{A-Z:Veganism} G is for Gelatine

G is for…

Gelatine.

During my primary school years, it was not uncommon for all students to be restricted to the classrooms during recess and lunch breaks.

We would eat the contents of our lunch boxes at our desks, chatting, and gazing longingly at empty playgrounds through closed windows.

It wasn’t whole school detention or inclement weather that kept us indoors- it was a foul stench.

My suburban Sydney school was situated directly across the road from an enterprise called Davis Gelatine.

The manufacture of gelatine (gelatin) and tallow occurred a few yards away from the grounds of my primary school, for the entire seven years of my primary education.

Maybe it is no surprise that I am vegan! Perhaps the roots of my veganism were established during those years.

I remember that the smell was repulsive. It filled the air. My sister recently recalled that it ‘smelt like hell’.

I recall being told that gelatine was made from horses hooves. My juvenile brain conjured up images of amputated hooves boiling in large pots, cauldron style. It really did smell that bad.

To my mind, the factory was a dark and sinister place.

I also remember the frustration of our school principal whenever the air quality was compromised. In my senior years, the principal was also my class teacher. I recall occasions that she retreated to her office to telephone the company, her simmering anger palpable.

Surely the factory would have controlled the odour if it was at all possible?

Or, perhaps the company had little regard for the complaints of a local school principal.

I am grateful that I didn’t live in the vicinity of the factory. Many of my school friends did.

The smell hindered our freedom to enjoy the outdoors. It robbed us of fresh air. The smell was repulsive, but was it also toxic to young lungs?

Gelatine manufacturers are frequently located near slaughterhouses. This is where the raw materials of the gelatine production process are sourced.

Davis Gelatine was built in 1917, at a time when a slaughterhouse was located in a neighbouring suburb. By the time I attended primary school, the slaughterhouse was long gone.

A year after I graduated from primary school, the factory relocated to a rural area in Queensland- presumably near a slaughterhouse. It is my understanding that the factory was ‘forced out’. Times had changed. This type of enterprise was no longer welcome in a residential area.

My sister was fortunate to spend her last couple of years at school free of the foul stench and indoor restrictions. The neighbours must have been ecstatic. The frustrated principal had retired by this time, so -like me – she never experienced the improved air quality.

What is gelatine (gelatin)?

Gelatine is derived from collagen.

Collagen, definition:

The fibrous protein constituent of bone, cartilage, tendon, and other connective tissue.

Collagen is present in the bodies of humans and non-human animals – including birds, reptiles, fish and mammals.

IMG_1429

In gelatine manufacture, the raw materials are commonly pig skin, cattle skin and bones.

According to the Gelatine Manufacturers of Europe, approximately 80% of the edible gelatine manufactured in Europe is produced using the skin of pigs. The remainder is derived from fish, the skin of cattle, and bones.

How is gelatine manufactured?

The pre-treatment process (conditioning) of gelatine manufacture differs for pig skin, and cattle skin and bones. All raw materials are cut, washed and de-greased. An acid process is used for pig skin, while an acid and alkaline process is used for cattle skin and bones.

The rest of the manufacturing process is the same for all raw materials, and involves extraction, filtration, concentration, drying, grinding, milling, testing, packaging.

What is gelatine used for?

Gelatine is used as a stabiliser, thickener, gelling agent or texturiser in foods.

Sweets, baked goods and desserts may contain gelatine as an ingredient. It gives lollies like ‘snakes’ and ‘jelly babies’ their form, their chewy consistency.

Isinglass, derived from the swim bladders of fish, is one of the oldest forms of gelatine. It is used in the fining process of some alcoholic beverages.

Gelatine is used in the pharmaceutical industry for items like capsules and tablets. It is also used as a replacement for blood plasma in blood plasma ‘expanders’.

Gelatine is used in the photographic industry, in the production of photographic materials. Specifically, ink-jet printer paper is coated with gelatine. It is also used in the production of X-ray films.

Gelatine may also be present in the following diverse items:

nail polish remover

fondant icing

implantable medical devices

match heads

sandpaper

A ‘non-gelling variant’ of gelatine is known as hydrolyzed collagen, and may be present in cosmetics.

