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Apr 27, 2009 07:11 PM

Are biodynamic foods vegetarian?

Current posts touching on biodynamic farming ( and vegetarianism ( got me thinking: should vegetarians eat biodynamic foods?

Most lacto-vegetarians avoid traditionally-made cheeses. They don't contain any veal, but are made with rennet - a product that's derived from the stomach of a calf.

By the same token, a biodynamic grape doesn't contain any meat, but it's definitely grown using animal products. The various biodynamic "preparations" require such things as the horns, intestines, and peritonea of cattle, the bladders of deer, and the skulls of sheep. These things are buried in the fields, fermented and sprayed on the compost heap, or otherwise applied to crops. Control of pests such as mice is accomplished by "ashing," which requires capturing the pest, burning it, and scattering the ashes in the field. (

Last month Ubuntu had a wine dinner featuring organic and biodynamic wines. ( It didn't register at the time, but now I'm wondering - how can a vegetarian restaurant in good conscience serve foods that were made using animal parts? How many of its customers would drink these wines if they knew that sheep, deer, and cattle were slaughtered in the process of growing the grapes?

Any thoughts?

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  1. I think, that if someone is choosing to be a vegan/vegatarian for the animals sake, & not only the health & environmental aspects, then if any of thier food, grooming products or clothing uses animal products or is made up of murdered animal carcas.... then they probablly should avoid it.

    1. Do vegetarians also question other organic fertizers which might use fishmeal, bonemeal or bloodmeal? Or is there a don't ask, don't tell policy?

      1. But where does one draw the line?

        Even if a grain was made entirely without any animal byproducts or parts, what about the means that are used to transport that stalk of grain from farmer to store? Didn't that truck use fossil fuel? And isn't fossil fuel from a (once) living and breathing animal (dinosaurs)?

        It can get ridiculous after a while and ultimately I think it just comes down to a person's own value system as to what constitutes vegetarian.

        2 Replies
        1. re: ipsedixit

          I think you've set up a false comparison. By your logic, everything in the carbon cycle has been "tainted" by animal flesh. But many vegetarians believe that it's wrong to kill an animal in order to feed a human. The dinosaurs weren't killed to provide crude oil so that we can drive to Ubuntu. But livestock were killed for the express purpose of producing the biodynamic wines served there.

          1. re: alanbarnes

            True, alan, too true.

            I'm not necessarily disagreeing with you. I'm just saying the line drawing (to me anyway) is completely arbitrary.

            If the reason a person chooses to be vegetarian is not to have caused, either directly or indirectly, the death of another animal, then does it really matter if the killing was done for the "express purpose" of providing food or wine?

        2. What a very interesting question. I've never considered this problem before. But this is a similar issue to the rennet-in cheese issue. It comes down to being aware of how your food is processed.

          If I was a vegetarian because I objected to the slaughtering of animals for human use, then I absolutely would avoid biodynamic foods and wine. Dead animal = no-go.

          If on the other hand, I was vegetarian for other reasons, environmental, health, etc. then I would be more willing to eat biodynamic products. The products used in biodynamic farming are animal products, but they are "waste products" that might not have been used otherwise. If an animal has to be slaughtered, I'd rather we use every part possible, rather than just harvesting the filet and T-bone, then tossing the rest. As well, I would see the positive aspects of biodynamic farming as opposed to Western commercialized farming with pesticides, hormones, etc. So I might still be ok with the use of animal products in the making of these products.

          Huh - ashing - I had no idea. Mice being burned at the stake? Who knew.

          Fortunately for me, I don't have to think too hard, being a meat eater, and someone who who has accepted the inevitability of the life/death cycle. I do believe that is an animal is slaughtered for human use, then out of respect for the animal, we are grateful for their gift and we try not to waste any part. So I appreciate the use of these animal products in farming.