Most of us know by now that our favorite go-to white bread isn’t doing us any favors. There’s barely anything nutritional in that hunk of processed wheat — in fact, it’s mostly made up of sugar. However, there’s actually something even more concerning than the artificial chemical ingredients lurking in your household loaf. Get ready to be grossed out: your store-bought bread contains human hair — on purpose.
Before you dive into your bed and vow to never enter the public sphere again, let’s unpack this revelation.
Bread manufacturers don’t throw a handful of human hair into the bread dough just for laughs — as far as we know, anyway. Instead, they knead in an amino acid called L-cysteine, which is used to lessen dough mixing times as it extends a bread’s shelf-life. Sounds great, you say. We all love a good amino acid to help our bread stay fresh for longer.
But wait, there’s more. L-cysteine is derived from protein found in duck feathers, pig bristles, cow horns, and human hair.
So no, we’re not technically eating whole strands of hair. But at the same time, we are still consuming hair/feather/horn/bristle byproducts. That doesn’t make us feel good, to be honest.
As bakerpedia.com tells us, China is the largest producer of the L-cysteine amino acid, which is retrieved by boiling one or several of the above protein sources in concentrated hydrochloric acid and activated carbon. The process is then concluded with electrolysis (aka creating a chemical reaction by way of electrical current).
In 2011, several major amino acid suppliers confirmed to the Vegetarian Resource Group Blog that Chinese L-cysteine manufacturers most commonly use duck feathers and human hair to produce the amino acid. Hog hair is only used when there is a human hair shortage.
And according to a 2011 Natural News report, the hair used in L-cysteine manufacturing is usually collected from the floors of Chinese barbershops and hair salons. Um — what?
There is some good news on the horizon for us bread addicts. Bakerpedia.com reports that several vegetable-based L-cysteine alternatives are out there. Unfortunately, they’re not usually found in our mainstream loaves of bread.
Listen, processed food isn’t good for us. Sure, we weren’t aware that we’re eating other people’s hair clippings, and yes, that disturbs us greatly. But within our favorite processed goods, there are generally a lot of other fairly horrific things hiding in plain sight (chemicals, bleach, more chemicals).
Perhaps it’s time to get out granny’s cookbook, take a step back in time, and bake our own artisanal loaves. Or we can just grin and bear the fact that we’re eating a little piece of our fellow human. We hope whoever’s hair we’re eating is enjoying their new ‘do.