water.
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Gelatin is made at home by boiling animal bones and/or meat, which extracts the collagen. The collagen dissolves in the water, and then is cooled until it naturally forms a jelly.
Products Containing Gelatin
Gelatin is used in a wide variety of edible and inedible products. Below are some of the most common:
- Gelatin desserts, aka “jelly” in Europe, aka Jell-O in the U.S.
- Gummy bears, jelly bellies, fruit snacks
- Candy corn
- Certain glues
- Gel capsules – aspiren, etc.
- Isinglass – used in beer and wine making
Vegan Gelatin Coming Soon
Latest Vegan News recently ran a story about a San Francisco-based company that has created a real plant-based form a gelatin. The product is not available yet, but the company is in the midst of scaling up their production, which means it should be on its way soon.