Alternatives to gelatine in food products

Some sweets that have traditionally contained gelatine, like marshmallows and jelly babies, are now available gelatine-free.

We buy a packet of gelatine-free jelly crystals each year to make our Christmas trifle. For people who enjoy making their own jelly (jello), there is a product called agar agar, derived from seaweed.

For information about using alternatives to gelatine in food preparation, see Gelatin Alternatives.

***

My children know that most lollies contain gelatine. From a very young age, they have known that their parents like to inspect any ‘party’ bags that they receive at birthday parties. Oh how my children love party bags!

My children have attended many birthday parties where they have been provided with vegan lollies in their party bags (that usually cost four times as much as non-vegan lollies). I truly appreciate the efforts of parents who cater so thoroughly- and generously – to our family’s veganism.

Incidentally, I love party bags that don’t contain sugar laden treats, or any food at all. This type are loved by vegan parents and/or health-conscious parents alike. Perhaps not as loved by children though!

Our local ‘health food’ store stocks a decent array of vegan lollies.

But, they haven’t become a feature on my shopping list. Some things are best avoided- whether they contain gelatine or not.

For a list of vegan lollies available in Australia, and to view photos of the ‘raw materials’ (body parts) of gelatine manufacture, see ‘They put WHAT in my lollies!?’ Now I know why Davis Gelatine smelt so repulsive!

***

cows1

Gelatine production, like leather production, is a by-product of the meat industry. Pigs and cows are not specifically killed for the manufacture of gelatine. However, the fact that the by-products of the industry (skin, hides, bones) are sold on, ensures that the entire industry is more viable (and profitable).

My experience with the gelatine factory as a child demonstrates that the production and manufacture of animal products impacts negatively on the environment, affecting people’s enjoyment of outdoor spaces.

Naturally, I haven’t suffered any lasting affects from spending many a lunch break indoors.

However, my experience is a reminder that humans and our environment are paying a high price for the meat industry.

Of course, non-human animals pay the ultimate price.

References:

Gelatine Manufacturers of Europe

Gelatin Manufacturers Association Asia-Pacific

In My A-Z of Veganism series, I discuss and explore a topic or issue related to veganism, and my experiences as a vegan – as I work my way through the alphabet!

Ally

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About Ally
Mamma. Vegan. I blog at Made of Stars.

25 Responses to {A-Z:Veganism} G is for Gelatine

  1. Christine Waters says:

    Ally, I know I have known you & Susie all of your lives, but I feel I have been so ignorant in so many ways. Since preparing Christmas Lunch for our two, so welcome Vegans, I have become so aware of the thoughtless cruelty towards other living creatures. Your site, as well as you two girls have opened my eyes, so much that I can’t go back to my former way of life. I am learning so much by your Tags, the Library, as well as just thinking it all through & then investigating for myself. I am trying so many Vegan products & really enjoying them all. I still have a way to go, but I will get there. Love you all, Chris xxx

    • Ally says:

      Wow! Chris! Your comment has given me goosebumps. I can relate to your experience of ‘opening your eyes’. There are some things, that once we know them, we just can’t unlearn or forget. This is how I feel about animal industries. I can’t pretend that I don’t know.
      I really appreciate your honesty and your kind words. I am here to support you in any way that I can. I know Susie is too. Love you lots xxx

    • susykat says:

      Chris, this is so amazing and exciting to hear 🙂 The vegan food you made for Seb & I at Xmas was so delectable, so I can be sure that you won’t have any problems with preparing delicious and healthy vegan meals. As Ally said, we are definitely here to support you on your journey! Love you xoxoxox

  2. tahinitoo says:

    This is such an important topic to cover. Thank you for sharing it with your readers, Ally! I wish more people knew about gelatin(e). I remember telling a friend about it several years ago and it made her become a vegetarian. It was a wonderful decision for her.

    • Ally says:

      Thanks Amy. I appreciate your comment. I actually just updated the post. It appears to have published an earlier version. I’ve fixed it now.

