The Vegetarian Resource Group Blog


Posted on November 25, 2015 by Samantha Gendler, Senior Editor


Reader Carolyn Stephens wanted everyone to know about the cartoon Mutts and all its animal rights themes, but especially the quotes from Pope Francis it featured.

“It would also be mistaken to view other living beings as mere objects subjected to arbitrary human domination.” (The cartoonist had a picture of a dog chained up.)

“Because all creatures are connected, each must be cherished with love and respect, for all of us as living creatures are dependent on one another.” (Pictures of many animals holding paws and flippers)


Please visit The Vegetarian Resource Group’s Outreach Table at The Vegetarian Society of DC’s Annual Vegan Thanksgiving Dinner

Posted on November 25, 2015 by Samantha Gendler, Senior Editor


The Vegetarian Resource Group will be exhibiting at The Vegetarian Society of DC’s Annual Vegan Thanksgiving Dinner held at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Bethesda, Maryland. If you’re attending this meal, please stop by the VRG booth and say hello. Happy Thanksgiving!

Potato Chips’ Water Footprint

Posted on November 24, 2015 by Samantha Gendler, Senior Editor


By Jeanne Yacoubou, MS

The VRG received an email inquiry from a European reader about the amount of water needed to produce one bag of potato chips listed in our Save Our Water the Vegetarian Way brochure:

Water Footprints and Virtual Water
In the brochure we cited data from page 42 Table 4.2 of a UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education document authored by Chapagain and Hoekstra (referred to herein as “Report 16”) giving global averages of the virtual water content of selected foods:

The “water footprint” of an individual, business or nation as described in the Introduction (p. 11) of Report 16 is defined as “the total volume of freshwater that is used to produce the goods and services consumed by the individual, business or nation…consists of two parts: use of domestic water resources and use of water outside the borders of the country…includes both the water withdrawn from surface and groundwater and the use of soil water (in agricultural production).”

“Virtual water” in the Summary to Report 16 (p. 9) is defined as “the volume of water required to produce a commodity or service.”

A Potato Industry Employee’s Perspective: Water Footprint of Potato Chips
The inquirer told us that he had been in the European potato industry for several years responsible for approximately 300,000 t (approx. 661.4 million pounds) of potatoes used for chips annually in a few countries. He thought that the value (185 L = 48.9 gal.) given in our brochure’s table for water needed to produce one 200 g (7 oz.) bag of potato chips was too low.

He suggested that the water usage involved in producing a bag of potato chips from start to finish is significantly higher and should include the water involved in all of the following steps: potato seed production (fresh seed used every year); fertilizer and pesticide production; water loss from outgrade potatoes not meeting all quality specifications and thereby discarded from production lines (on farms: 10-20% and in the chip plants: 3-5%); storage from October to June where there is an ongoing water need to humidify and regulate temperature and ventilation; potato (and thereby water) losses when in long-term storage due to inadequate conditions (8-50% of crop); transporting, washing and processing potatoes during chip production; producing, processing and transporting vegetable oils including palm oil used in the final product; packaging materials manufacture; transportation from chip plant to distributors and on to retailers.

Our reader told us:
My opinion is based on my experience in the potato industry. I also cite Pimentel’s work which states it takes 500 L of water to grow one kilogram of potatoes. By comparison your brochure states it’s only half of that.” (p. 100)

He related to us a farming scenario when he was an agricultural manager during a drought year:

Can you imagine irrigation equipment working 24/7 on one farm which pumped approximately 5,000 cubic meters (approx.1.3 million gallons) of water per hour onto fields by 8 pumping stations from two rivers and four wells?

…The total area of the farm was more than 6,000 ha (hectare) (23.2 square miles)…potatoes grew on 1,000 ha (3.9 sq. mi.)…The irrigation system was used for vegetables (1/3) and potatoes (2/3)…The biggest unit there was a center pivot supplying 140 ha (0.54 sq.mi.) with a capacity of 600+ cubic meters (158,500+ gallons) of water per hr. used for potatoes only.

