The Vegetarian Resource Group Blog

What’s the deal with vegan leather?

Posted on December 09, 2016 by The VRG Blog Editor

By Savannah Lawrence, VRG Intern

A member emailed The Vegetarian Resource Group back in December 2015 asking about vegan leather alternatives for Kindle covers. He’d come across many covers on Amazon claiming to be non-leather or even vegan because they were made with PU or polyurethane leather, which is made from plastic/polymer. However, when reading the products’ reviews, he realized there was confusion over what the label “PU leather” truly meant. He asked VRG to research the confusion over the term and other similar labels.

According to Colourlock, a European leather specialist, PU leather is used to describe both synthetic leather and bi-cast or split leather. According to Advanced Leather Solutions, a San Francisco based leather repair and restoration group, “Bicast products are manufactured by bonding a thick polyurethane coating to a split-hide leather or composite leather substrate.” Based on the information provided by the two leather companies, I concluded that PU leather have one of two meanings: A product is 100 percent plastic/polymer and is indeed synthetic, or a product is part plastic/polymer and part leather byproduct because of the leather substrate backing. Thus the confusion from the member.

Read more about what Colourlock said about the topic at

Read more about what Advanced Leather Solutions said about the topic at

To find out whether or not this type of confusing labelling was legal, I turned to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The FTC regulations for commercial practices in regards to select leather and imitation leather products are meant to protect consumers against purchasing non-leather products that are falsely advertised as leather products, not the reverse.

The first part of the regulations reads as follows:

24.2 Deception as to composition

It is unfair or deceptive to misrepresent, directly or by implication, the composition of any industry product or part thereof. It is unfair or deceptive to use the unqualified term “leather” or other unqualified terms suggestive of leather to describe industry products unless the industry product so described is composed in all substantial parts of leather. This section includes, but is not limited to, the following:

(a) Imitation or simulated leather. If all or part of an industry product is made of non-leather material that appears to be leather, the fact that the material is not leather, or the general nature of the material as something other than leather, should be disclosed. For example: Not leather; Imitation leather; Simulated leather; Vinyl; Vinyl coated fabric; or Plastic.

All regulations for select leather and imitation leather products can be found at

After reading the regulations listed above, it’s clear that terms like “imitation leather,” “stimulated leather,” and even “plastic” do not indicate whether or not a product contains some amount of leather. As long “as part of an industry product is made of non-leather that appears to be leather” it must be disclosed and labelled with terms like the preceding, leaving consumers to guess whether or not the product still contains some trace of leather or leather byproduct.

Listed later in the regulations, one suggestion is that a partial leather and partial non-leather product’s label read, “Bonded Leather Containing 60% Leather Fibers and 40% Non-leather Substances.” However, this percentage breakdown is merely one example that sellers may or may not choose to follow. As long as a seller has “an adequate disclosure” and does not claim the product is genuine leather when it is not, the seller is abiding by FTC guidelines.

Since reading the guidelines still left me with many unanswered questions, I contacted the FTC directly. I spoke with Susan Arthur, FTC southwest region employee who’s worked on the FTC regulations in previous years, and was told that protecting consumers looking to avoid products containing leather is “not the focus of these regulations.” Moreover, I was told that the regulations are “guidelines not law.”
The guidelines were written to help sellers follow a law called the Federal Trade Commission Act Section 5: Unfair or Deceptive Acts or Practices. Section 5 “prohibits unfair or deceptive acts or practices in or affecting commerce.” An act or practice is considered deceptive when “A consumer’s interpretation of the representation, omission, or practice is considered reasonable under the circumstances.” However, since “reasonable” is a vague term with a varied interpretation from person to person, the FTC also publishes the guidelines to help sellers navigate the ambiguous legal standards. Looking back to those guidelines, there are no suggestions to protect consumers who want 100 percent non-leather products.

To read more about Section 5, visit
When commenting on today’s consumer preferences toward cruelty-free products, Arthur said, “Marketplace changes and concerns are different from when these guides were originally passed.”

Because of changing preferences, the guidelines will undergo regulatory review and possible revision in 2019. Public input is highly encouraged prior to the review.

Instructions for submitting a comment regarding possible amendments to the leather labelling guidelines can be found at

Readers are strongly encourage to submit positive, constructive comments that could lead to guideline modifications!

While Arthur contended that the guidelines do not protect against the misrepresentation of leather products as non-leather, she did say that consumers should file complaints if a product is labelled as vegan but still contains leather.

