Parmesan production generally uses rennet from young cows, sheep and goats.
Parmesan cheese started quite a debate on Twitter after it became common knowledge that it is made with an ingredient that is taken from young animals’ stomach linings.
The contentious ingredient is rennet, which is an enzyme found in the lining of mammal stomachs that helps young animals digest their mothers’ milk. Parmesan production generally uses rennet from young cows, sheep and goats.
The online frenzy started after one user tweeted: “Today years old when I found out Parmesan cheese is made from baby cow’s stomach & I could go cry.
“I’m just gonna have to go full vegan at this point.”
The tweet attracted many comments from other users who expressed their disgust at the information.
“I did not know. This makes me very sad. I like Parmesan but don’t think I can ever eat it again,” wrote another user.
“Wow I had never heard that! Dairy is scary fr [for real].” And Marlene added: “That’s the LAST time I buy this!” added a third.
Other commenters noted that there are several other types of cheese including Manchego, Gruyere, Gorgonzola, and Camembert also use rennet.
Rennet and the cheese industry
Rennet is an essential ingredient in traditional cheesemaking. Its levels remain high when the baby animals are unweaned, making it the perfect time for collection.
When added to milk, it helps in coagulating the milk solids and creating cheese curds. However, the production of rennet involves animal cruelty and requires the young animal to be killed. The stomach is then dried or frozen before being used in the cheesemaking process.
Although many animal welfare organizations have raised concerns about the ethical implications of this practice, the cheese industry insists that using rennet is not inhumane and in fact prevents wasting a part of the animal’s body during meat production.
Are there other options available?
While parmesan cheese and other cheese varieties contain animal rennet, classic cheddar does not contain the ingredient, and nor does Feta, Mozzarella or Wensleydale.
Moreover, many cheese brands have launched animal-friendly cheese using vegetable rennet, microbial rennet, or fermentation-based coagulants. These alternatives are derived from plant sources, fungi, or bacteria and are just as effective in coagulating milk as animal rennet.
Some cheesemakers also use genetically modified rennet, which is produced using microbial fermentation and is not derived from animal sources.
Some of the popular brands that use plant-based rennet in their products include:
Applewood – Their smoked cheese range is made using vegetarian rennet.
Cathedral City – Cathedral City Extra Mature Cheddar and Cathedral City Mature cheese use non-animal rennet.
Ilchester – Their vegetarian cheese range, including the Applewood Smoky, Cheddar with Caramelized Onion, and Mexican Green Chili Cheddar, are made using alternative rennet.
Norseland – Their Mexicana, Ilchester Mature Cheddar, and Jarlsberg Original Cheese are all vegetarian-friendly.
Waitrose – The supermarket’s own-brand cheese products, such as their Duchy range, are made using vegetarian rennet.
Share this story: Cheese lovers swear to go ‘full vegan’ after learning the truth about parmesan production.
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