Since the irrigation was needed under drought conditions The VRG asked if the system operated during years with normal rainfall. We were informed:

In a “normal” year the irrigation system would work 30-50% below the drought year rate but it depended on the soil type and quality; potato variety; climate at a particular farm location; and weather conditions (rainfall and temperature) in a given year.

In a follow up discussion, The VRG learned more about the complexities involved in calculating water footprints for potato chips:

The paradox with potatoes is that the water supplied to fields and later in the factory is the same water that is removed: potatoes retain 78- 81% of water but potato chips, only 2.5-3%. In other words from a single one-ton (2,205 lbs.) capacity chip production line the amount of water which must be removed from potatoes exceeds 2.2 t of steam per hour (4,850 lbs. of steam per hour = 9.7 gallons of water per minute).

What happens to the removed water?
I witnessed the water just going up in the air; you could see plenty of steam above every chip factory. I raised the subject of wasted energy and water many years ago, but there was no intention to change anything as there was no external pressure at all.

Another aspect of potato chip manufacture came to light during our discussion. The potato industry manager stated:

…In chips there is 30-35% fat from the oil the chips were fried in during processing. So if we add all water used in the supply chain for all ingredients including the vegetable oil…such as local sunflower or canola oil and imported palm oil…the water usage will be much higher than calculated by the authors you cite in your brochure.

Although VRG’s research in October 2015 showed that palm oil is not listed as an ingredient in the top ten potato chip brands sold in the US, palm oil is used in some potato chips sold in Europe. We learned that:

Palm oil is used in potato chips in some European countries…it may be used as part of a blend of sunflower and palm oils or used alone…I recently saw a bag of chips in the supermarket that contained only palm oil…In other cases the proportion of palm oil is going down from year to year but it is still in usage.

I saw a report showing that European Union countries imported 1,400 tons of palm oil in 2014…The interesting fact is that a large European sunflower and canola oil producer imports palm oil regularly.

Here is a link to a European chip company stating that it uses palm oil in its products:

Interested readers may learn more about palm oil production and harvest as well as efforts to find alternatives here:

American Potato Chip Consumption
Recent United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) data place annual US potato chip consumption at 17 lbs. per person:
To calculate how much raw commodity it takes to produce this quantity of chips The VRG used the potato manager’s estimate of 0.8 kg (800 g or 1.76 lbs.) of raw potatoes needed to make one 200 g (0.44 lb. or 7 oz.) bag of potato chips. We used 322 million for the US population as of October 2015.

Based on these estimated values, total annual chip consumption in the US is approximately 5.5 billion lbs. of potato chips. To make this amount of potato chips approximately 21.9 billion lbs. of raw potatoes are used.

Are Chapagain’s and Hoekstra’s Values Accurate?
We pointed out in our response to the reader that Chapagain and Hoekstra had indicated several sources of error in their report. Use of global averages (Values could be significantly more or less in different areas depending on many factors such as climate variability and agricultural practices.) See Summary and p. 41 Table 4.1 for examples. Excluded water needed for processing (p. 38 of Report 16) Many simplifying assumptions (p. 26 of Report 16) when calculating the water footprint of processed products (e.g., potato chips) derived from primary raw commodities (e.g., potatoes): water needed to produce only one raw commodity used to calculate water footprint for each processed product raw commodity produced domestically using only domestic resources no mention of water footprints of packaging materials and their processing as well as water needed to run production lines in factories

Chapagain and Hoekstra have expressed concerns over some of their assumptions and choice of certain data sets while discussing their work’s shortcomings (pgs. 70-71 of Report 16). These include:using crop water requirements (not actual water used by crops) as a basis excluding irrigation losses focusing only on quantitative use of water resources (disregarding impacts of human activities on water quality such as agricultural pollution due to pesticides and fertilizers)

In line with observations made here concerning Chapagain’s and Hoekstra’s work, a September 2015 article published at reiterates the main points:

See also:

Despite the limitations and qualifying assumptions to all water footprint calculations discussed above, Chapagain and Hoekstra have produced a vast body of knowledge about water footprints serving as a basis for future refinement by researchers just as Chapagain and Hoekstra also continue to develop ways to calculate water footprints more accurately.

