Sleight of Ham
B12, Pigs, Multivitamins and You
A common misconception is vitamin B12 is produced by animals. This is a main objection meat eaters have to veganism. Their reasoning goes, “If only animals produce it, and we need it, then we need animals.” This sounds like a good point, but, like most other meat and dairy arguments, it falls short if we dig a little deeper.
It is true we need vitamin B12. It is correct to say that of all the things humans who buy their food from grocery stores eat, only animal products naturally contain vitamin B12 nowadays, but it is incorrect to state that animals create B12.
Vitamin B12 and its relationship to animals is best summed up by Reed Mangles, Ph. D., R.D.:
“Animals get their vitamin B12 from eating foods contaminated with vitamin B12 and then the animal becomes a source of vitamin B12. Plant foods do not contain vitamin B12 except when they are contaminated by microorganisms or have vitamin B12 added to them.”
This still sounds like a straight-forward argument to eat meat, doesn’t it? It’s exactly the opposite.
First, the content of vitamin B12 in the muscle tissue of slaughtered animals is questionable. If you think pigs, for instance, are eating whole, natural foods swimming with plenty of the vitamins and minerals they need, you are wrong (and you haven’t been paying attention so far on this web site). In concentrated animal farming operations, pigs and other animals are frequently given vitamin B12 shots. This is necessary for them because the food they are eating does not have adequate B12 in it any more, and some gruesome studies show that B12 supplementation makes the meat “better.” Remember, these poor creatures are forced to consume fish meal, corn and grains they would never eat in the wild.
They have to get their vitamins from somewhere, and that somewhere is usually from the business end of an injector.
Therefore, if we eat animal products from grocery stores because it is a “natural” way to fulfill vitamin B12 requirements, we are being fooled. What we are really doing is using the defenseless pig as a proxy for taking a multivitamin.
Once again we see that if pig flesh wasn’t bled, salted, altered with fire and smoke, you’d find few sane people arguing that we need to eat it for survival.
We are not chained to eating animals to gain our microscopic vitamin B12 requirements. We have options. Common breakfast cereal is a wonderful source of B12. Almost all grain products in the United States are enriched with vitamins, B12 especially. Oatmeal, corn flakes, and rice puffs are good sources. Even the sugar-drenched diabetic horrors that are most breakfast cereals have 35% of your daily B12 requirement. That’s five times the B12 provided by half a chicken breast.
Don’t like cereal? Get what you need from multivitamins, nutritional yeast flakes, breads, tortillas, even pancakes.
Arguing that we need to eat animals to get vitamin B12 is like the Snargleplexonians arguing that they need to eat our babies to get their creamed peas.
- Vitamin B12 in the Vegan Diet, Reed Mangels, Ph.D., R.D., http://www.vrg.org/nutrition/b12.htm, Accessed 2007/04/24
- Minerals in Animal and Human Nutrition, L. R. McDowell, Published by Elsevier Health Sciences, 2003 ISBN 0444513671, 9780444513670
- Comparative effect of low levels of dietary cobalt and parenteral injection of vitamin B12 on carcass and meat quality characteristics in Omani goats, I. T. Kadim, , O. Mahgoub, A. Srikandakumar, D. S. Al-Ajmi, R. S. Al-Maqbaly, N. M. Al-Saqri and E. H. Johnson. doi:10.1016/j.meatsci.2003.08.003
- General Mills: Lucky Charms product data, http://www.generalmills.com/corporate/brands/brand.aspx?catID=69, Accessed 2009/01/05
- Vitamin B12. (2010, August 24). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 02:44, August 25, 2010, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Vitamin_B12&oldid=380795116#Foods