As more and more people turn to a meat-free and plant-based diet, the number of vegan options is on the rise. But following a vegan diet is still not as simple as it could and should be. There are a number of foods that contain meat products that may surprise you.
Below are 17 incredibly surprising foods or food groups that may contain meat products. As always, it’s a good idea to check the ingredients list of anything you buy if you want to guarantee no animal products have been used:
Bread and Bagels
In order for supermarket bread and bagels to have an extensive shelf life, preservatives are added to the flour to prevent it from going off too quickly. One of these additives is L-cysteine. Although it can be derived from human hair, it is also extracted from duck feathers, chicken feathers and cow horns.
Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to tell. Although it is now used rarely, it’s still worth checking the back of any bread products to see if it is stamped with a vegan-friendly logo.
The other bread product to be aware of is brioche. Brioche is made with an enriched dough using eggs.
It adds salt and spice to pies, bloody Mary’s and cheese on toast but Worcestershire sauce is given its iconic flavour from anchovies. Worcestershire sauce must, therefore, be avoided by anyone following a meat-free diet.
However, there are some great alternatives out on the market. There are those which are marketed as being vegan. The problem with these vegan-marketed products is that they use demand a premium price tag.
There is another option: Henderson’s Relish. It is approved vegan, packs a punch and is half the price of Lea and Perrins.
A huge swathe of commercial sweets are made with gelatin. Gelatin is protein that is extracted from animal skin, tendons, ligaments and bones – usually cows and pigs – making a lot of sweets far from vegan-friendly.
Many Haribo are not suitable for vegans.
However, the number of sweets that are now vegan is ever-increasing and even some of the most popular sweet brands are switching to a completely vegan ingredients list. At the time of writing, all of the following are vegan:
- Jelly Tots
- Love Hearts
- Candy Kittens
- Polo Mints
- Flying Saucers
- Dib Dab
As always, check the back of the packet for the vegan-friendly logo or have a browse through the ingredients list. If you see gelatin then put the packet back on the shelf.
Generally speaking, sugar in the UK is free of any animal products and they will generally list that it is vegan on the back of the packaging.
However, some sugar is refined using bone char – essentially the charred bones of animals. Bone char will filter out impurities that may tarnish the white colour of sugar.
The good news is that the major brands of sugar such as Tate & Lyle and Billington’s are all vegan. Problems arise with cheaper, lesser-known brands which may have used cost-effective bone char to refine the sugar.
As is often the case, the best approach to take is to take the packet.
Salted nuts are just salt and nuts, right? Unfortunately not! In some rarer cases, brands use gelatin to help the salt and spices stick to the outside of the nuts.
KP nuts and many supermarket own brands are fortunately vegan so find a brand you like, that is plant-based and then stick to it so you don’t have to constantly check the packet.
Omega-3 Boosted Items
If you see a snack or ready meal that has been boosted with added omega-3 then make sure you check the packet for the source of this omega-3. In a lot of cases, omega-3 is extracted from fish (hence fish oil).
If you see omega-3 being actively advertised on the front of the packet and vegan hasn’t been mentioned anywhere then it’s worth steering clear.
Anchovies make yet another appearance on this list, this time hidden in caesar dressing. Traditionally, caesar dressing is made with anchovies, mayo and parmigiana. 3 things that aren’t vegan.
Own brand caesar dressings from Waitrose, ASDA, Tesco, Sainsbury’s and M&S all contain meat-derived products and should be avoided.
There are, however, a few brands that produce a vegan-friendly caesar dressing including Sacla, Bonsan and Dr Will’s.
Beer and Wine
Isinglass is a type of gelatin obtained from fish bladders. It is used in the refining process of some beers and wines. Unfortunately, it’s going to be yet another case of checking the back of the bottle to confirm whether or not it is vegan friendly. This article may be of use.
Fortunately, a number of beer manufacturers no longer use isinglass including:
- Budweiser and Bud Light
- San Miguel
- Stella Artois (not Cidre though)
If you need to be doubly sure, then Barnivore is a great resource for checking whether a drink is vegan or not.
Although the number remains small, there are some fizzy drinks which, unbelievably, are not suitable for vegans. Those drinks coloured orange may contain gelatin to give it that particular hue. Drinks that are red in colour may have been dyed with cochineal derived from crushed insects.
The good news is that these will be listed on the packaging.
There are a number of ingredients added to crisps that can render them unsuitable for vegans.
Whey, some flavourings and some preservatives may be animal-derived. As always, it worth checking the back of the packet to confirm whether a crisp variety is vegan friendly or not. Once you have a few brands you love then stick with them.
The other thing worth mentioning is that many meat-named crisps such as prawn cocktail and roast chicken, unbelievably, contain no animal products and are safe for vegans to eat. This list might contain surprising foods that DO contain meat products but this is a surprise for a different reason.
Tapenade is just olives chopped up finely and mixed with some olive oil and seasoning, surely? In most cases, yes. However, it’s a good idea to check the ingredients list before you assume a tapenade is meat-free as there is a chance it will contain anchovies.
A soup may have a vegetable-based name but that doesn’t mean it is entirely vegan. Some will be coloured with animal-derived dyes and others will be made with chicken stock. There are two approaches to take when it comes to soup:
- Check the Label – The back of the packaging will list whether it is vegan or not. Look out for the vegan-approved logo to be extra sure.
- Make It Yourself – It may take a little bit more effort but homemade soup is a great way to use surplus vegetables and you have the added benefit of knowing what’s in it.
Wait… Bananas might not be suitable for vegans? Unfortunately, most fruit and vegetables bought in the supermarket will be coated in something to keep them fresher for longer. One of these preservatives is chitosan which is derived from shellfish.
Although chitosan is only likely to be on the banana skin, many vegans will not want to support harm to any animals, whether it’s consumed or not.
The good news is that in the UK at least, the use of animal-derived chitosan is rare and most major supermarkets no longer use chitosan. The safest option, however, is to buy organic. If you want more information on buying bananas as a vegan then check this article out.
Gelatin makes an appearance again, unfortunately. The setting agent used to give marshmallows their texture will often be animal-derived gelatin making them unsuitable for vegans. There are several marshmallow brands, however, that opt for plant-based ingredients so keep an eye on the packet.
Thai Curry Paste
You might think that a Thai curry paste is made up of coriander, lemongrass, ginger, garlic and chilli. But many pastes will continue a further ingredient: Fish sauce.
Bart Thai curry paste and Waitrose cooks’ ingredients paste, for example, both contain fish-derived ingredients.
The brand Thai Taste, however, do make their green and red Thai curry paste with no animal-derived products making them perfectly suitable for anyone following a vegan diet.
Christmas might not be the same without mince pies but they often contain suet. Although suet can be derived from plant sources, a lot of suet is still animal-derived making mincemeat unsuitable for vegans.
Most supermarket chains now make their own brand mincemeat with vegetable suet to ensure their product is suitable for all diets. However, some of the more traditional brands that follow traditional recipes will still use meat-based suet.
The main culprit in pesto is parmesan cheese which is, obviously, not vegan. It’s also not suitable for vegetarians as rennet is used in the production process. If something has been dressed in pesto then chances are it is not vegan.
However, there are some vegan options in the supermarket these days so keep an eye out for the vegan-approved logos.
Although following a vegan lifestyle is becoming easier and easier, knowing what foods contain meat products can be a bit of a minefield when some are really not that obvious.
The best approach to take when trying to determine whether certain foods contain meat products is to simply check the back of the packet and look for the vegan-approved or vegan-friendly logos.
Unfortunately, this list of foods that contain meat products is far from exhaustive but these are some of the most surprising.