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General Vegetarian Questions About Vegetarianism


Information By and About VRG

Cooking and Baking

Foodservice, Food Ingredients, and Animal By-Products

Vegetarianism in Daily Life


How do you pronounce "vegan"?

The most common pronunciations are "vee-gun" and "vay-gn." It can be pronounced differently in various regions. The word "vegan" was coined in England, so in most US vegetarian and vegan groups we use the British "vee-gun."

Who are some famous vegetarians?

Sir Paul McCartney (musician), Fiona Apple (vegan musician), James Cromwell (actor, Babe), Lindsay Wagner (actress, The Bionic Woman), Fred Rogers (entertainer, "Mr Rogers"), The B-52's (musical group), Cassandra Peterson (actress "Elvira"), Casey Kasem (voice of "Scooby Doo," "Top 40"), John Harvey Kellogg (cereal maker).

What is the history of vegetarianism?

Vegetarianism goes back thousands of years, if not longer. The term vegetarian was first used in 1847. Prior to that in the west, vegetarians were referred to as "Pythagoreans," after the ancient Greek philosopher. The history of vegetarianism varies across the globe depending on cultural ideologies. Some cultures have a long-standing tradition of vegetarianism, while in others it is still considered an oddity. There are several books that offer some of the history, including A Heretic's Feast by Colin Spencer and The Vegetarian Sourcebook by Keith Aikers. The International Vegetarian Union website has a nice overview of the history vegetarianism throughout the world at

Information By and About VRG

Do you have a list of tabling materials, brochures and books?

We sure do. It is online at or you can call (410) 366-8343 or email to request a paper copy.

How do I become a member of VRG?

Membership to The Vegetarian Resource Group is $20 a year. With your membership you will receive the 36 page Vegetarian Journal. The various levels of membership for one year include: $20 (Member), $30 (Contributor - also comes with a copy of Vegan Handbook), $50 (Supporter - also comes with a copy of Vegan Handbook and Meatless Meals for Working People), and $100 (Sustaining Member - includes copies of Vegan Handbook and Meatless Meals for Working People). To become a member online, go to: You can also send a check or money order to The Vegetarian Resource Group, PO Box 1463, Baltimore, MD 21203, or call (410) 366-8343 M-F, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. EST, to order using a Visa or MasterCard.

Could I get a sample copy of Vegetarian Journal?

Since we don't accept paid advertising to subsidize printing and mailing costs, we are not able to mail out free copies of the Journal. However, you are able to access five years of past articles on our website at: If you would like a sample copy they are $3.

What publications does the VRG offer?

Vegetarian Journal, Foodservice Update, VRG News, Simply Vegan, Meatless Meals for Working People, The Lowfat Jewish Vegetarian Cookbook, No Cholesterol Passover Cookbook, Conveniently Vegan, Vegan Handbook, Vegan in Volume, The Vegetarian Journal's Guide to Restaurants in the US and Canada, and more. You can access a listing of all of our publications online at

How much would it cost to have you send me 6 of your "I Love Animals and Broccoli" coloring books?

We generally send out materials simply when a self-addressed, stamped envelope is included with the request. However, if you are able, we ask that you help cover publishing costs, which are roughly 10-15 cents per brochure. If you would like to make a larger donation, it would be greatly appreciated. For material requests such as this, contact us as or call (410) 366-8343.

How do I find out about local vegetarian groups in my area?

We have a short list of groups on our website at There is a much larger list of groups with websites on the International Vegetarian Union website at: VRG also maintains a database of local and national groups and may be able to provide contact information about a group in your area. Contact us at or (410) 366-8343, M-F, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. EST.

There isn't a local vegetarian group in my area. What can I do?

Start one of your own! Just send a request to or call (410) 366-8343 (M-F, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. EST ) for a copy of our brochure "Starting a Vegetarian Group." It will give you some suggestions and ideas on how to get started. You can also access the brochure online at

Do you have information in Spanish? Japanese? Polish?