Directions for submitting such complaints can be found at
Until 2019, consumers will have to be vigilant and look beyond a product’s tag. To truly know the make up of a product prior to purchase, contact the seller directly or look on the seller’s website for more detailed product information. You can also search the various terms listed on the product’s tag or in the product’s online description, but please be advised that it may require extensive research to truly understand what a label means.

For information on sources of nonleather shoes and other items, see

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 judgement about whether a product is suitable for you. To be sure, do further research or confirmation on your own.

Please Give a Gift Membership to Family and Friends this Holiday Season!

Posted on December 09, 2016 by The VRG Blog Editor


Through December 31, 2017, you can give a gift membership to The Vegetarian Resource Group (includes a 1-year subscription to Vegetarian Journal) for $15 each (40% discount). This is a terrific way to share the vegan message, as well as support VRG.

Gift subscriptions can be done online by simply typing in your message and the address(s) of the gift recipient(s) in the comments field. Go to: Gift Sub


Posted on December 08, 2016 by The VRG Blog Editor


By Savannah Lawrence

In fall 2016, I interned with The Vegetarian Resource Group (VRG) while receiving credit from my college, Stevenson University, which is located just outside of Baltimore. As a Business Communication major, I was able to apply the skills and knowledge I’ve gained throughout my college years while at VRG.

Writing for the Vegetarian Journal and VRG’s blog allowed me to practice my written communication skills. This was especially important to me because I hope to pursue a writing career after college. Because I wrote for the journal and blog, I have wonderful writing samples to include in my portfolio and to direct future employers to when they’re deciding whether or not to hire me. Being published in a credible magazine goes a long way in the writing field, and it makes a huge difference in the job market for a new college graduate.

Beyond written communication, I also practiced my verbal, interpersonal, and intercultural communication skills when interacting with other interns, VRG employees, and VRG members. While the commonality of veganism and vegetarianism brings all interns, employees, and members together, we all come from different cultures and socio-economic backgrounds. I enjoyed asking Alicia, an intern from Germany, about her educational and social experiences back home. I gained new perspectives from Charles and Debra about major issues in the vegan community. I learned about the lives of other local vegans and vegetarians at the VRG Pre-Thanksgiving Potluck. I met Marv, a Maryland man who’s conserved his 20+ acres of land from future development, and learned about the importance of preserving land for future generations as well as the hunting laws in Maryland. I read scholarship applications and responded to applicants, learning more about what young people are doing to promote meat-free lifestyles. I was immersed in the culture that veganism produces from all different angles and perspectives; this allowed me to broaden my thinking as both a writer and individual.
I’ve also enjoyed the opportunity to incorporate my passions while writing for VRG. Staff encouraged me to write about topics pertinent to my life. For example, when Charles learned I was a distance runner, he assigned me the task of writing an article on vegan snacks for runners. After talking with Debra about living with my meat-eating fiancé, she assigned me an article entitled “Feeding Your Non-Vegan Significant Other.” When Charles and Debra heard me rave about my idol Scott Jurek, a record-setting vegan ultra-runner, they encouraged me to contact him for a feature in the Journal and let me review his memoir. Not all supervisors care about engaging their interns in the work, but VRG staff do. Allowing me to weave all of my passions into my writing made this an internship and experience that was enjoyable and interesting.

If you’re looking for an internship that will engage you and challenge you to become a better communicator, look no further than The Vegetarian Resource Group. They will make you feel at home, taking an interest in your life beyond VRG’s office. You’ll also gain valuable work samples and skills. I feel confident applying to post-graduate jobs because of the work I’ve produced at VRG, and I wouldn’t be as prepared for the job market had it not been for the internship.

For more information about VRG internships, see

To support The Vegetarian Resource Group projects and internships, donate at

Or join VRG and receive Vegetarian Journal at

Consider Giving a Vegan Cookbook from The Vegetarian Resource Group Book Catalog This Holiday Season!

