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Animal “shortening”? Say it ain’t so! June 18, 2010

Posted by ourfriendben in recipes, wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here. I was just scrolling through my e-mail and saw that The Utne Reader had sent its newsletter with the headline “Twinkie Ingredients Demystified.” Now, who could resist a headline like that? Certainly not yours truly. I may not indulge in Twinkies these days, but they occupied near-cult status throughout my childhood.

Scanning the page, I saw that the article was by a guy who’d decided to photograph all the ingredients in Twinkies. I clicked the link, expecting to be grossed out by a bunch of chemicals. Little did I know! Sadly, Utne only showed six of the photos; you had to go to the guy’s website to see them all. But that sixth photo stopped me in my tracks. The caption said “Animal Shortening.” And it looked like Crisco… or lard.

Animal shortening?!! Good God have mercy, what kind of euphemism will they think of next?!! Rushing to Google, I found that indeed, “animal shortening” was defined as lard, beef drippings, or rendered suet. Now, I don’t know about you, but when I was growing up, the whole point of shortening was that it wasn’t lard. Either you used lard, or you used shortening (in our house, Crisco), which was made from vegetable oil. And never the twain shall meet.

As a passionate vegetarian, I have not been so shocked by any food-related revelation since they started putting gelatin in yogurt and candy (I had to give up Altoids and marshmallow creme, aka fluff, sob). Animal shortening?!! That’s lard, people. Let’s call a pig a pig. All I could think of was eating in a restaurant in San Antonio years ago and ordering refried beans. The horrified waiter told me I didn’t want to order that: “It contains the L-word.” “Pardon me?” “You know… lard.”   

Eeeewwww, lard. To think that Twinkies contain the L-word, too. Unfortunately, I just returned from the grocery and am not about to turn around and race back out just to look at the ingredients list on the back of a box of Twinkies. But I’ll check it out next time I’m there. I’m very curious to see if they list “animal shortening” or just “shortening.”

If I find that it just says “shortening,” I may start rampaging through the aisles. Hey, I can always plead the Twinkie Defense.

                 ‘Til next time,

                            Silence

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Comments»

1. Elephant's Eye - June 18, 2010

I stopped buying biscuits that listed ‘marine oil’. What is that, whale blubber? But then soap is tallow – also stewed up dead cows. And we can’t afford a vegetable oil soap for every day use. Used to fall for gelatine soap, but that isn’t vegetarian either?

They certainly don’t make it easy to be vegetarian, do they, Diana? “Marine oil,” eeewww! Even some eggs and dairy products here are now enriched with fish oil to up the omega-3 content. I certainly approve of using the whole animal if you’re using it at all, but I wish they’d do it more overtly so it would be easier to avoid inadvertently buying in!

2. Jen - June 21, 2010

Gag!! Does this mean I should re-think my suet purchases too? I thought that gelatin is made synthetically now and what about glycerin? Gotta be more careful. I have purchased a twinkie or two in my time.

Synthetic gelatin? I’ve never heard of that, though occasionally you’ll see various vegetarian pseudo-gelatins. I can’t imagine anyone going to the trouble of synthesizing gelatin when its source (cows’ hooves) is so readily available, but if you find out more, please let me know, Jen! As for glycerin(e), I’m ashamed to say I just assumed it was veggie-friendly, but a check-in with the dictionary reveals this ominous definition: “an odorless, colorless, syrupy liquid…prepared by the hydrolysis of fats and oils; it is used as a solvent, skin lotion, food preservative, etc., and in the manufacture of explosives…” Gack!!!

3. Sara - May 31, 2013

It’s hard for muslims too (sob)

Good point, Sara! What are these people thinking?!

4. ThoughtThisMIghtBeHelful - March 13, 2014

This might be a useful resource for those (note though that the comment that Kosher are vegetarian, is deceiving .. .in many cases this is wrong (given Kosher definitions of what is/is not “meat”) http://www.peta.org/living/food/gelatin-alternatives/

Thank you so much! And you’re quite right, “Kosher” has nothing whatever to do with vegetarianism, but rather with the ritual slaughter of animals, which animals can and cannot be eaten, how and when those animals are prepared, and the separation of foods containing (approved) flesh and those containing dairy.


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