Is Beef Broth Vegetarian? Back in high school, my favorite activity was debating. If, for some reason, we had a free period and were left alone to devise a means of filling the time with “something useful,” I always tried to get a debate going, and I usually got my way.
We ended up with some epic tussles, dealing with such pressing matters as, “Who is more important, a doctor or an engineer?” and, “Is being rich without friends better than being poor, but with many friends?”
Granted that these were trite and, ultimately, meaningless topics of zero or little import, still, those were fun times, and I recall many debates with great fondness.
Cue today, the here, and the now, and I circle back to debate a new topic. This time, I ponder what I expect will be a slam-dunk, easy-peasy pudding and pie question, one that has a self-evident and incontrovertible answer. Let’s see if I’m right.
Is Beef Broth Vegetarian?
Beef broth is not vegetarian. Properly speaking, beef broth is made by simmering beef meat, which is an essential ingredient. The resulting liquid has animal fat, proteins, and probably even tiny bits of beef flesh. Although less fastidious than vegans, vegetarians draw the line at consuming animal fats, proteins, or meat, so obviously, they must avoid beef broth.
What is Beef Broth?
First of all, what do we mean when we say “beef broth?” Are there any peculiarities or gotchas that can catch us out if we’re not careful and don’t pay attention?
Never Mind the Beef. What is Broth?
A broth is a flavored liquid made from animal flesh, or animal part(s), for example, bones or scraps. Historically, we can imagine that getting a hold of meat was so tricky that our ancestors were loath to throw away any part of an animal from which they could conceivably extract nutrients, so broth probably began as an additional source of sustenance.
Later, as agricultural civilizations got going and wealthy individuals had the means to afford luxuries, broth became a part of a larger cooking strategy, used to flavor other foods rather than being a food itself.
We make broth by simmering down and seasoning liquids in which we’ve cooked meat or meat and bone.
Never Mind the Broth. What is Stock?
For the pedantic, there is a hard-to-follow argument that broth and stock do not refer to the same kind of liquid. For these folks, stock comes from bones, while broth comes from meat (with or without bones) or vegetables.
It seems to be an incredibly subtle difference, but it does have a slight yet particular impact on our discussion, which I describe in the paragraph titled “Beef broth defined,” below.
We make stock by simmering bones and vegetables (classically, a combination of celery, onions, and carrots). We never season stock, apparently.
Beef Broth Defined
We are now, I believe, in a position to define beef broth as a savory liquid made from beef meat or possibly beef meat and bone.
The important takeaway here is that beef broth must contain beef. A liquid that comes from simmering beef bones from which all flesh has been studiously removed would be beef stock, not beef broth, and therefore, no further concern of ours in this article.
What is a Vegetarian?
A vegetarian is not a “what” but a “who.”** Vegetarians believe in vegetarianism, which the Vegetarian Society defines as, at a minimum, someone who doesn’t eat meat, chicken, or fish.
To be honest, I’ve struggled with the idea that vegetarians can eat dairy products and eggs. In the end, I’ve concluded that these foods are okay because we don’t have to slaughter any animals to have access to them, and I can see their point.
I love me some bacon, and I am partial to hamburgers, sausages, and salmon fillet, but it is regrettable (especially for the animals) that these items come at the cost of a creature’s life.
According to the Vegetarian Society, prohibited diets for vegetarians are fish and other seafood, animal rennet or gelatine, insects, meat and poultry, stock, or animal fats. If you notice, buttressing my point in the preceding paragraph, to acquire any of these items as food, some poor thing has to die.
** Please feel free to have a laugh at my expense. If you visit the link above, the first thing you’ll probably notice is that the honorable society poses the question, “What is a vegetarian” against my earlier strongly voiced belief that grammatically we ask “who” is a vegetarian, not “what.” I’m going to stick to my guns. Vegetarians are people, and the pronoun for people is “who,” not “what.” So, if you don’t mind, I’ll trouble you to wipe that smile off your face and offer me fine words of a sincere apology. 😉
I suppose vegetarians could be as cynical and hypocritical as the rest of us and learn to shed crocodile tears. Remember this from Lewis Carroll?
‘I weep for you,’ the Walrus said:
‘I deeply sympathize.’
With sobs and tears he sorted out
Those of the largest size,
Holding his pocket-handkerchief
Before his streaming eyes.
Carroll, L. The Walrus and the Carpenter.
If you don’t know this delicious poem, do yourself an immense favor and read it. You’ll be struck by how very un-vegetarian were the walrus and his friend, the carpenter, and how much like a modern meat-eater the walrus was in his attitude, sobbing into his “pocket-handkerchief” while relentlessly chomping down on luscious oysters.
Can Beef Broth Be Vegetarian Food?
Having defined our terms, we can focus our minds on the day’s question: “Is beef broth vegetarian?” I think that by now, the answer is crystal clear.
A vegetarian is someone who point-blank refuses to eat anything for which an animal, insect, or fish has to be killed. Beef broth is made from beef meat. There is no reasonable way to get beef meat without first killing the animal. Ergo, beef broth is not vegetarian.
Afterword: Is Beef Broth Vegetarian?
At the beginning of the article, I did say I thought the question “Is beef broth vegetarian” a simple nut to crack, and I believe I’ve proved it. Vegetarians do not consume animals, animal products, or animal fats and proteins.
Beef broth must be made from beef meat, meaning that the broth must have components vegetarians shouldn’t eat, like beef, animal fat, and animal proteins. To me, the conclusion is obvious and hardly contentious.
Frequently Asked Questions to Is Beef Broth Vegetarian?
Is there a Way to Prepare Beef Broth so that it is Vegetarian?
There is no way to prepare beef broth so that it is vegetarian. As the beef in the broth cooks, microscopic bits of the flesh break up under the attention of heat and the corrosive action of the surrounding liquid as fats and proteins leach out into the broth. It is these microscopic bits of flesh, as well as the fats and proteins that help give the broth its taste, so it is impossible to make beef broth in a vegetarian-friendly way.
Are Some Vegetarians Able to Eat Beef Broth?
Grammatically, there may be some issues with “eat beef broth,” but more importantly, according to the Vegetarian Society, eating beef broth would definitely fall outside acceptable vegetarian behavior. Of course, good Christians don’t bear false witness (lie), and good Muslims don’t drink alcohol, but a lying Christian is still a Christian, and a drunk Muslim is still a Muslim, so maybe a beef broth-imbibing vegetarian is still a vegetarian.
Daniel Iseli (Head Chef)
Hi, my name is Daniel and I am passionate about cooking. I have been cooking for the past 20 years and am happy to share my best recipes and cooking-related knowledge with you.