Posted on December 08, 2016 by The VRG Blog Editor

Whether your friend or family member is vegan or perhaps just interested in adding more vegan cuisine to their diet, consider purchasing a book from the VRG online book catalog. The Vegetarian Resource Group Book Catalog offers a wide range of vegan books including:

    Vegan Meals for One or Two
    Vegan for the Holidays
    Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World
    Simply Vegan
    Vegan Brunch
    The Joy of Vegan Baking
    Vegans Know How to Party
    The Lowfat Jewish Vegetarian Cookbook
    Teff Love
    More Fabulous Beans
    Soups On!
    Nona’s Italian Kitchen
    Vegan Soul Kitchen
    Artisan Vegan Cheese
    Gluten-Free Tips and Tricks for Vegans
    Food Allergy Survival Guide
    The Natural Vegan Kitchen
    Asian Fusion
    The Indian Vegan Kitchen
    The 4-Ingredient Vegan
    The Almond Milk Cookbook
    Grills Gone Vegan
    The Everything Vegan Pregnancy Book
    And so many more….

FREE media mail shipping for orders over $30 in the United States only! Inquire about shipping costs outside the USA before placing your order.

Visit to order books online and support VRG’s outreach at the same time!

Do Vegan Alternatives Exist for Enzymes Used in Research Labs?

Posted on December 07, 2016 by The VRG Blog Editor

By Jeanne Yacoubou MS

The VRG received an email inquiry in October 2016 from a graduate student studying nutritional science in Germany:
Question: Do you know if there’s any resource for finding vegan alternatives to animal sourced enzymes/other laboratory “ingredients”?
For my master’s thesis I..[am] extracting cardiac glycosides from plants, separating them with chromatography (HPTLC), and then doing a bioassay directly on the HPTLC plate.

This bioassay will be with pig Na+/K+-ATPase because cardiac glycosides inhibit this enzyme specifically.

[VRG Note: Here is an animated depiction of how Na+/K+-ATPase functions in cell membranes:]

Answer: There have been technological advances in manufacturing on a large scale some proteins such as albumin, trypsin or insulin using non-animal sources:,nav?
To the best of our knowledge there is currently no commercially available non-animal enzyme source for Na+/K+-ATPase. Major laboratory suppliers use porcine organs:

It is possible to create Na+/K+-ATPase using yeast as this article describes:

The Materials and Methods section beginning on p. 2 (in paragraph titled “Plasmid Constructions”) identifies the source of the original pig gene from a cDNA library. Libraries for many species are widely available.

Genetic copies begin from an original gene from the source organism. The process is described in Step 1:

In the case of porcine ATPase, the animal DNA, when incorporated into the genetic material of microbes such as yeast, may result in the production by the microorganism of large amounts of the protein (i.e., the ATPase enzyme) coded for by the copied gene.

Interested readers may note that enzyme research may be carried out using animal cells such as those from squid because they are large:

Lastly, the microorganisms involved in recombinant DNA technology are often grown on broths containing the dairy protein casein ( a common ingredient in the LB medium mentioned on p. 2 of the article cited above), or on sucrose or glucose (i.e., sugar) which may have been filtered through cow bone char.

If any reader knows of a vegan source for laboratory enzymes please let us know at

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.

For more ingredient information, go to

To support The Vegetarian Resource Group research, donate at

Join at


Posted on December 06, 2016 by The VRG Blog Editor


By Savannah Lawrence, VRG Intern

Chewy, smooth Naked Cocomels are vegan caramels made with non-dairy coconut milk. They come in four mouth-watering flavors. Keep a bag or two at your desk, and they’re sure to be gone by the day’s end! Original delivers a rich caramel taste with a hint of sweet coconut, and Sea Salt combines salty and sugary goodness into one luscious bite. Vanilla is light but greets your tongue with warmth, while Espresso is heavy and allows you to truly taste every coffee bean. Each flavor is gluten-free, soy-free, and is made with organic, non-GMO ingredients. Naked Cocomels can be purchased directly from JJ’s Sweets at They’re also available nationwide at King Soopers, Whole Foods Markets, and Natural Grocers.

Visit to find a store near you.

Also, see:


Posted on December 05, 2016 by The VRG Blog Editor


I am writing to introduce you to our family of organic wines. All of the wines in our portfolio are imported from small family farmers in Europe. They are made with 100% USDA certified organically grown grapes, and some as indicated below have no sulfites added and carry the organic seal on the label. All of the wines are vegan-friendly. Pizzolato wines are Certified Vegan by the Vegan Society of the UK, using no animal byproducts in processing, and are Non-GMO Project Verified. The wines are available at Whole Foods Market and 365 by Whole Foods Market and other fine retailers nationwide.


