Have you ever wondered where the glycerin in your household products comes from?
It may surprise you to learn that one common source is animal fat, particularly from pigs. Yes, that’s right – the same animal that provides us with bacon and pork chops can also be a source of glycerin used in toothpaste, soap, cosmetics, and even food.
But don’t worry, there are also plant-based sources of glycerin available. In this article, we’ll explore the use of pork fat in glycerin production and its presence in various products.
So, let’s dive in and find out if glycerin is really pork!
Is Glycerin Pork?
Glycerin, also known as glycerol, is a colorless, odorless, and sweet-tasting liquid that is commonly used in a wide range of products. It is a byproduct of soap manufacturing and can be derived from both plant and animal sources.
While glycerin can be obtained from various animals, including beef and mutton, pork fat is also commonly used to obtain glycerin. The fat extracted from pig bones is incorporated into many types of toothpaste to give it texture. Additionally, pork fat is used in over 40 products, including insulin for diabetes treatment, suede used in shoes and clothing, and gelatin for foods and non-food uses.
However, it’s important to note that glycerin can also be obtained from plant sources such as soybean and palm oil. The process involves heating triglyceride-rich vegetable fats under pressure or with a strong alkali, causing the glycerin to split away from the fatty acids and mix with water to form a syrup-like liquid.
What Is Glycerin And How Is It Used?
Glycerin is a versatile ingredient that has a wide range of uses in various industries. In the food and beverage industry, it is used as an additive to help retain moisture, prevent sugar crystallization, and add bulk, smoothness, softness, sweetness, and texture to products. It is also used as a humectant in skincare products to draw water from the atmosphere to hydrate and soften the skin.
In addition to its use in food and skincare products, glycerin has many industrial applications. It is an important building block of paints and resins used for coating wires and is used as a softener in plastics. Glycerin is also widely used in food wrappers because it is nontoxic and can prevent shrinkage.
It’s important to note that glycerin can be derived from both plant and animal sources, including pork fat. While pork fat is commonly used to obtain glycerin, it can also be obtained from plant sources such as soybean and palm oil. The process involves heating triglyceride-rich vegetable fats under pressure or with a strong alkali, causing the glycerin to split away from the fatty acids and mix with water to form a syrup-like liquid.
Animal-based Glycerin Sources
Animal-based glycerin sources are primarily derived from the fat of animals such as beef, mutton, and pork. The process involves heating the animal tallow with water to a thick consistency over medium to low heat. The mixture is then chilled overnight in the refrigerator, and the hardened mixture is boiled to remove excess water or strained to remove impurities.
According to the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, glycerol from animal fats comes from animal triglycerides, which are one type of fat molecule commonly found in animal blood and the major component of an animal’s fatty tissue. Each triglyceride molecule contains three fatty acid chains, all connected to the glycerol backbone. During soapmaking, the bonds holding the fatty acids onto the glycerol are broken, giving off glycerin as a byproduct.
Animal-based glycerin is often labeled simply as “glycerin” and is used in a wide range of products, including soaps, toothpaste, mouthwashes, chewing gum, ointments, pharmaceutical formulations, cough syrups, elixirs, and expectorants. It is also used extensively in cosmetics, including perfumes and lotions, skin care products, shaving cream, hair care products, and water-based personal lubricants. In addition to these applications, it can also be found in inks, glues and plastics, lubricants, anti-freeze, and brake fluid.
It’s worth noting that while some manufacturers may label their glycerin as “vegetable glycerin,” it’s important to verify with the manufacturer whether it is indeed derived from plant sources or not. This is especially important for those who follow a vegan diet or have ethical concerns regarding animal-derived ingredients.
The Use Of Pork Fat In Glycerin Production
The use of pork fat in glycerin production is a common practice in the industry. The fat is extracted from pig bones and used to give toothpaste its texture. It is also used in other products such as insulin for diabetes treatment, suede used in shoes and clothing, and gelatin for foods and non-food uses.
The process of obtaining glycerin from pork fat involves heating the fat under pressure or with a strong alkali. This causes the glycerin to split away from the fatty acids and mix with water to form a syrup-like liquid. This liquid is then purified to remove any impurities before it is used in various products.
It’s important to note that while pork fat is commonly used in glycerin production, it’s not the only source of glycerin. Glycerin can also be obtained from plant sources such as soybean and palm oil.
Products That May Contain Pork-based Glycerin
If you’re looking to avoid pork-based glycerin in your products, it’s important to be aware of the various items that may contain it. Here are some common products that may contain pork-based glycerin:
1. Toothpaste: As mentioned earlier, toothpaste is one of the most common products that contains pork-based glycerin. Be sure to check the label carefully to see if it is listed as an ingredient.
2. Moisturizer: Glycerin is often used in moisturizers to help hydrate the skin. However, some moisturizers may use pork-based glycerin, so it’s important to check the label.
3. Shampoo: Glycerin is also used in shampoos to help moisturize the hair and scalp. Again, be sure to check the label for any mention of pork-based glycerin.
4. Soap: Glycerin is a common ingredient in soap, and while many soaps use plant-based glycerin, some may use pork-based glycerin instead.
5. Laundry detergent: Some laundry detergents may use pork-based glycerin as a surfactant or emulsifier.
6. Cleaning wipes: Glycerin can also be found in cleaning wipes used for various surfaces, including countertops and floors.
7. Air freshener: Some air fresheners may contain glycerin as a solvent or stabilizer.
It’s important to note that this list is not exhaustive and there may be other products that contain pork-based glycerin as well. To ensure that you are avoiding animal-derived ingredients, always read the label carefully and familiarize yourself with the various names and terms used for glycerin and other animal-derived ingredients.
Alternatives To Animal-based Glycerin
For those who prefer to avoid animal-based glycerin, there are several alternatives available. One option is vegetable glycerin, which is derived from plant sources like coconut oil, soybean oil, and palm oil. This type of glycerin is suitable for vegans and is commonly used in a variety of products, including cosmetics, soaps, and moisturizers.
Other plant-based alternatives to animal-based glycerin include olive oil, wheat germ oil, flaxseed oil, almond oil, and safflower oil. These oils can be used as substitutes in recipes that call for glycerin, as they have similar moisturizing properties.
Synthetic glycerin is another alternative that can be used in place of animal-based glycerin. This type of glycerin is made from petroleum and is commonly used in the food industry as a sweetener and humectant.
It’s important to note that not all products list the source of their glycerin on the label. If you’re unsure whether a product contains animal-based glycerin or not, it’s best to contact the manufacturer directly to ask about their sourcing practices. By choosing alternative sources of glycerin, consumers can make more informed choices about the products they use and support a more sustainable and ethical industry.