Yes. You will find our Spanish version of Vegetarianism in a Nutshell - Una Dieta Vegetariana -online at: Our teen information is at: and our Heart Healthy Diets is at: We also have information in Japanese and Polish. The Japanese information can be accessed at: For a copy of our teen brochure in Polish send a self-addressed stamped envelope to: The Vegetarian Resource Group, PO Box 1463, Baltimore, MD 21203.

Can I be a vegan athlete?

You can easily be a vegetarian or vegan athlete. You can read our article on "Athletes and Vegetarianism" at

Jane Black is a former vegan weightlifter who won her class and received the Best Lifter trophy for her age group (40-44) at the Master's World Weightlifting Championships in Canada in 1996. To read more about her go to:

Ruth Heidrich is a vegan tri-athlete. Read more about her at:

The International Vegetarian Union has a whole page of links to sports related articles at: and a list of famous vegetarians at:

Cooking and Baking

What can I do about cooking on holidays? Thanksgiving? Passover? Christmas?


For Thanksgiving you might want to try our Thanksgiving Treasures recipes. You can order a copy of this 4 page handout by mailing your request and two first class stamps to: The Vegetarian Resource Group, PO Box 1463, Baltimore, MD 21203.

You might also want to look through our recipe section for articles such as " Must Pumpkin Always Be Pie?" by Patti Bess


For Passover and other Jewish holidays you might wish to consult our books No Cholesterol Passover Recipes and The Lowfat Jewish Vegetarian Cookbook.

No Cholesterol Passover Recipes includes eggless blintzes, dairyless carrot cream soup, festive macaroons, apple latkes, sweet and sour cabbage, knishes, vegetarian chopped "liver," no-oil lemon dressing, eggless matzo meal pancakes, and much more.

The Lowfat Jewish Vegetarian Cookbook offers eggless challah, hamentashen for Purim, Chanukah latkes, Passover vegetarian kishke, mock chopped "liver," Russian charoset, eggless matzo balls, and Syrian wheat pudding...

To read more about these books go to:


If you are visiting with meat-eating relatives you might consider bringing vegetarian dishes everyone can enjoy. Tofurky sells complete vegan meals that are also rather portable for holiday dinners. Contact information is included below.

These are some of the Holiday Meat alternatives:

What about parties and cooking for large groups of people?

We published a new book in January 2000 to help with the quandaries of quantity cooking Vegan in Volume (272 pages) offers information about catered events, weddings, birthday celebrations, college food service, quality hospital food (including special diets), restaurant meals, menu ideas for dinner parties, party beverages, and holiday recipes. There are 125 great tasting and unique vegan recipes. To read more about the book go to: Copies are just $20 (includes media mail shipping). You can order using the online order form, send a check to The Vegetarian Resource Group, PO Box 1463, Baltimore, MD 21203 or call (410) 366-8343 to order over the phone using your Visa or MasterCard.

What can I use as a substitute for eggs?

Any of the following can be used to replace eggs as binders:

According to our food service expert Nancy Berkoff, "My suggestion is to use egg replacer and oil (will have to play with the quantities) to replace egg yolks. Egg whites are much more difficult, as not too many things have the physical and chemical properties of egg white. You might play with soy flour and water, but you won't get the lightness of an angel food cake or a sponge cake."

How do I make a vegan cake?

We have some delicious cake recipes online at: Also see our article "Can a 'Real' Birthday Cake be Vegan?" by Judith Grabski Miner. It is online at

Where can I find a vegan wedding cake?

A good place to start looking is at vegetarian and vegan restaurants near you that have or utilize a vegan friendly bakery. You can use our book, The Vegetarian Journal's Guide to Restaurants in the US and Canada, as a good starting place to locate restaurants. Whether you need a cake for a wedding, your child's birthday party, an anniversary celebration, or an office meeting, the following are some places to start your search.

Also, many Fresh Fields and other large natural foods stores now offer vegan cakes.

Foodservice, Food Ingredients, and Animal By-Products

(also see our FAQ on Food Ingredients)

Do you know of a culinary program that would be acceptable for a vegetarian?

