I have always assumed (a little naive) that everyone knows exactly what gelatin is and exactly where it comes from. From the reactions that I sometimes get about it, it turns out that this is unfortunately not always the case.
So it is time to talk about gelatin. And to start at the beginning …
What is gelatin?
Gelatin is a gelling and binder that is extracted from collagen, a protein that occurs in connective tissues (skin, cartilage, bones, …) of mammals. Here (read: Europe) it is mainly extracted from offal of cattle and pigs.
After a process of thickening and filtering, the gelatin is finally dried. Then it can be processed and sold in many different ways. It is available as a powder and you have probably seen gelatine in the form of wafer-thin, translucent sheets.
Gelatin is – as mentioned – used as a binding and gelling agent and is processed in an incredible amount of ready-to-eat food. From sweets (fruit bears, licorice, …) to various industrial bakery products (eg confectionery cream/pudding, coffee cakes, etc.).
The product is also frequently used in all kinds of medicines and cosmetic products such as ointments, capsules, bath pearls, …
It is often very difficult to find out whether or not a product contains gelatine. It should be mentioned fully on foods nowadays. So no longer as the E-number E441. However, it remains to watch out and ‘read labels’.
Gelatin is not very attractive
Aside from the fact that gelatine indeed works well and is very stable, the origin is not particularly attractive to most people.
I actually know very few people (and I also mean non-vegans) who do not draw their mouths in a strange fold when they get to know the origin of gelatin or even reminded of it.
That has always been a bit of a weird character trait of man, isn’t it? To find something mega-dirty, but that image in a different context (read: an attractive product that does contain gelatin) can very easily be supplanted. That, of course, also applies to meat anyway.
Anyway; Some people say that gelatine would be a kind of superfood. A view that I take with a grain of salt but that I will not elaborate on wisely enough 😉
What I often encountered online is the announcement that ‘no animals need to be slaughtered for gelatin’. It is then argued that the substance obtained from offal (!) doesn’t in theory require slaughter because it is a residual product.
Rarely heard something so absurd: – /
Alternatives for gelatin (vegan)
Apart from all this, gelatine is of course pretty handy. Fortunately, there is a very suitable plant-based alternative for this: agar agar. A transparent substance obtained from red seaweed, which is also sold in sticks and as a powder.
Some cosmetics and medicine manufacturers already use agar agar instead of gelatin. Let us hope that that becomes the new standard 😉