Post Script: Net-Zero Chips
Some potato chip companies are redesigning their production methods at pilot sites to achieve a “net-zero” snack chip:

The VRG asked the potato industry manager if European companies are also piloting net-zero technologies and received this reply:
In some parts of Europe companies don’t have customers with great environmental awareness and since competition is not a factor, no changes are in process that I know of…

Post Script: Ugly Vegetables
An innovative way for consumers to conserve water used for food production is to purchase the outgrades (i.e., cosmetically blemished fruits and vegetables that are discarded from production lines).

For more information:

Interested consumers may find out more about ugly grocers near them:

The contents of this posting, our website, and our other publications, including Vegetarian Journal, are not intended to provide personal medical advice. Medical advice should be obtained from a qualified health professional. We often depend on product and ingredient information from company statements. It is impossible to be 100% sure about a statement, information can change, people have different views, and mistakes can be made. Please use your best judgment about whether a product is suitable for you. To be sure, do further research or confirmation on your own.

To support The Vegetarian Resource Group research, please donate at

To join The Vegetarian Resource Group go to


Posted on November 24, 2015 by Samantha Gendler, Senior Editor


We received this note from the writers of the 52 Insights blog:

Hi, we hope you’re well. We recently published an interview with filmmaker Louie Psihoyos and based on your interest in veganism we thought you might be interested in the piece.

Psihoyos is currently promoting his forthcoming film Racing Extinction, which explores issues such as the current mass extinction event taking place worldwide, his covert partnership with Elon Musk to uncover the largest shark fin trade in the world, and much more. In the interview Psihoyos explains that veganism is the number one thing that people can do to individually help the environment.

Would it be possible for you to feature this piece on your site and/or your social media channels? Any help is greatly appreciated.

Here is a link to the Racing Extinction Trailer:

Support The Vegetarian Resource Group by Purchasing Vegan Books As Holiday Gifts from our Catalog

Posted on November 23, 2015 by Samantha Gendler, Senior Editor


The Vegetarian Resource Group Book Catalog offers a wide range of vegan books including:

Vegan for the Holidays
Artisan Vegan Cheese
Simply Vegan
The Natural Vegan Kitchen
Asian Fusion
The Joy of Vegan Baking
The Indian Vegan Kitchen
Vegan Brunch
Teff Love
Vegan Soul Kitchen
The 4-Ingredient Vegan
The Lowfat Jewish Vegetarian Cookbook
Viva Vegan!
Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World
Tofu Cookery
The Almond Milk Cookbook
The Gluten-Free Vegan
Food Allergy Survival Guide
The Everything Vegan Pregnancy Book
And so many more….

FREE media mail shipping for orders over $30 in the United States only!
Visit to order books online and support VRG’s outreach at the same time!


Posted on November 23, 2015 by Samantha Gendler, Senior Editor

We (Vegetarian Resource Group) currently have a a volunteer in Brazil translating our Food Ingredient Guide into Portuguese. We greatly thank Hugo Dos Santos, who proofed a beginning version. Here is Hugo’s website:

If you are fluent in Portuguese and can volunteer to assist with this project, please let us know at

Thank you.


More Vegan Restaurants Added to The Vegetarian Resource Group’s Online Guide to Vegan/Vegetarian Restaurants in the USA

Posted on November 20, 2015 by Samantha Gendler, Senior Editor

The Vegetarian Resource Group maintains an online Guide to Vegan/Vegetarian Restaurants in the USA and Canada. Below are some recent additions. The entire guide can be found here:

Corner Juice Bar and General Store
2400 Fleet St.
Baltimore, MD 21224
Choose from their selection of juices and smoothies including choices such as Fresh Start Juice (spinach, pear, honeydew, green apple, and ginger) or Barb’s Oat Blast Smoothie (banana, peach, oats, cinnamon, pine nuts, pear juice, and oat mylk).

408 Elden St.
Herndon, VA 20170
GreenFare serves healthy vegan food that does not include added oil and salt. Dine on a hearty salad and a variety of bowls including their Organic Hearty Roasted Vegetables Bowl and Organic Southwestern Chipotle Bowl. They also sell Organic Spinach and Sweet Potato Lasagna and Organic Pumpkin Walnut Risotto.

