Vegetarianism and Alcohol

Your previous post brought up a few questions about the relationship between the different types of vegetarianism and their use of alcohol.  Can you help me understand?

Dietary vegans (or strict vegetarians) eliminate animal products from their diet. They abstain from eating meat, fish, dairy products, and eggs along with honey. They are concerned with all animal substances. This sometimes includes seaweed because of the crustaceans that are commonly found among seaweed. Most also refrain from drinking beer and wine.

Beer contains malt from barley, water, hops, and yeast. Many beers are made without animal products and are acceptable to vegans who do not abstain from alcoholic beverages. However, some breweries – such as British producers – use animal products in the filtering process. Most breweries do not reveal if they do or do not use animal products in the processing of their beers. There are a few exceptions but vegetarians must read their ads closely.

Wine is essentially made from grapes. However, animal products may be used in the production process. These wines may therefore not be suitable as part of a vegan diet. Wineries use these animal-derived products called “finings” to remove proteins, yeast, and other organic particles that are in suspension during the making of the wine. A fining agent is added to the top of the vat. As it sinks down, the particles adhere to the agent and are carried out of suspension. None of the fining agent remains in the finished product sold in the bottle, and not all wines are fined.

Examples of animal products used as finings are gelatin, isinglass, chitosan, casein, and egg albumen. Bull’s blood is also used in some Mediterranean countries but is not allowed in the U.S. or Europe. Kosher wines use isinglass derived from fish bladders, though not from the sturgeon, since the kosher status of this fish is in debate. Of these, casein and albumen (derived from milk protein and egg white, respectively) would be acceptable for ovo-lacto vegetarians, but not for the other vegetarians.

Vegetarian food practices exclude animal products from their diet but traditionally include cereals, grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and legumes. There has been a great deal of controversy relating to soybean legumes, which are the basic protein source for vegans. These range from the ingredients used in their processing, essential amino acid amounts remaining after processing, soy’s regulatory hormone substances, and most importantly the fact that 90% of the soybeans grown in the United States are genetically modified organisms (GMO).

For some vegetarians, their need to meet the body’s essential protein requirement has led to vegetarian varieties. Ovo-lacto vegetarians allow for seaweeds, dairy milk, butter, and some cheese not made with rennet, yogurt (without gelatin), and egg products. Ovo vegetarianism allows for eggs but no dairy products. Semi-vegetarian diets consist largely of vegetarian foods but may include fish, poultry, or sometimes meats on an infrequent basis. Others draw a line between fish and poultry. This is simplistic but gives you a sense of the range of differences.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s