There are three that we know of. They are in Denver, CO, New York, NY and Seattle, WA.

Some schools might focus on macrobiotic cooking, which wouldn't be strictly vegetarian (i.e. fish), but would probably be amenable to a vegetarian curriculum.

If you are outside of those areas you could ask local culinary schools offering whether they veggie courses. Some will accommodate vegetarians, This kind of piecemeal coursework probably would not lead to a certificate or degree. According to Chef Nancy Berkoff, "My suggestion is to hook up with a veggie chef and apprentice with him or her (you can coordinate this with the American Culinary Federation's apprenticeship program.) You and your chef would have to agree to meet the hours and the topics outlined by the ACF, with several supplemental courses given at area community colleges."

What types of resources do you offer for food service?

We offer a quarterly newsletter called Foodservice Update. You can subscribe for $20 a year or $30 for both Foodservice Updateand Vegetarian Journal. You can access some of our past Foodservice Updates online at To order go to:

We recently updated and enlarged our Quantity Product Listing, which lists over 170 companies that offer vegetarian foods in bulk. It is online at:

We also offer a Quantity Recipe Packet for $15, or $5 for students (this includes media mail):

We published a new quantity cookbook in January 2000. Vegan in Volume (272 pages) offers information about catered events, weddings, birthday celebrations, college food service, quantity hospital food (including special diets), restaurant meals, menu ideas for dinner parties, party beverages, and holiday recipes. There are 125 great tasting and unique vegan recipes. To read more about the book go to: Vegan in Volume Copies are just $20 (includes media mail shipping). You can order using the online order form, send a check to The Vegetarian Resource Group, PO Box 1463, Baltimore, MD 21203, or call (410) 366-8343, M-F, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. EST, to order over the phone with a Visa or MasterCard. The author, Nancy Berkoff, is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Food Technologist.

Do you have any information on fast food restaurants?

You can read about our Guide to Fast Food online at A complete printed version can be ordered for $4. To order online go to: If you would like to order over the phone with a Visa or MasterCard call us at (410) 366-8343 , M-F, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. EST,. You can also mail your check to The Vegetarian Resource Group, PO Box 1463, Baltimore, MD 21203.

Are Taco Bell's beans made with lard?

A recent article in the Seattle Times had vegetarians concerned when it stated that Taco Bell's refried beans contained lard. We received several emails and calls from individuals wondering if this was true. Many people referred to our Guide to Fast Food, which states the opposite. We called Taco Bell's nutritionists to check on the story. They confirmed in writing that their beans do not contain any lard, and that they would consider it a step backward to add it. They also said that the chicken broth in their seasoned rice has been replaced with vegetarian broth due to customer requests.

What are natural flavors?

According to our research department, the exact definition of natural flavorings & flavors from Title 21, Section 101, part 22 of the Code of Federal Regulations is as follows: "The term natural flavor or natural flavoring means the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis, which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional."

*For more information on natural flavors see our detailed explanation in the December 1998 issue of VRG News at at:

Is the rumor true about McDonald's fries being made with beef?

From our Guide to Fast Food: In February 1997, McDonald's informed us by telephone that the natural flavor (see above) in their French fries is a "beef product." At that time, they declined to send us this information in writing. In July 1997, McDonald's sent us a fax stating that "[t]he natural flavor used in French fries is from an animal source."

Is bone china made of bones?

Yes it is. In our article, "What's in…?" we discovered that bone china has a 25-50% bone ash content.

Is wine vegetarian?

In January 1997, we published an article about the manufacturing processes involved in wine making and the animal products that are used in the production. "Why is Wine so Fined?", by Caroline Pyevich, has become one of the most requested articles that was not already on the VRG website. We decided to put it online. You can read the whole article at

Here is an excerpt: "Some clarifiers are animal-based products, while others are earth-based. Common animal-based agents include egg whites, milk, casein, gelatin, and isinglass. Gelatin is an animal protein derived from the skin and connective tissue of pigs and cows. Isinglass is prepared from the bladder of the sturgeon fish. Bentonite, a clay earth product, serves as a popular fining agent."

