Is animal rennet vegetarian?


With recent news, some vegetarians are feeling a little duped. As discussed in this article, most cheeses aren’t so much vegetarian after all.

Most cheeses have rennet.

Wondering if your rennet-containing cheese is vegetarian? Not so much. If you’re decision to go vegetarian was for animal cruelty reasons, drop cheese from your diet.

What’s rennet you ask?

“It’s an enzyme that helps to separate the milk into solid curds and liquid whey during the cheese-making process and it’s in lots of cheeses, even your beloved ones with labels that come with an rBST or rBGH-free promise.”

But no worries. I dug a little deeper.

What to look for to avoid rennet

Labeling on products can be a tricky, slippery slope and are typically designed to give companies, not consumers, the advantage. Just like many companies use the word “fragrance” as the blanket statement that really means it may be made from a slew of toxic chemicals, some cheese companies may list “enzymes” as part of the ingredients.

Translation: rennet.

It still means the lining of the fourth stomach of a newborn lamb or calf played a role in getting that cheese to market. Other words to keep an eye on are “chymosin,” “rennin” and “rennaise.” Same deal.

To avoid this, obviously, take more care in reading those labels. Many cheddars, jalsbergs and feta’s contain rennet. Certain kinds of brie, colby and swiss have the microbial kind. Do research and never hesitate to ask questions right then and there in the supermarket. Don’t fall for pretty packaging full or rBST-free wording and assume it’s up to your vegetarian standards.

If you prefer, consider cheese alternatives like tofu and soy. I know, GMO right? Well if possible, find cheeses made with plant-based enzymes such as fig leaves, safflower or wild thistle.

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