This article was inspired by a number of conversations I’ve had with a friend. Every time we spoke about the topic, I’ve given him nothing but my very unprofessional and biased opinion. So I thought I’d use this article to talk about B12 and point to some sources that are not as biased as my vegan-biased-self.

Thanks for the inspiration, friend!

Vitamin B12 comes from bacteria in soil. Animals don’t create B12 themselves, but instead they obtain B12 by eating the plants that are grown in soil and then, combined with cobalt, they are able to absorb B12 and store it in their muscles and liver.

Non-vegans typically get their vitamin B12 from eating animals and animal by-products.

Problem: Due to the intensive farming of both animals and plants, the vast majority of animals no longer have contact with soil because they are kept inside factories until they are taken to a slaughterhouse. However, free-range animals that are allowed to graze outside would still have issues absorbing B12 naturally because soil, nowadays, typically contains a very low amount of cobalt “due to the plowing of sensitive grasslands leading to unspeakable amounts of erosion; the over-use of chemical-based fertilizers, primarily nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium“.

So farmers give supplements to the animals. 

Yep, you heard me say it. I mean, you saw me write it. Or you just read it… If you’re not taking a B12 supplement, then you can bet that the animal you’re eating has had one.

Your supplement has taken a supplement!

Let’s check out some evidence.

In 2013, it was reported that 90% of B12 supplements produced in the world are fed to animals in farms. This website seems pretty neutral (they even have a recent Thanksgiving article referring to ‘turkey day‘ so definitely no vegan bias!) but let’s go a bit deeper and check out some farming websites…

  • Cattle Today says: “Cobalt concentrations in feeds are not well known and therefore cattle diets are supplemented with cobalt at approximately 0.1 ppm to ensure adequate production of vitamin B12“.
  • DSM (Dutch State Mines) who are a ‘global, purpose-led, science-based company active in Nutrition, Health and Sustainable Living’ have a whole sector on Animal Nutrition & Health and state “Vitamin B12 is normally added to diets of all poultry species” and “Vitamin B12 is normally added to diets of all swine“.
  • The Government of Western Australia’s Department of Agriculture and Food explain that there are several causes for a cobalt deficiency in their farmed cattle and sheep, including: soil type, weather conditions and pasture species. They then go on to describe the many ways to supplement the animals to avoid deficiency. 
  • Farm Health Online state “Cobalt deficiency in ruminants stems from pastures being deficient in cobalt”. They also go on to list the pros/cons for the many different ways they suggest to supplement animals.

Vegans get their vitamin B12 from a supplement in the form of a pill or fortified food (Marmite, nutritional yeast… ). We could have previously, in theory, obtained B12 naturally when the soil wasn’t suffering of a cobalt deficiency and our fruits, veggies and water weren’t cleaned within an inch of their non-life. 

Although, I quite like not having cholera!

But getting back to the absolute main point of this post…

If you eat meat then you’re supplementing your B12.

If you eat fortified foods then you’re supplementing your B12.

If you’re taking a supplement then you’re…

You get it 🙂

B12 isn’t something to mess around with, peeps. Make sure your levels are healthy otherwise the consequences are seriousFYI, B12 is actually harder to absorb when consumed via animal flesh, so you’re better off taking a pill if your levels are low (unbiased source here).

May all your B12 dreams come true!

Thanks for reading 💚