Gelatin. It's everywhere. Derived from the skin, connective tissue, and bones of animals, such as cattle bone, cattle hides and pigskins, gelatin is most definitely NOT vegetarian, contrary to what many will claim. Gelatin is made from by-products of the meat and leather industry, in which cruelty is innate.

Non-vegetarian marshmallows (the "average" marshmallow sold at supermarkets), desserts like “Jell-O,” frosted cereals, some low-fat yogurt, desserts, trifles, aspic, and many confectionaries such as gummy bears and jelly babies contain gelatin. It may also be used as a stabilizer, thickener, or texturizer in foods such as jams, yogurt, cream cheese, and margarine. Gelatin can also be used for the clarification of juices, such as apple juice, and of vinegar.

Rest assured, Down to Earth shoppers, "…all the products in Down to Earth stores are 100% vegetarian. Shopping at Down to Earth is truly cruelty-free because its products contain no ingredients from slaughtered animals and none are tested on animals. Down to Earth sells no meat, poultry, fish, eggs, or their by-products such as animal rennet contained in cheese or the gelatin capsules of dietary supplements, etc."

When shopping elsewhere, just scanning the ingredient label for the word, "gelatin" may not be enough. It is also listed in food products as "E441".

A translucent, colorless, nearly tasteless substance, gelatin comes in the form of sheets, granules, or powder, and is used as a gelling agent, stabilizer or thickener in cooking. Alternatives are carrageenan, Irish Moss, agar-agar (seaweeds), pectin from fruit, dextrins, locust bean gum, and silica gel.

I've made vegetarian jello with agar-agar to the delight of myself and son. It's easy and tasty!

The most well-known gelatin product is probably the capsules for pharmaceuticals and supplements that are typically made from gelatin, in order to make them easier to swallow. Hypromellose is a vegan alternative, and due to growing concern about the use of animal products, some nutritional supplements now use this ingredient, even though it is more expensive to produce. No supplements at Down to Earth use gelatin; all use veggie caps or some similar alternative.

But gelatin is found in many other places I found out recently. Worldwide production of gelatin amounts to 250,000 tons per year. It is used as a carrier, coating or separating agent for other substances. In soft drinks containing beta-carotene (think yellow soda), it’s likely to be gelatin that made the beta-carotene water-soluble.

It is also found in a range of non-edible products, such as glues, nail polish remover and crêpe paper, in addition to being used in virtually all photographic films and photographic papers. Despite some efforts, no cost-effective substitutes have been found for photographic film as yet. Digital photography is vegetarian, and there are some glossy papers for home photo printing that do not contain gelatin, such as most produced by Epson.

In art supplies, many watercolor papers are also sized with gelatin, and the highest-grade gelatin – made from the skins, hooves, and bones of calves – is used in gesso, a white paint mixture which is used as a surface base for art canvasses and sculpture. Cosmetics may contain a non-gelling variant of gelatin under the name hydrolyzed collagen – another reason to buy only vegan cosmetics if you use them at all. All Down to Earth cosmetics are free of slaughtered animal products. Down to Earth has done the sleuthing for you!

Remember where gelatin comes from. Like rennet (used in cheese), it’s not vegetarian, and it’s not acceptable.