When “Vegetables” Aren’t Vegetarian

Is it unreasonable to expect that something that appears to be vegetarian to actually be vegetarian? or to at least say “non-vegetarian”, or do I seriously have to read the entire ingredient list of everything I buy? Why does meat have to be used as “flavoring”? And what do you do when you accidently buy something and later realize it isn’t vegetarian after all?

I realize the burden is mine and not the food company’s to ensure that I’m eating the foods that I want to be eating and not eating the ones I don’t, but sometimes things can get kinda tricky.

Some things I know to expect meat products in that otherwise may seem to be vegetarian, like vegetable soups for example. I know that for whatever reason vegetable soups are usually made with a base of chicken stock, or sometimes beef stock. Actually Progresso puts on their labels at the top “vegetarian” or “non-vegetarian”. I can appreciate that. But there are a few things that I have bought recently that I apparently didn’t read the label well enough and found out that what I thought was vegetarian actually wasn’t.

This one is probably my own fault, but as a new vegetarian I don’t know all of the places to find hidden animal products like someone who has been vegetarian their whole lives. Apparently beans are a very common place to find animal products, and now I know.


I’ve been buying these to make quick taco salads with on occasion. Nowhere on the front of the label does it suggest that this product may contain meat. And the nutrition label is located in very small writing on the side of the box, not even on the back. Last night as I pulled a couple of these out of the freezer to make a quick meal I finally read the box thoroughly.


Can you spot it? Chicken stock and rendered chicken fat. Not that the company intended to hide it. I obviously just didn’t read well enough. Still … what a disappointment. So for someone in my position, what do you do in this situation when you have already purchased something? I also ate one of these a couple weeks ago before I inspected the label closely enough. Do you chalk it up to an “honest mistake” and eat it but don’t buy it again, or what?

What I’ll probably end up doing is giving it away to a family member. But for me the biggest thing about being a vegetarian isn’t actually eating the meat as it is buying the meat. As Michael Pollan suggests, I want to “vote with my dollars”. Those dollars have been voted with now, whether I actually eat it or not. It all comes back to Supply vs. Demand.

Here is another example that actually pisses me off worse than the previous one: Yesterday I went to Fresh Market (our version of somewhere like Whole Foods) and bought a couple of these Smoked Eggplant Empanadas from the deli.


Sounds safe right? Well the ingredient list prints out on the label after you pick out your item and the cashier rings it up for you.


This one is much harder to find, down towards the bottom it says that the margarine contains beef fat. Since when is margarine made with beef fat? Isn’t margarine suppose to be made from vegetable oils?

I’m not trying to be psychotic about this, but I think its reasonable to expect that something that gives the impression of being vegetarian actually be vegetarian, or atleast be labeled accordingly.

I won’t even get into cooking vegetables in stock or adding ham hock and bacon to veggies. Ugh!


1 Comment

Filed under Food, pictures, Thoughts, vegetarian

One response to “When “Vegetables” Aren’t Vegetarian

  1. I actually find that a lot over here. I read every label of every new thing I buy. The biggest one for me is cheese. Finding cheese that is labelled correctly is so hard. Rennet (an animal product) is sometimes listed as just ‘enzymes’. I now only buy cheese that specifically says ‘non-animal rennet’, which severely limits my cheese options. Thankfully I have found a couple of good, reasonably priced ones.
    It is frustrating, but things are getting better over here with labelling, so hopefully they will where you are too.
    🙂 Kylie

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