About 12 years ago, the day before Thanksgiving, I stopped eating meat.
I had just read The Mad Cowboy: Plain Truth from the Cattle Rancher Who Won’t Eat Meat, which offered enough facts about the meat industry to churn your stomach and forsake the next day’s honeyed ham.
As time went on, I learned even more about how food is made, and I extended my no-go list.
Mostly, I just hadn’t realized so many things contained sliced, diced, and ground animals. Like for instance the omnipresent gelatin, found in beloved gummy bears. (which I still have a hard time regularly avoiding).
I share the following factoids not to convince you of a meat-free diet (although I will argue that it’s better for you and for the planet!), but simply to illustrate how truly gross some daily ingredients are.
The Gross List
Rennet: One of the saddest realizations for me was that vast majority of tasty cheeses contain CALF GUTS.
Many cheeses are produced with enzymes milled from deep frozen stomachs of calves. The enzyme is called rennet, and it is used to coagulate milk. Let’s just read this delectable snippet about how rennet is extracted today:
“Natural calf rennet is extracted from the inner mucosa of the fourth stomach chamber of slaughtered young, unweaned calves. These stomachs are a by-product of veal production.”
Carmine: This is a common red food-coloring found in candy, ice cream, ruby-red juice, and more. Know what it’s made of? BOILED INSECTS:
“Carmine may be prepared from cochineal [a parasite from South America], by boiling dried insects in water to extract the carminic acid and then treating the clear solution with alum.”
Bone Char The CHARRED BONES of animals are used to bleach sugar. You’ll feel comforted knowing that they no longer use the skull and spine, in order to prevent the spread of mad cow disease.
Other gross things: isinglass, fish bladders commonly used to filter beer and wine; all the ways blood has been turned soup (like on the right), sauce, and even pancakes; stearic acid extracted from the fats of euthanized shelter animals to harden candy; and so many others.
Know about any others?
Images: Dactylopius coccus (Barlovento) 04 ies By Frank Vincentz on Wikimedia Commons / CC BY SA 3.0