Killer Vegan
996 Stuyvesant Ave.
Union, NJ 07083
Enjoy their vegan brunch buffet every 1st and 3rd Sunday each month. Brunch items include scrambled tofu, pancakes, French toast, tempeh bacon, steamed greens, bottomless coffee and tea, and more. At other times enjoy a variety of sandwiches including The Pizza Burger, Meatball Sub, and BBQ Tempeh. They also offer soups, salads, and sides. Finally, be sure to try their milkshakes or smoothies! Cash only.

Little Pine
2870 Rowena Ave.
Silver Lake, CA 90039
Enjoy organic/Mediterranean inspired vegan food at this restaurant including a variety of hearty salads and dishes such as stuffed shells, vegan cassoulet Provençale, “meatballs” and polenta in a marinara sauce, and more.

The Juice Laundry
722 Preston Ave. #105
Charlottesville, VA 22903
Enjoy a wide variety of fresh juices, smoothies, and nutmilks along with a variety of salads, bowls, and more. They use organic and locally sourced produce.

815 Broadway
New York, NY 10003
Located in Union Square, this 100% vegan burger joint serves all the classics: Beefless Burgers, Shakes, Onion Rings made with chickpea batter, as well as many more sides, salads, and desserts to choose from. Several items are organic. They even offer Kombucha on Tap!

Vegan Palate
261 King St.
Northampton, MA 01060
Vegan Palate is committed to providing dishes prepared in a strictly vegan kitchen using organic produce and soy proteins. Along with a full bar, Vegan Palate has a menu filled with Asian-inspired dishes such as Malaysian curry stew, tom yum soup, and mango salad. Finish off your evening with a slice of vegan chocolate cake or a scoop of vegan ice cream in this restaurant’s cozy and casual atmosphere.


Vegano Italiano Tours reveal rarely seen Italy in 2016

Posted on November 19, 2015 by Samantha Gendler, Senior Editor


Vegano Italiano Tours, a joint project of Tierno Tours and Green Earth Travels, returns with two terrific travel tours for 2016. The first is a week-long tour of southwestern Italy’s renowned Amalfi Coast and overlooked Cilento Coast July 2–9, with visits to Herculaneum, Padula, and Roccadaspide. The second week-long tour goes through the stunning region of Puglia in southeastern Italy, with visits to Bari, Matera, and Alberobello, September 24–October 1.

Whether Amalfi’s breathtaking views or Matera’s rich history, travelers will enjoy stepping away from their regular routine to visit Italy, one of the world’s Top 3 travel destinations. Travelers can admire the lemon-laden terraced gardens along the entire coast of Amalfi while sipping on some limoncello liqueur, or marvel at the fact that Matera is the only place in the world where people can boast about living in the same houses of their ancestors of 9,000 years ago.

The regions of Puglia and Cilento are equally enthralling. Whether savoring the former’s locally produced olive oil, artichokes, tomatoes and mushrooms as well as its Baroque architectural monuments in Lecce and other archeological areas, or the latter’s Greek temples (some of the best-preserved on the Mediterranean) and its pre-Byzantine tombs.
Each tour includes a special guest from vegandom that will share cooking demonstrations and more. In July, that is Julieanna Hever, while in September, it is Miyoko Schinner. Both of 2016’s special guests are accomplished professional vegans with well-received vegan tv shows and their own books, hailing from Southern and Northern California, respectively.

Julieanna Hever, MS, RD, CPT, aka the Plant-Based Dietitian, joins the first tour July 2 through 9. Julieanna hosts Z Living’s What Would Julieanna Do? tv show. She’s the author of the very recently released book title The Vegiterranean Diet, and previously The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Plant-Based Nutrition. She’s also VegNews Magazine’s nutrition columnist.

