Getting into the details
Vegetarians don’t eat any meat, poultry, game, fish, shellfish, crustacea or the by-products of slaughter. Once you’re confident of the basics and are starting to enjoy all the tasty alternatives to meat and fish, there are a few more things to consider:
Traditionally made with animal rennet, taken from the stomach lining of calves. Most UK County cheeses are now made with rennet produced by micro-organisms and are entirely vegetarian. However, some imported cheeses are not suitable for veggies, including Parmesan and Gorgonzola. Look out for alternatives that are marked ‘Suitable for Vegetarians’ and find out more on our Cheese Production fact sheet.
Most vegetarians choose Free Range Eggs because many other eggs are produced in intensive farming systems that are considered to be cruel. However, products using eggs as ingredients, such as cakes, quiches and ready meals, may be produced on battery farms. Look out for VegetarianSociety Approved products or check the label to ensure that only free range eggs are included. If the ingredients just say ‘egg’ then it’s probably not free range.
Gelatine is made from animal ligaments, tendons and bones. It turns up in lots of sweets, desserts and very low-fat products. It should be listed in the ingredients.
Animal fat means fat taken from a dead animal, not butter. Suet and lard are types of animal fat, but vegetarian suet is available and quite widely used. Again, check the label or look out for Vegetarian Society Approved products.
Lots of E-Numbers can be made from dead animals and there are a few other nasties to look out for. Our Veggie Aware A-Z guide has all the information you need.
Vegans avoid all animal products, including eggs, dairy products, honey and non-food items like wool and leather. Many vegetarians also cut out leather and are conscious of reducing the amount of dairy and other animal products in their diet.