Identifying Animal Derived Ingredients in Food: A Guide for Vegans

For vegans, vegetarians, and those with dietary restrictions, it’s crucial to identify and avoid animal-derived ingredients in food.

However, deciphering food labels and understanding the sources of various ingredients can be challenging.

In this blog post, we’ll explore some common animal-derived ingredients, provide tips for reading food labels, and offer resources to help you make informed and ethical food choices.

Common Animal Derived Ingredients:

While some animal derived ingredients are easy to spot, like meat, eggs, and dairy products, others can be hidden in processed foods and difficult to recognize.

Here are some common animal-derived ingredients to watch out for:

  1. Gelatin: A protein derived from the collagen in animal bones, skin, and connective tissue, gelatin is often found in gummy candies, marshmallows, and some yogurts.
  2. Casein: A protein found in milk, casein is used in cheese production and can also be found in some non-dairy creamers and protein powders.
  3. Lactose: A sugar found in milk and dairy products, lactose is sometimes used as a sweetener or filler in processed foods.
  4. Whey: A byproduct of cheese production, whey is often used as a protein source in sports supplements and protein bars.
  5. Carmine: A red food coloring derived from crushed insects, carmine can be found in some candies, fruit juices, and cosmetics.
  6. Shellac: A resin secreted by insects, shellac is used as a glazing agent on some candies and as a coating on some pharmaceuticals and supplements.
  7. Isinglass: A substance obtained from fish bladders, isinglass is used as a clarifying agent in some beers and wines.

Tips for Reading Food Labels:

To identify animal derived ingredients in food, it’s essential to read food labels carefully.

Here are some tips to help you navigate ingredient lists:

  1. Look for allergen information: Many food labels include allergen information that can help you identify potential animal-derived ingredients. For example, products containing milk, eggs, or shellfish must be labeled accordingly.
  2. Learn alternative names: Some ingredients have alternative names that can make them more difficult to recognize. Familiarize yourself with these names and their sources to make informed choices.
  3. Look for vegan or vegetarian certifications: Some products display vegan or vegetarian certifications on their packaging, which can make it easier to identify suitable options.

Resources for Identifying Animal-Derived Ingredients:

There are several resources available to help you identify animal-derived ingredients in food, including:

  1. Mobile apps: Some apps, like Is It Vegan? and HappyCow, can help you identify vegan-friendly products and restaurants.
  2. Websites and blogs: Online resources like our website Veganoga and PETA offer extensive lists of animal-derived ingredients and vegan alternatives.
  3. Books and guides: Books like “Animal Ingredients A to Z” and “The Vegan Cheat Sheet” can provide comprehensive information on animal-derived ingredients and how to avoid them.


Identifying animal derived ingredients in food can be challenging, but with practice and the right resources, it becomes more manageable.

By familiarizing yourself with common animal derived ingredients, learning to read food labels, and utilizing available resources, you can make informed and ethical food choices that align with your vegan or vegetarian lifestyle.

Jennifer is a fervent animal lover, and a dedicated vegan. She has been a prolific contributor to the community for many years, offering insights, advice, and personal stories that have inspired many in their journey towards a plant-based lifestyle.

Jennifer's love for animals sparked her journey into veganism. Over a decade ago, she made the conscious decision to stop consuming animal products, a choice that she believes not only benefits her health, but also contributes to the well-being of the planet and its inhabitants.

Since then, she has remained firmly committed to her vegan lifestyle, constantly expanding her knowledge about plant-based nutrition, ethical consumption, and sustainable living.

Her journey into veganism has also been coupled with a love for writing. Jennifer has used this passion to share her vegan experiences, to educate others about the benefits of plant-based living, and to advocate for animal rights. Her work on reflects this passion, providing readers with thoughtful articles, nutritious recipes, and engaging stories that offer a deeper understanding of the vegan lifestyle.

Jennifer is much more than just a vegan and a writer; she is a beacon of compassion, courage, and conviction. Her commitment to the vegan lifestyle, her love for animals, and her passion for writing have all come together to create a powerful voice in the vegan community. Through her work, she continues to inspire and educate others about the many benefits of veganism.
Table of Contents