Is cheese really Vegetarian?


A common misconception about cheese is that it is vegetarian. This is not strictly true; while some cheeses are suitable for vegetarians, others are not. People who do not eat meat or products that are obtained by killing an animal should always check whether a cheese is suitable for them to eat. Many people assume that all cheeses are vegetarian because it is made from milk, which is obtained without the killing of any animals. It is the rennet, the coagulant used to make cheese, that is either vegetarian or not. Rennet is a mixture of several different enzymes, which is present in the fourth stomach of young animals such as calves and lambs. This rennet can only be obtained by killing the young animal and removing the enzymes. Vegetarian rennet, however, is made in ways that do not involve direct killing of the animal. It may be extracted from plants or create in a lab using genetic engineering.


To confuse matters further, there is even some doubt over whether cheese made with vegetarian rennet is truly vegetarian. Some people think that because cheese is produced on a dairy farm, as a small element of a much larger farming set up, there are much wider considerations. Every mammal has to produce offspring before she lactates. The question that strict vegetarians, vegans and some scientists ask is, what happens to the male offspring who are born? The answer is that the majority of them will end up being eaten. Looking at the big picture can throw some doubt on to the whole concept of vegetarian cheeses.


What it comes down to, ultimately, is the specific beliefs of the individual vegetarian. Some people call themselves vegetarian but are happy to eat cheese containing animal rennet. Others are not willing to eat any cheese, whether it is labeled vegetarian or not. It depends whether the person feels that it is right to make a distinction between foods that come directly from the killing of animals, and those that are only indirectly linked to it.


If you are concerned about whether the cheese you are eating is suitable for vegetarians, check out the website of the manufacturer and do your research. Be educating yourself, you can be sure that you have all the relevant facts and you can then make a fully informed decision about whether your vegetarian beliefs are compatible with eating cheese.


Grandvewe uses non animal rennet in all of its cheeses, however lipase is added to the Pecorino. Lipase is an enzyme that gives fetta and Pecorino that distinctive piquant flavour. The only way to obtain lipase is from the lining of ruminants stomachs and so if you are a serious vegetarian you should avoid fetta, pecorino and parmesan cheeses.




Keep being ewenique!


Diane Rae

Master Cheesemaker

This entry was posted in Cheese Articles. Bookmark the permalink.