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Sugar and Cows
By Danavir Goswami
Vrndavana cows
Vrndavana cows
Click here for full size
photo: Radha Caran das (TKG)

Recently in Kansas City, the Rupanuga Vedic College (RVC) has shifted its purchase of white sugar to beet sugar. It was quite simple. We contacted our local supplier and indicated we wanted exclusively beet sugar. The two major types of refined sugar produced in the United States are cane sugar and beet sugar. Most cane sugar uses a filtering agent made from cow bones whereas beet sugar does not.

Beet sugar refineries never use a bone char filter in processing because this type of sugar does not require an extensive decolorizing procedure. Beet sugar can be refined with a pressure lead filter and an ion exchange system. Western Sugar Co. uses lime as a filter.

Cane sugar and beet sugar cost, look, and taste the same and are nutritionally equivalent as well. The production and sale of each type of sugar are approximately equal.

Hare Krishna 
Hare Krishna 
Krishna Krishna 
Hare Hare 
Hare Rama 
Hare Rama 
Rama Rama 
Hare Hare

Some of the larger beet sugar manufacturers are:

Western Sugar Company, Baynard, Nebraska, (308) 586-1511 or Lovell, Wyoming, (307) 548-2292; Imperial Sugar Corporation (Holly Sugar is beet sugar) Sugar Land, Texas, (281) 491-9181; Michigan Sugar Company, Bay City, Michigan, (517) 799-7300; Great Lakes Sugar Company, Freemont, Ohio, (419) 332-9931

I also confirmed this information by contacting several sugar manufacturers.

Much information provided above and all of that provided below was acquired from Caroline Pyevich's article "Sugar and Other Sweeteners: Do They Contain Animal Products?" (Vegetarian Journal: excerpts March/April, 1997)

Many cane refineries use bone char. Domino, the largest sugar manufacturer in the U.S., uses bone char in the filtration process. The cane refineries of Savannah Foods, the second largest sugar manufacturer, also use bone char. California and Hawaiian Sugar employs bone char filters in addition to granular carbon and ion exchange filters. All these companies use the bone char in the refining process of brown sugar, powdered sugar (sugar mixed with corn starch) and white sugar.

Almost all cane sugar refineries require the use of a specific filter to decolorize the sugar and absorb inorganic material from it. This whitening process occurs towards the end of the sugar refining procedure. The filter may be either bone char, granulated carbon, or an ion exchange system. The granular carbon has a wood or coal base, and the ion exchange does not require the use of any animal products.

Bones from cows are the only type used to make bone char. According to the Sugar Association and several large sugar producers, all of the cows have died of natural causes and do not come from the U.S. meat industry. Bone char cannot be produced or bought in the United States. Bone char is derived from the bones of cattle from Afghanistan, Argentina, India, and Pakistan. The sun-bleached bones are bought by Scottish, Brazilian, and Egyptian marketers, who sell them to the U.S. sugar industry after the bones are first used by the gelatin industry.

Bone is heated to an extremely high temperature, which results in a physical change in the bone composition. The bone becomes pure carbon before it is used in a refinery. Refined sugar does not contain any bone particles and is therefore kosher certified. The bone char simply removes impurities from the sugar, but does not become a part of the sugar.

Some cane refineries do not use bone char. Refined Sugar, producers of Jack Frost Sugar, claim to use a granular carbon instead of bone char for economic reasons. Florida Crystal sugar is a cane sugar that has not passed through the bone. Although Florida Crystal sugar has a straw color, the impurities have been removed.

© CHAKRA 7 October 2002

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