Travelers joining Julieanna will stay two nights in breathtaking Sorrento on the Amalfi Coast, sail to the caves of Palinuro down the Cilento Coast, visit four UNESCO World Heritage sites, marvel at (and happily moan about) meals with fresh made vegan pasta and pizzas, plus discover hidden treasures and roads of Southern Italy from local guides.
September 24 through October 1, special guest Miyoko Schinner will impart her culinary knowledge and talents with travelers. Miyoko heads Miyoko’s Creamery, selling handcrafted, artisanal cheeses based on her bestselling cookbook, Artisan Vegan Cheese. She shares her passion for delicious vegan cuisine in classes around the world, and co-hosts Vegan Mashup, seen on public television.

People on Miyoko’s tour will spend a day among the Trulli huts, stay two nights in the heart of “i sassi” of Matera, sail the Adriatic Sea, enjoy olive oil like never before, and experience a truly one of a kind travel meets culinary tour.

Travelers want to choose Vegano Italiano Tours for a comfortable, all-inclusive, immersive vacation seeing and tasting Italy as very very few have before. They will come and forge lifelong friendships amidst tremendously beautiful backdrops. Book today and make this one more thing to be thankful for, toast to and celebrate this season. Salute!

About Tierno Tours
Founded in 2009 by husband-and-wife team Pasquale Tierno and Gretchen Sheridan, Tierno Tours arranges and leads boutique tours of Southern Italy. Using a discerning insider’s curatorial touch, they craft unforgettable European experiences catering to hiking enthusiasts, avid vegans, history buffs, and more.

About Green Earth Travel
Seasoned world traveler Donna Zeigfinger founded Green Earth Travel to provide a wide range of travel options for people who crave adventure and care about the planet. Since 1997, this travel agency has remained on the cutting edge of conscientious and customized tourism, while becoming the nation’s premiere vegetarian/vegan/eco travel agency.
To make inquiries or secure reservations, please contact Donna Zeigfinger at Green Earth Travel LLC, or (301) 229-5666

Vegan Pre-Thanksgiving Potluck in Baltimore, Maryland, Sunday November 22, 2015 at 5 PM

Posted on November 19, 2015 by Samantha Gendler, Senior Editor

Potluckgram2015 copy2

With help from Vegan Drinks Baltimore, The Vegetarian Resource Group is hosting its 34th Annual Pre-Thanksgiving Vegan Potluck Dinner, showing appreciation for turkeys by not eating them! Join us in sharing a variety of festive, delicious, vegan dishes.

Adult admission is $4 and children are free. Please bring a vegan dish – free of meat, fish, fowl, milk, cheese, butter, eggs, honey, or any other animal-derived ingredient – that serves 4 per adult attending (ex. 2 adults, your dish should serve 8 people).

The event will take place Sunday November 22nd at 5:00 PM in the North Baltimore Mennonite Church, located at 4615 Roland Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21210. If you have any questions, please call The Vegetarian Resource Group (410) 366-8343 Monday-Friday 9 am to 5 pm. You can also email us questions at

Stearic Acid in Life Savers® Mints Derived from Tallow, Lard

Posted on November 18, 2015 by Samantha Gendler, Senior Editor

By Jeanne Yacoubou, MS


Throughout The Vegetarian Resource Group’s recent investigations on calcium and magnesium stearate and stearic acid from May until November 2015, information emerged that was very different from what was known to be true many years ago. Many ingredient manufacturers and suppliers as well as many different types of food companies told us that their food grade stearates and stearic acid were vegetable-derived, mostly coming from palm or coconut oils or corn rather than tallow or lard, which was more common twenty or more years ago.

Although a few food grade tallow-derived stearates and stearic acid were located on the market as raw ingredients, they weren’t appearing on ingredient labels of foods that we had been researching. A few ingredient company employees who would not divulge their clients’ identities told us that customers may purchase food grade products (of plant or animal origin) but use them in non-food items such as personal care products.

In fact, one ingredient supplier told us that the only difference between food grade and non-food grade ingredients has to do with where the ingredients are measured out and bagged. Food grade ingredients are handled in cleaner “white rooms” under more rigorous standards and quality controls while non-food grade ingredients are measured out in warehouses.