We know a few organic wine companies that produce vegan wines. Note: some organic wine companies do use egg whites as clarifiers. You can contact Hallcrest Vineyards at (408) 335-4441 and Frey Vineyards at (800) 760-3739. Hallcrest offers mail order, and Frey is distributed across the US, and will let you know where their wine can be purchased locally. Offerings From The Vine produces wine that is made with fresh fruits and maple syrup, without sulfites, preservatives, or additives. For information contact Yafah B. Asiel at SVS (404) 752-5194.

Why won't some vegans eat sugar?

Because some sugar companies process sugar through a bone char. The bone char decolorizes the sugar. For more information read "Sugar and Other Sweeteners: Do they Contain Animal Products?" by Caroline Pyevich. It is online at:

Why are some cheeses labeled as "vegetarian cheese"? Why wouldn't cheese be vegetarian?

Cheese is often made with rennet or rennin, which is used to coagulate the dairy product. According to the McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of Science and Technology, rennin, which is an enzyme used in coagulating cheese, is obtained from milk-fed calves. "After butchering, the fourth removed and freed of its food content." After this the stomach goes through several steps including being dry-salted, washed, scraped to remove surface fat, stretched onto racks where moisture is removed, then finally ground and mixed with a salt solution until the rennin is extracted. To read more go to:

We now have a list of vegetarian cheeses on our site at
Trader Joe's has their list online at: Rennet List.

Is photographic film really made of cow bones? Is there an alternative?

Yes, film and photographic papers are made using gelatin. Unfortunately cruelty-free photographic film has yet to be produced. Some people have begun to use digital cameras as an alternative.

What about genetically modified foods (GMO)? Can organic foods have GMO's?

Currently the law for organic standards and GMO's in the US is under revision. It is expected that the final ruling will prohibit the use of GMO's in foods carrying an organic label. For the latest information go to the USDA's National Organic Program at Other countries have recognized this as a much larger issue and have different standards. For example, many shops in the UK have lists of foods and products made or grown with and without GMO's. You may want to take a look at the Mothers for Natural Law website at:, as well as Monsanto's site at:

How many animals are killed a year for food?

Commercial cattle slaughter during 1999 totaled 36.1 million head, up 2 percent from 1998. Dairy cows accounted for 7.3 percent of the total, and calves slaughtered totaled 1.28 million head, down 12 percent from a year ago. Commercial hog slaughter totaled 101.5 million head, up 1 percent from 1998. Commercial sheep and lamb slaughter totaled 3.70 million head, and was down 3 percent from 1998. Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, and Texas accounted for over 50 percent of the United States commercial red meat production in 1999. (USDA Livestock Slaughter Report, March 2000)

In 1999, the total number of chickens slaughtered numbered approximately 8.3 billion. Of that number 8.1 billion were broilers and 175 million were hens. 23 million ducks were slaughtered and 265 million turkeys. (USDA Poultry Slaughter Report, April 2000)

The worldwide number of animals killed for food in 1998 was 43.2 billion. These figures do not include some small countries and "non-slaughter" deaths.

Vegetarianism in Daily Life

Where can I find vegan bowling shoes?

We have been asked about non-leather bowling shoes on several occasions. We were unable to find a manufacturer, but one of our members did. She emailed us with the company's website and a copy of their email to her. The company is Dexter USA. They mostly sell leather shoes, but do make non-leather shoes as well. Their website is at

Where can I find ballet shoes?

We include this new information in "A Shopper's Guide to Leather Alternatives 2000 Update," which is available for $4. We finally found a non-leather ballet shoe in Australia. Vegan Wares offers ballet slippers in a charcoal microfiber or natural canvas, in sizes for women and children. The company has a website and you can order online: Vegan Wares is a company owned and operated by vegans, providing high quality alternatives to leather products. They offer shoes, boots, briefcases, wallets, dog collars, and ballet slippers. They will even make-to-order shoes!

Where can I find cruelty-free contact lens solution?