  3. susykat says:

    Very informative piece, Ally. I vividly remember the smell of Davis Gelatine, and I recall being scared about what went on behind the factory walls. You’re right, the animal exploitation industries wreak so much havoc on the environment. Knowing that these industries need not exist at all makes it even more tragic to think about.

    • Ally says:

      I agree Su, and this is only the lower end of the scale. Imagine living in the vicinity of a factory farm, or a feedlot.
      I do wonder what the smell actually was- the body parts? chemicals used in the manufacturing process? or a combination?
      Was it toxic? or just unpleasant? I hope it was just the latter.

  4. Don’t know how I have been missing out on this A-Z:Veganism! Back from the holidays now, and I think I have a lot of catching up to do on your posts 🙂 By the way, haven’t published my post yet, but I have nominated you as Very Inspiring Blogger because you truly deserve it. Don’t know if you have already received one, but giving you a shout out anyways because I think everyone can benefit from your posts.

  5. Brittany says:

    I love this A-Z series. Gelatin makes me want to barf at the thought. I can’t even imagine the smell..EW!

  6. uberdish says:

    It’s crazy, but I quite recently (October ‘ish) learned about the fining process & the use of animal products in my favourite bottle of wine! Great post, as so many people are not aware of the animal products in some of their treats!

    • Ally says:

      Thankfully there are wines available that don’t use isinglass or other animal products in the fining process. I’m sorry to hear that your favourite wine isn’t one of them.

      • uberdish says:

        Happy to say that my favourite wines now are vegan and organic – Frey and Bonterra (California) and Frogpond (Ontario!).

      • Ally says:

        Lucky you! They sound great.
        We don’t have a large range of organic AND vegan wine here, but we do have vegan wine. I like a brand called Yellowtail. All of their red wine is vegan, but their white wine uses gelatine. Lucky I prefer red!

  7. Andra Muhoberac says:

    There was a posting from Animals Australia of a large heap of animal bones waiting to be processed in a gelatin factory. I expect you saw it! When I was a kid growing up in the south of America everyone loved “jello salad”. It was flavoured Jellow (usually lime or lemon) mixed with celery, grated carrot, walnuts or pecans, and often pineapple pieces poured into a pie pan and refrigerated. Very traditional at buffets and holidays. I do remember once asking Mother what Jello was made of and she said the marrow from cows’ bones. I reckon that was pretty close. I think if one lived near one of those factories as you did they’d definitely think twice about using it. No one there would have ever heard of agar agar. Too bad. It works wonderfully.

    • Ally says:

      I’ve certainly seen jelly (jello) with fruit in it, but adding vegetables and nuts is a variation that I haven’t seen! Was it dessert? Or eaten with dinner? Interesting flavour combinations!
      I have never made jelly from scratch. When we need it for trifle, I order it from the Cruelty Free Shop. Just add water! Easy.

  8. Thanks for this reminder/lesson! I know to avoid gelatin in foods, but it’s good to remember to investigate how alcohol is processed. And I actually had no idea that gelatin can be used in nail polish removers. I had to run to the bathroom cabinet to check the tiny bottle of alternative remover I occasionally use, and was relieved to see it contains only plant-based ingredients.

    Next I’ll have to research matches…

    • Ally says:

      I was a bit surprised by the match heads- I had no idea. I do have a few boxes, but they aren’t labelled.
      Hopefully we will never require a medical implantable device – and not just for the gelatine content!
      I’m glad your nail polish remover is OK.

  9. sookisu says:

    Thanks Ally – a really informative post. My sister bought me some vegan marshmallows for Christmas – absolutely delicious although insanely expensive compared to the gelatine based version – I suppose that this is because they have to be made on an artisan basis. I do wonder if gelatine free products were more widely available in ‘main stream’ stores if even the most ardent meat eater wouldn’t prefer to buy gelatine free.

    • Ally says:

      Oh you are lucky! You’re right, vegan marshmallows are pricey here too.
      I occasionally buy them to make rocky road- and like you demonstrated, they are yummy in hot chocolate!

  10. liveblissful says:

    Thanks for writing this. I knew gelatin was animal derived but I didn’t really think about it much before. I feel so bad for you that you had to smell that everyday. It sounds truly disgusting :s

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