Life as a vegetarian isn’t hard. It’s easy to tell what foods contain animal parts and what foods don’t- right? Wrong! Thanks to Dr. Oz and his research team, cheese has become a lot more complicated. I love The Dr. Oz show. I watch anytime I am home for an afternoon. The Dr. Oz show opened my eyes up to the dangers lurking in pork and other meats which ultimately lead to my meat free lifestyle. Dairy is a food group that I have kept in my diet. We drink grass fed cows milk and we eat cheese. However we now highly research our cheese and only eat it at home where we can read the ingredient label and know what is it in. Here is the cheesy truth-
Cheese is made from milk, milk comes from cows. Therefor it is an animal product and not actually an animal- right? Kinda. The issue comes into play during the cheese making process. Enzymes are used and needed for milk to form into cheese. One of the major enzymes used is called rennet. Animal rennet comes from the stomach of slaughtered calves. It is only present in calves who are still nursing. Adult cows do not have rennet in their stomachs. When a cheese is made using animal rennet is made using a part of a dead cow. Leading us to the saddest conclusion- not all cheese is vegetarian. The silver lining in all of this is that many companies are making cheese using vegetable and microbial enzymes. These types of cheese taste and look the exact same as cheeses made using animal rennet. You have likely purchased and consumed cheese made without the use of animal rennet and not even known the difference. My favorite place to shop for cheese made with non-animal rennet is Trader Joe’s. They have a huge variety to choose from.
Checking your cheese packages for animal rennet is the first place to start- but keep in mind that you will also need to check the ingredient labels of food products made with cheese. Some examples are:
- pre-made pizza
- packaged ravioli
- cream cheese
- cottage cheese
- pre-made cheese dips
- frozen foods such as cheesy vegetables, lasagnas, single serve meals
- canned soups
The ideas expressed in this post are my own and were influenced by an episode of The Dr. Oz Show that focused on cheese.