Rennet. A complex of enzymes produced in any mammal’s stomach. Extracted from slaughtered, young, unweaned calves. (Thanks wikipedia.)

I think I had heard about this before, or at least I was familiar with the word, but apparently I hadn’t done my research enough.

I have a vegetarian for three and a half years and counting. I became a vegetarian because I no longer loved the taste of meat. I stopped eating red meat long before I came a (lacto-ovo) vegetarian. And I’ve just never gone back. I don’t see myself going back anytime soon, if at all. Meat just doesn’t taste good. So I don’t eat it.

For a while I tried to go vegan, and then I tried to just be a weekday vegan and allow dairy on the weekends. I tried to cut out eggs altogether. All of these pursuits failed, but still have the positive outcome of me eating less dairy, particularly a SUBSTANTIALLY less amount of cheese. I eat an egg almost every morning for breakfast again, as I used to before my vegan pursuits began. I still enjoy veganism and still try to have a day or two a week that I eat only vegan foods.

When it comes to cheese, I enjoy it too much. Also when it comes to cheese, apparently I have not done my research as I should have. Rennet is a main ingredient in many different cheeses. I know I’ve seen it listed on cheese that I have shamelessly enjoyed. I didn’t necessarily know what it was. Unfortunately (or fortunately), my eyes were opened up to the world of animal rennet very recently. And now I have a lot more research to do.

While I became vegetarian because I don’t enjoy meat, it’s now a conscious choice that I don’t want to eat anything with animal rennet in it. The animals were killed and the rennet was extracted. Moreso than “the animals were killed,” is that rennet comes from inside the animal and I really don’t like that. This is a weak argument. I’m not trying to argue anyway. There’s just something in my mind that finds the idea of rennet a bit disgusting. So I, in my newly enlightened mind, am now choosing to be exceptionally careful about the cheese that I eat. Perhaps this is a natural step pushing me closer towards veganism again. Who knows.

Thankfully, I found this website that has two fairly comprehensive lists of cheese that I “can” and “can’t” eat, based on the type of rennet or enzymes used (if one is used at all). I’m committing to stay away from all cheese that contains animal rennet or enzymes that do not specifically say whether or not they come from an animal source. It will be harder to find cheap cheese now, but that is also a good thing. There are too many processed foods in the market, and if my self-imposed diet limitations are going to help me even further to stay away from processed food, it’s all for the better. Quality is always better than cheapness. I just happen to have a weak spot for cheese.

Thankfully, one of my favorite cheeses- vintage reserve from Trader Joe’s- is made from non-animal enzymes or rennet. And the huge block of feta cheese that is sitting in saltwater in my refrigerator specifically says “vegetarian” on the front of the container. Two saves! Take-out pizza, however, is going to be difficult to find now, I imagine 😦

Who of you eat vegetarian or vegan? What have you learned about rennet? Did you know about it when you started your chosen way of eating? What steps do you take to avoid it? I’d love some help as I foray into this new idea!

2 thoughts on “rennet

  1. Cheese and eggs are the exact reasons that I am not vegan. And I do still enjoy fish and shellfish when available. Lately, I have been experimenting with the vegan cheeses. If I think of them as fake cheese, it’s all over but when I consider them a new variety, then I’m more open. Silly, I know. Although I don’t eat jello, my son always questions the content of gelatin candies (he is vegetarian). Gelatin is from the collagen inside pig skin and cattle bones.

    • Thinking of vegan cheese as simply a different variety seems like a good way to go about it. Have you found any types you particularly enjoy? I’ve often thought about trying them, but honestly there’s nothing that seems appetizing when I look at them in the store. I stay away from gelatin for sure, there’s not much going for jello or sugary candies anyway when it comes to my tastebuds, perhaps I’m lucky 🙂

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