Ground feathers among ingredients in Z's new vegan pies

Z Energy says an "honest mistake" led to the use of a pastry conditioner made from feathers in its vegan pie.
Lawrence Smith

Z Energy says an "honest mistake" led to the use of a pastry conditioner made from feathers in its vegan pie.

Fancy some ground poultry feathers in your vegan pie?

Petrol station chain Z Energy is in hot water after it was discovered that its new "vegan" Mexican pie contains a pastry conditioner, E920, which is made from feathers.

Pastry conditioner E920 is made from ground poultry feathers.
CATHERINE MURRAY/123RF

Pastry conditioner E920 is made from ground poultry feathers.

But one academic says few New Zealanders fully understand the ingredients in their food, anyway.

The pie has a spicy tomato, sweetcorn and onion filling. It is only available from Z stations for a limited time.

READ MORE: Should New Zealand supermarkets have a dedicated vegan aisle?

Z Energy said on its Facebook page that the inclusion of the ingredient was an "honest mistake".

"While only the tiniest trace of this product was used in our pies – 0.0023 per cent – we understand the principle here and no future vegan pies, including the ones being baked today, will contain this product. To demonstrate how seriously we take this, a production run of these pies using this ingredient are now being donated to charity rather than sold at Z sites. We're very sorry about this."

A new version of the pie, without the ingredient, will be available from early next week.

University of Auckland senior lecturer in marketing Bodo Lang said the incident could have done damage to the chain's reputation.

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"Vegan food is highly specified. If a product doesn't hold up to the promise, it is a big letdown and people will be very concerned.  They have to go by the information that is available in the marketplace and if it is not what it is claimed to be it is a big problem."

He said it was fair for vegans to expect that every single ingredient in a vegan product was actually vegan.

Lang said it might shock some consumers that a product containing feathers was in their food at all.

"If you look closely at what goes into food, there are a multitude of things. What constitutes meat, particularly cheap meat, is not what you or I would consider to be meat. The New Zealand consumer is naive sometimes to think they can buy cheap food and still get high quality ingredients."

Z Energy spokesman Jonathan Hill said E920 was in the chain's other pies. "I believe it is a very common ingredient in flours, breads, pastries. It, however, can be derived from non-animal sources and we have requested our bakery to use that non-animal-derived version in all of our pies in future."

The vegan pie is available from Z Energy until January 31. Hill said it had originally been intended to be available until January 24 but due to the strong demand, and this incident, the period had been extended.

* Comments on this article have now closed.

 - Stuff

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