Posts Tagged ‘organic’

Veganic Farming

When it comes to agriculture, arguably the biggest buzzword of the last decade has been ‘organic’.

With the huge expansion in organic farming, organically grown crops no longer need to be sought out at specialised farmers markets or stores, and it’s now commonplace to walk into your local supermarket and alongside every vegetable comes its organic counterpart.

However, the word ‘organic’ has, to some extent, become a victim of its own success. With the huge hype around organic, people often choose to buy organic food (and now clothing) with little understanding of what that actually means other than ‘it’s a better option’.

There is a distinct irony in this: the modern organic movement originated in, essentially, a desire to reconnect with food – food that, over the last century, had become pumped full of chemicals and sprayed with pesticides and fertilisers. When I head to aisle 6 of 54 in my local supermarket to buy a pack of organic tomatoes that have been flown over from Portugal, I could not feel more disconnected from the food that I am buying.

This sense of reconnecting with food on a more personal level is not unfamiliar to vegans. Vegans often talk of the bizarre nature of food shopping today. It’s something we have all experienced – that walk down the meat aisle in a supermarket and the realisation that every piece of cellophane-wrapped piece of flesh around you used to be a part of an animal is a bewildering experience.

Omnivores feel it too – for many that is the very start of their journey towards vegetarianism. It’s that point where you reconnect.

Vegan organic/veganic/stockfree organic farming is a sub-movement within the organic food movement. It aims to reestablish that connection with nature and food once again. Organic food is supposed to be clean – veganic farming therefore sticks to the principles of avoiding pesticide and chemical fertiliser usage.

However, it takes this a step further. Veganic farm disallows the use of any animal byproducts whatsoever. Typical organic fertilisers include animal waste (manure and urea), other animal byproducts such as eggshells, blood, bone, and even animal remains.

The use of such products is abhorrent to both vegans and supporters of a true organic food movement.

The former, for obvious reasons – animal byproducts are a no-go. Most larger scale organic farming operations will purchase the aforementioned animal fertilisers from slaughterhouses, which sell them as a byproduct.

As for the organic food movement, supporters of this should be concerned based on the sheer levels of hormones and steroids which are fed to these animals. These chemicals are rife within their byproducts, and thus are part of so-called ‘organic’ farms. is a UK-based charity supporting veganic farmers and their practices

Veganic farming utilises various other methods for its fertilisation.

‘Green manures’ are methods of developing the soil without animal waste. One such example is the growth of cloves and leguminous crops to positively affect the nitrogen content of the soil prior to other crops being grown in it.

The entire system of a veganic farm is finely tuned but effective. When the system is in place, crops thrive. There isn’t even a need for pesticides of any kind, as crops include flowers which provide a rich ecosystem to control pests.

This in turn also provides complete sustainability. Thus, the system is inherently linked to the green movement. The farmers are not having to rely on external requirements such as fertiliser from animals for crop growth (animals which are an integral part to a farming system which is hugely damaging to the environment). By keeping this finely tuned machine running, and using the land to maximum efficiency, crop yields from veganic farms are large and varied.

One Degree are one of the companies supporting the rise of veganic farming in the US. Citing the lack of transparency in the modern food chain, and the lack of guarantee that ‘organic’ necessarily means healthy food anymore, they ensure that every supplier that creates their foods uses veganic farming methods.

They get to know every farmer who works for them and the history of their farms. They ensure that their core values match the farmer’s, and that they know how every product has been grown and by whom. They trust every farmer who works for them.

And when it comes to the people who grow the food that you eat everyday, surely it makes sense to want to trust them too?

For a little more insight into one of those farms, check out Don Hlaydich in this video.

Ten hidden non-vegan ingredients

Determining whether or not food is vegan/vegetarian can be a chore at the best of times. We’ve all been there, scanning the ingredients list and hoping “milk powder” or “chicken fat” doesn’t crop up. Sadly though, even if they don’t, you may not always be buying a vegan item. There’s a variety of animal-derived substances which are cleverly disguised under names which make them sound like scientific chemical components in rocket fuel, which will probably be swimming around somewhere at the bottom of the ingredients list of most processed foods along with all the E numbers. Well, you can’t blame them for inventing new names… “beaver anal glands” doesn’t sound like the most appetising ingredient does it? Here’s a rundown of ten of the most common, and also questionable, ingredients in a lot of processed foods. Starting with…

Castoreum (A.K.A. Beaver anal glands)

Do you really wanna touch this angry fella's bum?

No, I didn’t make the beaver anus thing up. Castoreum is a common ingredient in perfumes and colognes, because everyone knows that the best way to attract the opposite sex is with the delicate scent of beaver excrement. Strangely enough, beaver anus apparently also tastes like raspberry as it is a common ingredient in raspberry flavoured sweets and candies. Would have thought a better way to bring out the raspberry flavour in those sweets would be with, I dunno, raspberries?

