Many people associate gelatin with the jiggly dessert jello. If this is the case for you, you may have imagined gelatin to be some kind of naturally occurring substance like sugar and have never wondered "Where does gelatin come from?" It may surprise you to learn that gelatin, which has uses that include food, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, photographic film and sandpaper, comes from animal tissue, specifically collagen.
How is gelatin made?
While people have been making gelatin for hundreds of years, the process has been industrialized in contemporary times.
Gelatin as Byproduct
Gelatin is a byproduct of the meat industry. In other words, it is a secondary product from animals sent to slaughterhouses for their meat, and it is not vegan or vegetarian.
The answer to the question "where does gelatin come from?" is that commercially, it is made from the bone, skin and tissue of slaughterhouse animals, usually cows and pigs.
However, if you have ever roasted a chicken at home and noticed a jellylike substance that gathered on the plate after the meat rested for a time, that is gelatin as well.
If you taste it, you'll notice what a rich, concentrated flavor it has. This is why gelatin is a much-sought-after ingredient by many chefs.
Commercial gelatin has to go through a far more complicated process than whatever is cooling on your dinner platter to ensure that it has been refined and purified and is safe for use.
But the process is ultimately the same. Heat breaks down raw collagen, a protein found in connective tissues. That collagen becomes liquid gelatin, and when it cools, its texture becomes jellylike.
This is called "partial hydrolysis."
The Gelatin Production Process
Gelatin processing plants receive animals parts from the slaughterhouse, where they are inspected to make sure they are not rotten or of poor quality in some other way.
Machines then chop the parts into small pieces.
High-pressure blasts of water gets rid of any debris, and a hot water soak reduces the fat content. The parts are then moved via conveyor belt to an oven that roasts them in a low heat for about half an hour.
An acid wash or alkaline wash removes bacteria and minerals from the parts. The parts soak in vats for several days. This also helps with collagen release.
Next, the pieces are boiled, producing a liquid that is sterilized and placed into evaporators so that the gelatin can be separated out. The gelatin is then pressed into thin sheets, which are subsequently ground to powder.
Color, flavor and sweeteners may then be added for gelatin that is headed to use in the food industry. Note that Zen Principle contains no additives, only 100% pure grass-fed gelatin.
Quality controls are very strong throughout the process to ensure that the gelatin is safe to eat or for use in other products.
Furthermore, while the process of making gelatin may have been industrialized in order to allow its production on a large scale, you can see that the process remains an entirely natural one.
At no point does chemical modification occur. Animal parts are cooked down to extract gelatin from them just as people would have done hundreds of years ago.
Drying it and grinding it to powder makes it easy to distribute and use in a variety of products and keeps it shelf-stable for purposes of food consumption.
As food, gelatin has uses well beyond jello. It can be used to thicken liquids and boost the health properties of foods that you add it to, potentially reducing joint pain and increasing the health of your skin among other benefits.
Gelatin is a versatile ingredient with many uses, and its production helps ensure that no animal parts go to waste.