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Sneaky Non-Vegan Ingredients and How to Avoid Them

Long post alert!

This is a topic I could go on and on about. Being vegan can be a stressful, overwhelming adventure in food label obsession. I've been there. I might be a new vegan this time around, but I've been a vegetarian or vegan for more of my life than I've been a meat-eater. There was a time when I tried memorizing the weird, crazy-long list of non-vegan ingredients, or carrying lists of them in my purse, but that just doesn't work. It's too complicated. Your grocery shopping will take 8 hours and your veganism will start to feel like a punishing chore. So here's some pointers on ways to avoid non-vegan crap while NOT DOING THAT.

Let's get started!


If you want to avoid animal products next time you tie one on, it might take a bit of pre-planning. It would be great if the world was perfect and every delicious beer or fine wine was 100% cruelty free… but sadly that is not the case.

Wine: This one is a puzzler. How can wine not be vegan, right? It’s just boozy grape juice. But the fermenting process results in sediment from grapes and to remove this sediment some producers use animal products to stick to the sediment and filter it out. These products could include:

Isinglass (made from fish bladders)

Gelatin (boiled body part goo)

Albumin (from egg whites)

Casein (common milk protein)

The worst part is that none of these ingredients are included on the labels. Are you stressing out? I was too, but don’t worry! If you love wine but hate animal cruelty, just check your brands on before enjoying. The folks at barnivore made a searchable list of popular alcohols and whether or not they are vegan. I can’t believe I just found this site! I would very much like to hug whoever’s responsible for it.

Beer: It might make you extremely happy to know that the majority of beers are, in fact, vegan. It made me happy. I mean, I know beer is not a “health food,” but there is nothing more satisfying than sitting in the sun after a long day with a cold, frothy pint. I LOVE IT. Plus, nothing goes better with tacos.

Unfortunately, there are a few exceptions. Let’s discuss them.

Some beer brewers use animal ingredients like isinglass in the “fining” and filtering process to reduce sediment. Guinness used to be known among vegans for this, but they actually recently replaced their filters and now the delicious Guinness Extra Stout that’s on tap at most bare is FINALLY VEGAN. Use barnivore to check your favorite brands and brews.

Almost all mass market beers are vegan, except Foster’s UK (which I think tastes like sweaty ball water, anyway. Just an opinion.) I read that the North American and Australian brewed Foster's are both vegan, so go for it if you're into that sort of thing.

Lately milk stouts have been gaining popularity. I thought this was gross before I was vegan. I mean, beer should taste like beer and not a milk shake, right? But this one is rather obvious and easy to avoid.

A lot of beers are also made with honey. If you are a vegan who avoids honey (I know not all do) then keep an eye on that.

Makeup/Beauty Products: The process of veganizing your beauty and self-care routines can be a lot. Makeup can contain several non-vegan ingredients. Here are some of the most common:

Lanolin (from wool) is often found in lip and hair products.

Glycerin (often made from animal fats) is used in soaps, moisturizers, hair products.

Casein, caseinate, or sodium caseinate (milk protein) is often in hair conditioners.

Squalene (can be made from shark liver oil) is in some anti-aging products.

Guanine (from scraping off fish scales) is used in bronzers, blush, and highlighters.

Beeswax is in a variety of cosmetic products.

Collagen from animals is often in anti-aging products.

The list goes on, and it’s not particularly helpful in list form. Especially because some of these ingredients (like squalene) are usually non-vegan but can be made from vegan sources. My best advice on cosmetics and beauty products is to find a reputable and trustworthy brand that is certified and labeled vegan. Here’s some of my favorites:

Activist Skincare

Plum Brilliance

All Good

Meow Meow Tweet

Elate Cosmetics

If you’re not sure where to find these products check out earth hero! Use the link below and enjoy 10% off by using out discount code EATLIKE10 at checkout.

Food: Okay, we’re gonna skip the obvi here like milk, cream, meat, fish, and poultry. We’re talking SNEAKY ingredients. So let’s talk.

Casein: We’ve mentioned it several times already today. Because it’s in a lot of crap. Like bread, rolls, foods you wouldn’t expect, so read your labels.

Whey: Milk protein that sneaks into all kinds of packaged foods.

Confectioner’s glaze: Sounds vegan right? It’s not. This product, also called pure food glaze, shellac, natural glaze, or resinous glaze, is made of bug secretions. So not just non-vegan, but also extremely nasty. It’s in a lot of shiny candy.

Gelatin: Yes, I’m harping on gelatin again, because it’s in all kinds of gummy sweets, candies, gel caps, vitamins, etc. READ LABELS and find brands you can trust.

Natural Flavoring: it isn’t required for manufacturers to label this if it includes animal products. Some trustworthy brands will write “vegan natural flavoring” on labels. Otherwise, do a little digging before you devour.

Some vegan vitamin brands we like are my kind by garden of life and abundant earth.

Fashion: A vegan wardrobe is not as easy as it sounds. Here’s what to avoid.

Leather: Obvi, duh. No need to elaborate.

Fur: Less obvi and here’s why—recently in the UK several designer fashions labeled “faux fur” were found to have actual fur in them! Yeah, get your rage face on, I know mine is. But there are ways to identify real fur including checking to see if the base of the fabric is flesh and checking to see if the tips of the hairs are blunt (faux fur) or tapered (animal fur/hair).

Wool: sourced from sheep who mostly live in deplorable conditions, abused by hasty shearing practices and then sent to slaughter once they’ve outlived their usefulness.

Silk: You might know that silk is made from thread created by silk worms. You might not know that in order to produce quality silk, the worms that birthed that thread have to be killed before they leave the cocoon, usually by steam or suffocation.

We know this is a lot of information to process and organize in your head in a way that you can use. So we put it into a handy dandy little infographic for you. Save, like, share as you see fit. This is info to help everybody get more vegan!

Hope this helps make the journey a little less overwhelming!