Carmine/cochineal (A.K.A. Boiled bug juice)

For those of you who love those raspberry sweets, you may not just be consuming beaver anus but also carmine, a colouring derived from the cochineal bug. The carmine dye is a deep red colour, commonly used as a food colouring. It occurs naturally within the insects as an anti-predation mechanism. Somewhat ironic, seeing as it’s because of the production of this acid that literally billions are boiled alive every year in order to produce the red colouring…

The cochineal beetle



Shellac (A.K.A. Bug slime)

Whilst we’re on the subject of bugs and candy, it’s important not to forget shellac. Produced from a bug called the lac beetle, which is coincidentally of the same family of the cochineal (pretty unfortunate family really), this waxy substance is usually found as a coating for many shelled candies in order to give them an extra bit of shine. Sweets like Skittles and some cake decorations and sprinkles such as hundreds and thousands contain shellac.

Lanolin (A.K.A. Dirty sheep grease)

Watch out for lanolin or 'wool fat' as it's probably derived from a somewhat unwashed sheep...

Moving swiftly away from bugs, we move onto sheep. This one’s really quite gross actually. You know when you don’t wash your hair for a couple of days and all that grease builds up? Well, the same thing happens to sheep in their wool. Only they don’t wash for a lot longer. And the grease is then collected up, renamed from unwashed-sheep-grease to lanolin, and stuck in a variety of foods such as chewing gum.

L-cysteine/Cystine (A.K.A. Duck feathers. Or human hair.)

L-cysteine is a substance commonly used in bread production, and is derived from duck or chicken feathers. There have been some reports of it also being derived from a cheaper source – human hair. Whether that’s acceptable on your moral spectrum or not is one thing. Whether it’s disgusting or not is another issue entirely… The worst thing is, because it reacts with a protein in wheat, by the end of the bread production cycle L-cysteine is no longer present within the bread. As a result, there is no legal requirement to list it in the ingredients. Best way to dodge this is to stick to wholemeal bread.

Rennet (A.K.A. Cow stomach)

Ok, so this shouldn’t be a problem for vegans (unless you’re a cheeky vegan who eats cheese on the sly like a certain Miss Alicia Silverstone…), but it’s important to mention rennet for our cheese-guzzling vegetarian friends. Whilst in the UK, labelling can be fairly comprehensive as to whether or not cheese is vegetarian-friendly, in some countries it’s not. And it’s certainly less easy to tell if you’re eating out. Rennet, which is derived from the fourth stomach of a young cow, is still regularly used in cheese production despite many alternatives being available. Flouncel’s top tip is (surprise, surprise) go vegan!

Whey (A.K.A. That bit of milk that no one really wants)

Wow, whey looks so appetising. So tempted to quit being vegan right now.

Whey is a fairly obvious one. At least, I’d hope most vegans had heard of it and knew it wasn’t suitable (which is the same reason gelatin isn’t on this list). But I’m mentioning it because the stuff manages to make its way into all kinds of foods. Whey, which is a substance that’s left over after cheese production, is surprisingly prevalent in foods where you wouldn’t expect it to be. A typical example is crisps, where it seems to be hidden in all but the plain salted crisps in the form of dried whey. Whey is also infamous for making American accidentally-vegan favourite, Oreos, unsuitable for UK vegans where it is, for some reason, included.

Casein (A.K.A. Another by-product from milk, which you probably shouldn’t eat anyway…)

Casein is strangely found in some soya cheeses, as it’s very efficient at making them melt. Whilst initially looking like a fairly healthy protein-packed addition to the diet, casein has been linked to worsening austism symptoms, and many follow a casein-free diet because it’s similar in molecular-structure to gluten. Casein is common in many dairy products, but vegans should watch out for it in cereals and some candies and breath mints, as well as a variety of alcoholic beverages.

Isinglass (A.K.A. Fish bladder)

"Get away from our bladders!"

Not to be confused with hobbits and Isengard, the number one ingredient which makes various wines and beers (particularly ale) not vegan friendly is isinglass. It is obtained from the dried bladders of several varieties of fish (usually cod). By mixing it in to an unfiltered alcoholic drink, the sediment will clear rapidly by itself thus preventing the need for a filtration process. For any vegalcoholics out there, sadly fish bladders aren’t vegan. Or particularly appetising.

Bone Char in Sugar (A.K.A. ermm… bone char in sugar?)

We had one Vegangsta bring up the issue of bone char being used in sugar production in a previous post. A by-product of the meat industry, cattle bones are used in the production of some white sugar by acting as a filter to draw out the colour whilst the sugar is in a liquidised form. Fortunately, most major brands in the UK such as Tate and Lyle, Billington’s and Silver Spoon all avoid using bone char in creating their white sugar, but I can’t speak for every brand in the world. Probably best to check your brand out, and, if possible, stick to unrefined brown sugars.

So, there you have it. Ten ingredients to watch out for in your future purchases, and also some food for thought. Instead of sitting there wondering what the first person who drank a pint of cow’s milk thought he was doing (which I’m sure we’ve all done), instead wonder about what the first people to add sheep grease to chewing gum, duck feathers to bread, or beaver anus to raspberry sweets thought they were doing.

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