Google® Images of ingredient labels turned up very few foods listing stearic acid as an ingredient; in fact it took manipulating the search term wording a few times to reveal a handful of stearic acid-containing mints among thousands of labels that we reviewed. One of them was Wrigley’s® Life Savers®.

A Wrigley customer service representative told The VRG by email and phone in August 2015 that the Pep O Mint®, Spear O Mint® and Wint O Mint® Life Savers varieties contain stearic acid which “…is an animal-based ingredient.”
Wrigley’s corporate affairs office confirmed to us by email that their “stearic acid is sourced from both beef and pork.”

Taste or Texture Factor?

The VRG contacted Wrigley’s corporate affairs office by phone for more information. We received a return phone call and several follow up email responses:

I am following up on your inquiry to Wrigley regarding stearic acid in Life Savers mints…

While most Wrigley products sold in the U.S. do not contain animal-derived ingredients, we do use [animal-derived] stearic acid in Life Savers Spear O Mint, Pep-O-Mint and Wint-O-Green sugar mints, which is included in the ingredient line label. The ingredients in our products are necessary to achieve the right taste and texture. We are continually looking at alternatives to animal-derived ingredients that can deliver the same quality that our consumers love. – On behalf of Wrigley Corporate Affairs

Price Factor?

Possibly price could be the reason why a company would choose tallow or lard as a stearic acid source rather than palm, coconut or corn oil.

So we asked stearic acid suppliers if there was a large difference in price. For example, Acme-Hardesty® provided a price quote on one ton of food grade tallow-derived and one ton of food grade plant oil-derived stearic acid (70% or higher) in flake form:

The pricing on triple-pressed stearic acid tallow- vs. vegetable-based is 0.82 vs 0.89/lb. respectively…
An employee of Silver Fern Chemical® added that the price of animal- and plant-derived stearic acid fluctuates depending on supply and demand; animal-based could be slightly lower in price than plant-based at one time but more expensive at another time. Speaking of powdered stearic acid she said that

…plant-derived is generally higher, but sometimes it’s tallow; plant is usually 10 cents per lb. higher.

Wondering if a 7-10 cents/lb. difference for one ingredient could make a significant difference to the profit margin of a large company and if the taste difference would be noticeable, The VRG asked for the opinion of a certified food scientist with over ten years of experience in the food industry who stated:

I don’t think there would be a significant difference in taste/texture from a plant-based vs. a tallow-based version. But believe it or not, 7 cents extra per pound can be an issue, especially for a major company that mass produces in volume such as Wrigley’s.

The other thing to consider is supply chain. There may not be enough available, maybe not enough to sustain growth, maybe minimum production runs are larger, maybe they require a clean-out stage making the ordering lead-time longer. There are a lot of factors involved in supply chain that may be the biggest hurdle.

Bottom line is there is most likely a good substitution available, and if they had consumer interest to make it work – they could probably make it happen I think.

NOTE: By comparison, Wrigley’s Altoids Smalls® and Altoids Arctic® contain magnesium stearate. The “stearate” part of this magnesium stearate used in these products is (from a company email to us), sourced from “stearic acid derived from palm oil.”


Apart from three Wrigley’s Lifesavers flavors it is possible that other products contain animal-derived stearic acid although we find it unlikely based on our research. Look for an upcoming article by VRG on approximately 40 mint brands.

If you discover any other products containing stearic acid derived from animal fat (tallow or lard) please email us at Your information will be an important contribution to The VRG’s database on food ingredient source trends.

The contents of this posting, our website and our other publications, including Vegetarian Journal, are not intended to provide personal medical advice. Medical advice should be obtained from a qualified health professional. We often depend on product and ingredient information from company statements. It is impossible to be 100% sure about a statement, info can change, people have different views, and mistakes can be made. Please use your best judgment about whether a product is suitable for you. To be sure, do further research or confirmation on your own.

To support The Vegetarian Resource Group research, donate at

To join The Vegetarian Resource Group, go to


  • Donate

  • Subscribe to the blog by RSS


    Sign up for our newsletter to receive recipes, ingredient information, reviews of new products, announcements of new books, free samples of products, and other VRG materials.

    Your E-mail address:
    Your Name (optional):

↑ Top