Clear Conscience has created a new cruelty-free, non-irradiated, multi-purpose contact lens solution and a sterile saline solution. For more information, please see our links page with vegetarian products at

Are there flu vaccines acceptable for vegans?

Vaccine materials are generally grown on egg=based media. According to pathologist Dr. Jerry Marcus, "As far as I can ascertain, there is no such thing as a vegan flu shot. Nobody I spoke to could envision a flu vaccine being made which would be vegan."

I was just wondering if you know where I can buy animal rights/anti-meat t-shirts, patches, pins, etc?

We have a few bumperstickers, buttons and a t-shirt. Our catalog items are at: and

Are you familiar with Pangea? They have both an online and paper catalog. They are a great resource for vegan and vegetarian activists.

You might also want to try:

  • Action for Animals
  • Humane Society Legislative Fund (HSLF)
  • PETA

    What about dogs and cats? Can they be vegetarian?

    The Vegetarian Society of the United Kingdom has some fact sheets on vegetarianism for companion animals. You can read the fact sheets about dogs and cats on their website.

  • Why don't vegans drink milk or eat eggs?

    People choose to be vegan for health, environmental, and/or ethical reasons. For example, some vegans feel that one promotes the meat industry by consuming eggs and dairy products. That is, once dairy cows or egg-laying chickens are too old to be productive, they are often sold as meat; and since male calves do not produce milk, they usually are raised for veal or other products. Some people avoid these items because of conditions associated with their production.

    Many vegans choose this lifestyle to promote a more humane and caring world. They know they are not perfect, but believe they have a responsibility to try to do their best, while not being judgmental of others. To read more go to:

    "Why Vegan?" by Vegan Outreach goes into detail about the ethical issues involved.

    Like most other college students I have limited funds. Do you have any suggestions for a healthy vegetarian diet without spending all my money?

    You might find the article, Veggie Viewpoint: Eating at College By Caroline Pyevich, helpful.

    You might also want to take a look at Meatless Meals for Working People, which has a lot of simple, easy recipes.

    Our 30 Day Menu For Those Who Don't Like to Cook is often helpful for students who don't have full cooking facilities.

    The university cafeteria should have some options and there are many ready-made vegetarian frozen meals now available at supermarkets.

    Is it true that Krispy Kreme donuts are vegan?! I've found that when I ask food employees, sometimes they don't know or don't feel like checking whether something contains animal products. How can I find out for sure?

    This has recently come up around the VRG offices, and we looked at an ingredient list. The donuts are not vegan, they contain eggs, whey, and a few other non-vegan ingredients.

    Unfortunately, one of our former staff members asked at a local store and they assured her the donuts were completely vegan. She started on a little donut binge before the ingredient listing was received. Unfortunately store employees don't always have the correct information.

    One of the best ways to find out is to be polite and ask. You might wish to explain that you are vegan and vegetarian and what that means. If the person is unable to answer your questions, perhaps ask to speak with someone who might be better acquainted with the ingredients or ask for a phone number for the company or management. Take the opportunity to commend the restaurant for having vegan items, or perhaps encourage them to make some changes to include more options for their vegetarian and vegan clients. We have additional resources you can give or refer them to if they are interested in learning more.

    The contents of this brochure and our other publications are not intended to provide personal medical advice. Medical advice should be obtained from a qualified health professional.

    Back to the Main FAQ

    What is The Vegetarian Resource Group?

    The Vegetarian Resource Group (VRG) is a non-profit organization dedicated to educating the public on vegetarianism and the interrelated issues of health, nutrition, ecology, ethics, and world hunger. In addition to publishing the
    Vegetarian Journal, VRG produces and sells cookbooks, other books, pamphlets, and article reprints.

    Our health professionals, activists, and educators work with businesses and individuals to bring about healthy changes in your school, workplace, and community. Registered dietitians and physicians aid in the development of nutrition related publications and answer member or media questions about the vegetarian and vegan diet. The Vegetarian Resource Group is a non-profit organization. Financial support comes primarily from memberships, contributions, and book sales.

    For more information go to

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