Figuring Out Vegan Bread
When you switch to a vegan diet, you soon discover there can be a surprising number of foods that contain animal products. While many people would assume bread to be vegan, there are many types and brands that contain animal byproducts. This is the same with pretty much any processed food, so when you eat only vegan food, it’s important to check the ingredients of every product to make sure.
One of the ingredients most often used in non-vegan bread is whey. Whey, like casein, is created in the process of producing milk and cheese. Vegans know that most of the animals that produce these products are not treated well. Because of this, vegans choose not to consume any animal products, even if the animals themselves are not killed.
Lecithin is another common ingredient in many breads. While the modern version is more often made from soybeans, some manufacturers still use a version derived from egg yolks. For this reason, it’s important to pay close attention and make sure you know which type is being used in the product you are looking at.
Two similarly confusing ingredients are lactate and lactose. Lactose always comes from milk products, but the similarly named ‘lactate’ doesn’t. Some ingredients that start with ‘lac-‘ are made using a particular fermentation process that might use cornstarch or beet sugar. Of course, this is not true of other ‘lac-‘ products, so it’s important to look closely at labels and determine whether or not they are derived from animal byproducts.
Another very popular ingredient, and one that is very often overlooked, is dough conditioner. There are many different types of dough conditioner and many of them use some type of animal product or byproduct. One such conditioner is L-cysteine. Most frequently, this product is derived from duck feathers, but it can also come from pigs’ bristles or hooves.
There are also DATEM and Sodium/ Calcium Stearoyl Lactylate. These are both products that can come from plant sources, animal sources or both. The label often won’t specify which source was used, so you may have to get in touch with the company to make sure.
There are many ingredients like this that might be derived from either plant or animal sources or both. The problem with this is that it’s often up to the consumer to figure out which is which. There are many resources available to find this information online, but if you don’t find it, you can always call the company and find out.
There are many ways to purchase breads that are entirely vegan. Some companies produce special lines of bread for vegans. Other companies produce exclusively vegan bread. There are also companies that produce vegan mixes for homemade breads.
Many of these breads can be found in traditional grocery stores, but there are other ways to find vegan breads. Farmer’s markets often host smaller companies and groups that produce these breads. One of the benefits of going this route is that the bread is often fresher than in the grocery store. There are also companies that offer specialty breads online, and many companies will provide great delivery options to maintain freshness.
If you have the time, the best way to ensure a good supply of vegan bread is to make it yourself. While making your own bread takes time, it isn’t actually difficult, and the taste is incomparable. Most of the time involved is waiting for the dough to rise, but that just means setting a timer and forgetting it. Or, if you have one, you can put the vegan ingredients in a bread maker, and it’s all done for you. Either way, there is no store-bought bread that tastes like fresh-baked bread slathered with vegan margarine or strawberry preserves.
Best of all, you know all the ingredients you’re eating, and there’s no worrying about whether the strange-sounding ingredients in the store-bought bread are vegan, or even healthy.
E. Ashe is a writer with extensive interests in the areas of veganism, environmentalism, animal rights, and human rights.