Do you prefer your gummy bears boneless or bone-in?

Amber Brockman, News Editor

Graphic by Carter Uslabar

Unless you seek out the vegan alternative, you prefer Jell-O bone-in.

This applies to other commonly enjoyed sweets as well, like gummy bears, marshmallows, fruit snacks, ice cream and candy — all of which contain the ingredient gelatin.

“Gelatin is a protein substance derived from collagen, a natural protein present in the tendons, ligaments and tissues of mammals,” according to “It is produced by boiling the connective tissues, bones and skins of animals, usually cows and pigs.”

Although animal products, like meat, are common in most diets, it might seem a bit strange that the parts people typically avoid are eaten as dessert — like the white, chewy gristle on a steak or bones in a chicken wing.

“Some people are worried that unsafe manufacturing practices might lead to contamination of gelatin products with diseased animal tissues including those that might transmit mad cow disease,” according to “Although this risk seems to be low, many experts advise against using animal-derived supplements like gelatin.”

Despite this common concern, gelatin is generally recognized as safe by the FDA as long as manufacturers process it according to safety guidelines, and many fitness magazines even suggest that gelatin can provide various health benefits.

“Gelatin is used for aging skin, osteoarthritis, weak and brittle bones, brittle nails, obesity and many other conditions, but there is no good scientific evidence to support these uses,” according to

Gelatin is notable for its low nutritional value and poor protein quality, and is one of the few foods that has a negative protein efficiency ratio, according to the FDA.

“Despite its low nutritional value, gelatin is not considered hazardous by applicable government regulations,” according to the FDA.

Gelatin isn’t only found in foods as its properties have made it useful in a variety of other products as well.

“Gelatin’s ability to form strong, transparent gels and flexible films that are easily digested, soluble in hot water, and capable of forming a positive binding action have made it a valuable commodity in food processing, pharmaceuticals, photography, and paper production,” according to

Gelatin’s prevalence in a wide range of products is reflected by the more than 300,000 metric tons of gelatin produced annually worldwide, according to a ScienceDirect article.

Considering its mass production, gelatin, as a slaughter product, creates a number of environmental impacts related to meat production, according to the USDA.

“Livestock species contribute directly and indirectly to deforestation, water pollution, air pollution, greenhouse gases, global warming, desertification, erosion and human obesity, and virtually anywhere you go in the world, the damage done by ruminants, pigs and poultry, and those who grow feed crops for them, is visible by land,” according to the Smithsonian Magazine website. “The global scope of the livestock issue is huge.”

According to a report published by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, 26% of the Earth’s terrestrial surface is used for livestock grazing and one-third of arable land is used for feed crop cultivation.

“Globally, 18% of greenhouse gas emissions can be attributed to the livestock industry,” according to the report. “And in the United States, livestock production is responsible for 55% of erosion, 37% of all applied pesticides and 50% of antibiotics consumed, while the animals themselves directly consume 95% of our oat production and 80% of our corn.”

A report from the Worldwatch Institute said “the human appetite for animal flesh is a driving force behind virtually every major category of environmental damage now threatening the human future.”

Considering the low nutritional value and negative environmental impacts, limiting the production and consumption of gelatin, as well as other animal products, has the potential to benefit human and environmental health.