[image via Snorg Tees]
.My friend, I don’t know how to break it to you, but you’ve been eating pig.
That’s right, pig. Not what you would properly call pork, but pig parts—the bits and pieces and byproducts left in the slaughterhouse after the chops and ham and bacon are gone. Gelatin from pig skin puts the chew in gum and licorice and the creaminess in cheesecake and tiramisu. Pig hair protein makes sandwich wraps pliable and keeps bread squeezably fresh. Even the plate you eat from could contain ash from pig bones, and your napkin was probably made with bone gelatin.
Most of these products are not labeled to tell you this.
Often, processors will deliberately remove the word ‘animal’ from their ingredient list. For example, hydrolyzed animal protein becomes hydrolyzed collagen, and animal protein is labeled L-cysteine. There are thousands more technical and patented names for ingredient variations that can appear on product labels. Adding to the confusion are the pig parts that don’t wind up in the final product but are used in the manufacturing process: bone char to whiten sugar; gelatin to clarify beer and remove tannins from wine. These don’t even have to be mentioned by the manufacturer.
Pig-derived food additives are hiding in plain sight:
stearic acid made from fat is found in vanilla flavoring and pill coatings
pepsin, a pig stomach enzyme, can be used in cheese-making
calcium stearate from fat is commonly found in garlic salt and spice blends
energy bars often rely on collagen as a protein source
pig skin-derived gelatin is used to absorb cloudy elements in juice drinks, add texture to low-fat dips and spreads, and cut down on the formation of sugar crystals in ice cream; it’s also added to marshmallows, yogurt, and frosted breakfast cereals
Some of the other names for pig-based additives that are familiar to anyone who reads product packaging are capric acid (decanoic acid), glucose (dextrose), glycerides, sodium stearoyl lactylate, and oleic acid (oleinic acid).
If this is stunning news to you, think of vegetarians and vegans, and people who keep kosher or observe halal.
Truly going whole hog
The staggering array of food and non-food uses of pig parts is portrayed in the book Pig 05049. The parts of a single animal, known by its ear tag as number 05049, were followed and photographed as they moved from the slaughterhouse into a complex and globalized food chain. The result is a visual essay of a mind-blowing 185 products derived from just one pig.
Learn what’s really in your pantry. The PETA website maintains a list of common animal-derived ingredients.
The iPhone app iVegan is a reference guide for many common and hidden animal ingredients.