Oatmeal is a common breakfast option that is sourced from oats. These oats are mixed with a liquid, like water, milk, or plant milk. This creates a filling bowl of porridge that can keep you satisfied until lunchtime.
Oatmeal may have its benefits, but if you’re vegan, you may be wondering whether oatmeal is suitable for your lifestyle. So, is oatmeal vegan-friendly?
In short, oatmeal is sourced from the oat plant, so it is free from animal matter. It will be vegan-friendly as long as you don’t mix it with any non-vegan ingredients.
However, vegans should think twice before reaching for instant oatmeal, as manufacturers can often add non-vegan substances to their products.
You’ll find out more about whether oatmeal is vegan-friendly in this post, including the reasons why instant oats may be unsuitable for vegans.
Oatmeal: The Basics
Oatmeal starts out as groats. These are whole oats that need to have their hull removed to turn them into oatmeal oats.
There are four main kinds of oats: old-fashioned, rolled steel cut, and instant. The first three are all suitable for vegans, as they are made without animal products or labor. The exception is instant oats, which we’ll get into below.
Why Are Instant Oats Non-Vegan?
Instant oats may start as vegan, but various brands can add flavors and additional ingredients to make them more palatable. Here are some of the most common instant oat ingredients that are unsuitable for vegans.
Some vegans see no difference between animal farming and bee farming. Bee farmers can often use unethical methods to make more profit, such as:
- Snipping the queen bees’ wings to stop them from leaving the hive
- Substituting harvested honey with low-quality sugar syrup
- Killing colonies to prevent the disease from spreading, instead of medicating the bees
Honey’s main job is to provide the bees with important nutrients, like antibiotics, antioxidants, and amino acids. These sustain the bees so they can store honey during winter and live through the cold.
To sell honey, bee farmers can take the bees’ honey supply away from them, replacing this with corn syrup or sucrose.
These substances are devoid of essential nutrients, which can damage the bees’ immunity, leading to gene changes over time.
Vitamin D3 is sourced from lanolin; a wax emitted from the sebaceous glands of wooly animals. Lanolin is important to keep their skin soft, moisturized, and well-protected. Vitamin D3 is sourced from this substance, which means that it is an animal byproduct.
Shellac is sourced from lac beetle secretions. These insects emit resin on branches as a defensive layer for their offspring.
If this resin is scraped off from branches, the female beetles can be injured or killed. Some of these branches are deliberately left alone so female beetles can keep producing the resin. You might notice the term ‘confectioner’s glaze’ used on ingredient lists, but this is another name for Shellac.
The refined sugar that you use in baking may be unsuitable for vegans. Some manufacturers can filter their sugar with bone char, which is charred, ground-down animal bones. This is used to whiten the sugar and give it a more appealing color.
Not all companies use bone char in their sugar, but it’s hard to know where a brand’s sugar was sourced from. You may be able to ask the manufacturer for more information about this.
Some countries, like New Zealand and Australia, have prohibited bone char, so it’s safe to assume sugar from these countries is vegan-friendly.
Artificial food colorings are usually considered plant-based friendly. Most of these dyes are sourced from plants, except for carmine.
Carmine is taken from cochineal, an insect from Latin America. These insects are repeatedly processed to extract their red food color. Carmine is added to lots of products, including soft drinks, ice creams, and donuts.
Even seemingly vegan colorings are often tested on animals. This exposes the test subjects to cruel, torturous conditions. This may not be the case with some colorings, but it’s a good idea to check with your oatmeal brand to be sure.
Oatmeal is generally considered vegan, as it is sourced from the oat plant without animal products or labor. Three main types of oats are plant-based friendly: rolled, old fashioned, and steel cut.
The exception may be with instant oats, as manufacturers can add extra ingredients to improve their overall taste. Some of these ingredients may not be an issue, but this will depend on how strict a vegan you are.
If you are a stricter vegan and want to use instant oats, always check the ingredient list to ensure it’s free from any of the ingredients above.
You can always contact the brand’s manufacturer to check if the sugar or artificial flavors used in the product are vegan-friendly.