Broth is a savory liquid made from water in which meat, bones, or vegetables have been simmered.1
It’s often eaten alone but is most commonly used as a base to prepare soups, sauces, and gravies. Chicken broth is probably the most common broth and is used to make a wide variety of soups such as chicken noodle soups.
Is it vegetarian or vegan? Chicken broth is never suitable for vegans and is typically considered non-vegetarian. However, there is a certain subset of semi-vegetarians, known as pollotarians, who consume poultry.
Why Vegetarians and Vegans Can’t Consume Chicken Broth
Some people wonder what the harm is in consuming something like chicken broth. After all, it’s not the meat, it’s just various compounds from the chicken that have leached out into an aqueous medium during the cooking process.
But, vegetarianism is the practice of avoiding the consumption of meat (such as poultry, red meat, and seafood), as well as the abstention from any by-products of any animals that have been processed for food.2,3
Veganism, the strictest form of vegetarianism, is the practice of avoiding the use of all animal products, especially in the diet and rejecting the commodity status of animals in general.4-6
Both of these definitions rule out the consumption of chicken broth. It’s true that most vegans and vegetarians consider it perfectly fine to consume foods processed on the same equipment as animal products—as is often stated in the allergen section on food labels.
Even though such foods likely have been cross-contaminated with small amounts of animal products.
But, that’s quite different than consuming a food product like broth. Chicken broth not only contains significant amounts of chicken (both body fluids and solids), but the product is actually produced for this very reason. Its production thus commodifies and involves the slaughter of animals.
Commercially prepared liquid broths are made from the simmering of chicken, beef, and fish parts. In North America, meat stock is dehydrated in the form of tablets called bouillon cubes.
Industrially produced bouillon was first commercialized in 1908 under the name and by Oxo in 1910.7
So, Semi-Vegetarians Can Eat Chicken Broth?
Pollotarians are not really vegetarians, but rather semi-vegetarians or flexitarians. The terms semi-vegetarian diet (SVD) and flexitarian are interchangeable.8,9
They’re both defined as plant-based diets that allow the occasional inclusion of meat.10-12 Flexitarian is a bit of a newer term and was voted, by the American Dialect Society, as the most useful word of 2003.13
It’s obviously a combination of the words flexible and vegetarian, which denotes the lesser strictness of the diet pattern compared to the traditional vegetarian diet.14
Anyway, within that category are pollotarians—a lesser-known word. The pollotarian diet is an eating pattern that allows the inclusion of chicken and/or other poultry and often eggs as well (most vegetarians eat eggs).
They don’t consume meat or seafood, so chicken would be among the only broths they would consume. I suppose turkey broth would also be on the menu. They differentiate birds from mammals, for reasons of health, ethics, the environment, and food justice.15,16
The distinction has to do with the fact that birds are generally thought to have a much more rudimentary nervous system compared to mammals. Thus, it’s thought that they likely don’t feel emotional and physical pain to the same degree as furry brethren.
Anyway, if you identify as part of this obscure group of semi-vegetarians then you can go ahead and consume chicken broth. Obviously, I’m partial to the vegan diet—a diet that abstains from the use of all animal products, but I’m just here to present the information.
The Best Vegetarian and Vegan Broth Replacement
Again, the term “broth” is really any savory liquid derived from water in which animal parts (skin, meat, bones) OR vegetables have been simmered.1 Therefore, one big category of broth is suitable for both vegetarians and vegans: vegetable broth.
Veggie broth either comes as an actual broth liquid, or as bouillon cubes or paste. It’s very good, and a lot of folks have a hard time distinguishing veggie broth from chicken broth.
How do they pull it off? Well, broth, in general, is mostly made up of water, salt, and substances such as glutamate which give it its characteristic umami flavor. Sure, there are compounds in chicken broth that set it apart from veggie broth in terms of taste, but the difference is much more subtle than most would think.
My mom, who’s not a vegan or vegetarians, made the switch to veggie bouillon after realizing just how similar the taste was. She bought it to use in foods prepared for me and decided that she really liked the taste.
That’s it for the vegetarian and vegan status of chicken broth. Thanks for reading.
You may also want to check out the following related articles:
- Rombauer, Irma S.; Marion Rombauer Becker; Ethan Becker (1997). Joy of Cooking. 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020: Scribner. p. 42. ISBN 0-684-81870-1.
- What Is a Vegetarian: The Vegetarian Society. https://www.vegsoc.org/page.aspx?pid=508
- Why Avoid Hidden Animal Ingredients? https://navs-online.org/articles/why-avoid-hidden-animal-ingredients/
- Helena Pedersen, Vasile Staescu, “Conclusion: Future Directions for Critical Animal Studies”, in Nik Taylor, Richard Twine (eds.), The Rise of Critical Animal Studies: From the Margins to the Centre, Routledge, 2014 (262–276),
- Gary Steiner, Animals and the Limits of Postmodernism, Columbia University Press, 2013, 206
- Gary Francione, “Animal Welfare, Happy Meat and Veganism as the Moral Baseline”, in David M. Kaplan, The Philosophy of Food, University of California Press, 2012 (169–189) 182.
- Chicken Stock with Natural Herbs https://www.maggime.com/en/category/maggi-bouillon/3
- Wanna Go Vegetarian? What Type Do You Think You Would Be. Jolinda Hackett – http://vegetarian.about.com/od/vegetarianvegan101/tp/TypesofVeg.htm
- What Is a Flexitarian? http://www.vegetariannook.com/what-is-a-flexitarian.html
- Langley-Evans, Simon (2009). Nutrition: A Lifespan Approach. Wiley. p. 172. ISBN 978-1-4443-1640-7.
- Becoming a Vegetarian (for Teens). Mary Gavin – http://www.kidshealth.org/teen/food_fitness/nutrition/vegetarian.html
- Koletzko, Berthold (2008). Pediatric Nutrition in Practice. Karger. p. 130. ISBN 978-3-8055-8477-7.
- 2003 Words Of the Year. http://www.americandialect.org/index.php/amerdial/2003_words_of_the_year/
- Derbyshire, Emma J. (6 January 2017). “Flexitarian Diets and Health: A Review of the Evidence-Based Literature”. Frontiers in Nutrition. 3: 55. doi:10.3389/fnut.2016.00055. ISSN 2296-861X. PMC 5216044.
- Preedy, Victor R.; Burrow, Gerard N.; Watson, Ronald (9 February 2009). Comprehensive Handbook of Iodine: Nutritional, Biochemical, Pathological and Therapeutic Aspects. Academic Press. p. 523. ISBN 978-0-12-374135-6
- Hayes, Dayle; Laudan, Rachel (September 2008). Food and Nutrition; Editorial Advisers, Dayle Hayes, Rachel Laudan. Marshall Cavendish. p. 1058. ISBN 978-0-7614-7827-0.