ANSWER: No. Whey protein isn't vegan. Whey is a by-product of the dairy industry and is made from cow's milk . Vegans seeks to exclude all foods made from animals or their by-products. With that being said, the market is full of alternatives that taste and mix better than whey protein while also being more affordable!
What is Whey Exactly?
While it is often times marketed as a miracle health food and muscle builder, you might not have guessed that whey is actually a byproduct. In order to produce cheese, enzymes are added to heated milk which cause the solids to separate from the liquid. This liquid is known is whey and is then processed to make different types of cheese or protein powders.
Why Isn't Whey Protein Vegan?
Vegans aim to reduce animal suffering wherever possible or practicable. Dairy cows are subject to a life of suffering and consuming their products goes against these basic aims. They are impregnated as consistently as biologically possible so that they keep lactating thus keeping production high. Once they give birth, the offspring are immediately taken away from the mother cows which causes them a great deal of stress. Once they can no longer produce milk, the mother cows are sent off to the slaughterhouse for meat.
For an inside look into the dairy industry, check out this video.
What Are the Best Whey Protein Alternatives?
If you've decided that you wanted to incorporated powdered protein into your diet due to time constraints then there are tons of great plant based options. Protein powder can be made from hemp, rice, pea, soy, and much more. You also don't have to be concerned that you'll be getting something inferior in terms of quality and ability to gain muscle. We talk in great depth about this topic on our Ultimate Guide to Building Muscle on a Vegan Diet.
Garden of Life makes a delicious chocolate or vanilla plant-based protein options which we’ve linked to below. In the event you’d prefer something unflavored – you can just pick up a rice protein like this one.
Conclusion on Whey Protein?
With so many other choices out there, making the choice to give up whey protein shouldn't be a difficult one. If you're transitioning to a vegan lifestyle, this should be one of the easier transitions that you'll be making. Given that plant protein powders perform and taste exactly the same (perhaps even better), there's no reason not to make the switch!