Reader Mark writes:
i am a vegetarian, i bought a nutri grain bars, after i had one i looked at the ingredients and found that is contains glycerin. i have heard that glycerin comes from the fat of pigs. is that true, or not
Hey Mark! Good question. Most of the glycerine that’s used these days vegetable-derived, though glycerine can be made from animal fats. It also comes from other sources. So-called “crude glycerine” is the main by-product of biofuel (ethanol) production, which means that assuming ethanol continues to be mandated in auto fuel blends we’ll be seeing a lot more of it. But biofuel glycerine isn’t the type we typically eat since in its raw state it contains a fair amount of water plus a few residual whatsits.
That said, when it’s refined and purified, crude glycerine can be used in food products, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and for “personal lubricants”. However given how much glycerine the biofuels industry is making, there’s no way even the global sexual lubricant industry will be able to use it all. Thus many governments around world are currently offering cash prizes to people who can think of practical uses for the stuff.
Food-grade (also known as “vegetable”) glycerine is made via a very similar process, but done on a smaller scale using palm and/or coconut oils. You can typically find it at candy-making supply houses or via online confectioner’s sites.