Vegan Options at Ruby Tuesday®

Posted on December 02, 2016 by The VRG Blog Editor


By Jeanne Yacoubou, MS

After setting a location on Ruby Tuesday’s Allergen & Lifestyle Menu
page vegan diners may
access information on menu items designated by this restaurant chain as

Ruby Tuesday’s vegan definition appears after clicking on the question
mark next to the word “vegan” on their Allergen & Lifestyle Selections

Vegan: No Meats, No Poultry, No Fish, No Eggs, No Milk

After choosing the vegan filter, a screen appears with the following
terms of use:

…[T]he following menu options [are] based on information obtained from
our food suppliers. Every effort is made to keep this information
current and accurate. However, ingredient changes may occur due to
substitutions, preparation variation, and regional availability of products.

…We will update these online menus as our menu selections,
ingredients, and/or preparation techniques change. Please visit our
website upon each visit for the most current allergen/sensitivity and
nutritional information available…

…[F]ood prepared in our kitchens may contain…milk, eggs…fish and
shellfish. While every effort is made to minimize the risk of cross
contamination, we cannot guarantee that our food products are…vegan.
[VRG Note: Ruby Tuesday bolded words in last paragraph.]

From the Lunch and Dinner Menu at Ruby Tuesday, the vegan filter
reveals that the Garden Fresh Salads & Combinations are “okay to eat.”
The Garden Vegetable Soup appears there as well.

Among the Fresh Sides on the Lunch & Dinner Menu, the vegan options that
are “okay to eat” are the following:
baked potato
green beans
grilled zucchini
steamed broccoli
grilled Brussels sprouts with champagne apple vinaigrette

The Brussels sprouts are listed as consisting of Brussels sprouts,
onions, liquid margarine, GSP seasoning (which is garlic, salt and
pepper), and champagne apple vinaigrette.

The Loaded Baked Potato is vegan (“okay with modifications”) only when
ordered with scallions alone. (Butter blend, sour cream, cheddar cheese
and bacon are normally served with this item.)

On the Fit & Trim Menu, the vegan filter identifies the following options:
Garden Vegetable Soup
green beans
grilled zucchini
steamed broccoli

From the Featured Items choices, the vegan filter shows only the Garden
Fresh Salads & Combinations as “okay to eat.” The Garden Vegetable Soup
also appears.

On the Kids Menu, Ruby Tuesday lists the following as “vegan…okay to eat.”
Buttery* Pasta
Buttery* Pasta with Linguini
Gluten-Free Buttery* Pasta
Gluten-Free Tomato-Basil Pasta
Pasta Marinara with Linguini
Tomato Basil Pasta

*According to the website, the “buttery” in the kids’ options given
above refers to “liquid margarine.”

At the Fresh Garden Bar, the vegan filter presents the following as
“okay to eat”:
fresh greens
iceberg lettuce
garden greens
spring mix
baby bellas
broccoli florets
green peas
pepper strips
red onions
black olives
saltine crackers
sunflower seeds

For this report, The VRG did not investigate the sauces and dressings
available at Ruby Tuesday. Interested readers may contact the restaurant
chain or ask a Ruby Tuesday manager for more information.

Since complete ingredient statements for each menu item component do not
appear on the Ruby Tuesday website, those concerned should inquire by
contacting this restaurant chain:

The contents of this posting, 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.

For information on other chains, see

For information on vegetarian and vegan restaurants, see

Support The Vegetarian Resource Group Year-Round – Become a Monthly or Quarterly Donor!

Posted on December 02, 2016 by The VRG Blog Editor


The Vegetarian Resource Group is an activist non-profit organization that does outreach all-year-long. We table at different events through the USA and also send literature free of charge to other groups/individuals doing educational activities in schools, hospitals, camps, restaurants, libraries, etc. around the country. Our ability to continue doing this depends on people like you! Your donations allow us to promote the vegan message whenever we’re called upon for assistance. Please consider becoming a monthly or quarterly donor to VRG.

Thanks so much for your support. You can become a monthly or quarterly donor online here:

Are You Looking for Vegan Sources for Non-Leather Shoes, Wallets, Purses, Belts, and Much More this Holiday Season?

Posted on December 01, 2016 by The VRG Blog Editor

The Vegetarian Resource Group maintains an extensive list of companies that sell non-leather shoes, belts, purses, jackets, and much more. Some of the more unique items you’ll find are vegan cowboy boots, dance shoes, hand drums, motorcycle gear, musical instrument cases, tool belts, etc. Support these companies during the holiday season and let them know The Vegetarian Resource Group sent you to them!

The Guide to Leather Alternatives can be found here:

To support this type of research, please donate here:


  • 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