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Answer: It depends. They are technically vegan but your ethical position could make it otherwise.
Canned baked beans are a cupboard staple that seems to have been around for as long as we can remember. Picture this scenario. You’re looking around your grandma’s kitchen for something to eat. You open-and-close the drawers, fridge, freezer, pantry, cupboards; nothing looks good, but what do you find on the highest shelf of the cabinet? Yes, you guessed it. You grab hold of a dusty can of Bush’s and think, “eureka!”
Baked beans are one of the most versatile side dishes you can find. Whatever you’re making, no one will complain if you add a side of baked beans to it. Be it for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, you just can’t go wrong with them.
Ready in no time, baked beans are convenient. Packed with a ton of spices, they’re tasty, flavorful, and ready to eat.
Bush Brothers & Company sell a massive lineup of canned beans. So, let’s get this out of the way: only the vegetarian baked beans are vegan – but depending on how rigorously vegan you are, they may still be out of bounds.
Read on to find out all you need to know about Bush’s vegetarian beans and if they should be included in your plant-based diet.
How Are They Made?
The Bush Brothers Company has been in beans for nearly a century. They produce a wide variety of beans to satisfy our complex palate. The company is located in Chestnut Hill, Tennessee, where you can visit their museum and see how it’s all made.
They’re serious about their heritage and do their best to provide a quality product made in the USA. One thing is sure, they know a whole lot about beans. Their vegetarian baked beans include:
- Prepared navy beans
- Brown sugar
- Tomato puree
- Salt, mustard, vinegar, paprika, turmeric
- Modified corn starch
- Onion powder
- Paprika extract
- Garlic powder
- Natural flavor
At first glance, all of the ingredients above are vegan. The can doesn’t indicate that it uses animal products or traces of dairy products. One element that isn’t clear is their “natural flavor.”
The company doesn’t release what it contains since it’s their secret ingredient. It’s their unique flavor that makes their beans different from the competition. Still, it’s safe to assume that no animal products are used in it since the can indicates that it’s vegetarian. So far, so good, but there’s more to it.
What Makes Them Vegan Enough?
These baked beans are certified vegetarian, but does that make them vegan? No, it doesn’t.
The question is, why haven’t they certified this product to be 100% vegan? Wouldn’t it make it much easier for us to call it what it is? It would, but in this case, it’s not that straightforward.
My research didn’t lead me to believe that any animal products are used in the cans. However, the factory does have a variety of other types of beans that contain animal products.
I believe that the Bush Brothers Company decided to play it safe by not claiming that their product is vegan since they obviously aren’t a vegan company.
Veganism is the strictest form of vegetarianism. The most significant difference between vegetarians and vegans lies in their belief in how humans use animals.
Here’s the gray area. Are Bush’s vegetarians beans vegan if they’re produced in a factory that uses animal products?
This is more of an ethical argument. The answer lies in how far your veganism goes. The Vegan Society explains that “being vegan is about excluding animal products by as much as you practically can.”
We aren’t able to control how things are made. Most supermarkets sell merchandise that contains animal products, have been tested on animals, or are made from animal skin. It would be difficult to boycott an entire store to support the vegan movement.
That’s why it’s essential to do your best to stay away from non-vegan products and do so in a practical sense. My point is that if you consider these beans non-vegan, it will be tough to shop in a regular supermarket ever again.
So we can say that Bush’s beans are vegan enough.
Are They Healthy?
Bear in mind that beans are necessary for vegans to maintain a balanced diet. They supply essential nutrients, plant protein fibers, B vitamins, minerals, and health-protective plant compounds.
Not only are these baked beans tasty and convenient, but they can also:
- Maintain gut health
- Protect against colon cancer
- Lower cholesterol
We must not forget that canned beans are mass-produced and can be kept for years before they spoil. Keeping things “fresh” for such an extended time is nothing short of miraculous, but there are apparent negatives that may or may not outweigh the positives. It all depends on how often you plan to eat this product. Be wary of:
- High sugar
- High salt
- Additives: corn starch, natural flavor
- Gas (not the kind you put in your car)
Most mass-produced can-goods have a downside. This doesn’t mean that you should altogether remove them from your diet. It means that you should consume a smart amount. Moderation is always the right way to keep things balanced.
What About Other Baked Beans?
Most canned vegetarian baked beans are similar to Bush’s vegetarian option The ones that you’ll find at your local grocery store are mass-produced, in similar factories. If you can’t find Bush’s vegetarian product, Heinz Vegetarian Beanz are an excellent alternative. The ingredients are alike and are just as vegan as their counterpart.
If these aren’t available, you’ll have to look on the label and make sure it’s vegan enough. An ingredient you may find in some canned baked beans is Worcestershire sauce. It contains anchovies or fish sauce, which makes it a no-go for vegans.
Always read the fine print and look for the phrase, “contains traces of …”. Studying the labels at the grocery store is fun and educational. Being vegan is also about educating yourself about how products are made and which ones can be detrimental to our health.
If you aren’t already, in time, you’ll impress your friends with how much you know about the things we eat.
The best, healthiest alternative would be to make homemade baked beans. You’ll have to plan accordingly since dried beans have to be soaked for hours before they’re rehydrated. Once you’ve done that, you can combine onions, garlic, spices, and chopped tomatoes to create a tasty mixture. Finally, add your beans to the mix and bake them in your oven. How does that sound?
It’s not complicated if you have the time and patience. Unfortunately, a lot of us have too little time in a day. The best alternative is to control how many cans you go through per week.
You want to choose the can size according to your needs. If it’s for the entire family, then the 32oz can is fine. If you’re cooking for two, the 16oz can is a better choice. Finally, if you’re alone, the 8oz can is the best option.
Bush’s vegetarian beans are lifesavers in times of need and delicious and convenient. They do not contain any animal or dairy products, which makes them suitable for vegans.
Even though the Bush Brothers Company produces other canned goods in their factory, we can assume that their vegetarian beans are kept separate.
The fact that they aren’t certified vegan could be because other non-vegan products are produced in the same factory. It seems like a way to cover themselves to avoid any dispute.
Veganism is a way of life. How vegan you are is mostly based on a personal ethical perspective. The Bush Brothers Company produces other beans that contain animal products. Does that make every product that they make non-vegan? The answer depends on you.
There are alternatives if you can’t find Bush’s vegetarian beans. The easiest is to pick up a can of Heinz Vegetarian Beanz. The more challenging option is to make your own.
Bush’s vegetarian beans are an excellent cupboard staple to have in your kitchen. Take them with you on the road or your next camping trip. You never know when they’ll come in handy!