Flour is an essential ingredient in many food products that are widely enjoyed, including bread, gravy, types of pasta, and cake. However, those of us committed to a cruelty-free lifestyle must first ask ourselves: is flour vegan?
The great news is that the answer is yes – flour is vegan! In general, flour is produced from grains, and the process does not include practices that are harmful to animals. However, there are some types of flour that are not vegan-friendly, and we’ll take a look at those here:
The Making of Flour – Raw Ingredients & The Process
Flour has been used by humans for thousands of years for various purposes. Pure flour is simply made by crushing plants – grinding their roots or grains to create the powdered substance that eventually makes its way into the packets you find at the store. While you can ground plant parts into flour with tools as simple as a pestle and mortar, manufacturers use more heavy-duty grinding equipment in their factories.
Flour is most commonly produced from wheat, however, you might be surprised to learn that there are a number of other products that you can get flour from. This includes cereals, oats and even foods that you might never have thought of! such as almonds, cassava, coconut, potatoes, and chickpeas. You’ve probably heard of cornflour and rice flour, which are made from corn and rice respectively. Regardless of what starting products you use, the result will be the dry, powdery substance that makes its way to your pantry.
Since the raw ingredients used to make flour are just crushed plants, the product is innately vegan. However, sometimes during the processing stage, companies introduce additives that may not be vegan-friendly (this is a problem with sugar processing too). In general, the additives used are vegan-friendly, although you might want to avoid some of them for reasons other than just the fact that you’re vegan (some are quite unhealthy!).
When Is Flour Non-Vegan, And How Can I Tell?
During the processing of flour, some manufacturers use this super weird animal-derived product called L-cysteine. It’s an amino acid, and is usually synthesized from one of the following sources:
- Duck feathers
- Pig hair
- Human hair (what?!)
Gross, right? We think so too! Flour manufacturers that use L-cysteine do so because it improves the speed at which the flour dough rises, and makes it stronger. However, given the animal abuse that is involved in its making, flour containing L-cysteine is definitely not vegan.
If flour is manufactured using L-cysteine, then this must be mentioned as such on the packaging. So when you’re out buying flour, check the ingredients to make sure that there is no L-cysteine included. However, some companies use L-cysteine that is vegetable-derived – so if you find the ingredient listed, you can always inquire about its source before avoiding the flour altogether.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is that flour is usually vegan-friendly, however, there are rare occasions where it is not. If flour is not vegan-friendly, it’s easy to tell, just check the ingredients and make sure that there is no L-cysteine present in it before you buy some! There are no other hidden ingredients or processes that can make any flour, non-vegan.