Sunday, July 20, 2008

Say Cheese... or, not.

I just found out today that most cheese is not vegetarian! Zach was reading the label on our package of cheese ravioli, and said "What is rennet? It says 'animal based'"
Within a minute I had googled it, and told him that it is in most types of cheese. It comes from the stomach (fourth stomach, to be exact) of calves. It is often listed simply as "enzymes".
Our vegetarian friends eat cheese, so it had never occurred to us that cheese wasn't vegetarian. It obviously isn't vegan, but beyond that, we hadn't given it a thought.
There are a handful of brands that use bacteria-based-rennet. Here's a handy dandy list . Notice that Kraft didn't even make the list! At least Tilamook and Horizon Organics did... those are the only brands I recognize. I'm not much of a cheese person, but that still frustrates me. Being a vegetarian is turning into a pain in the butt! As Zach pointed out, what are we supposed to do when we go out to eat? We already pester waiters with questions about the tortillas or refried beans (do they contain lard?). What is going to be next?

Edit: I poked around on the internet trying to find other hidden animal based ingredients that appear in otherwise vegetarian seeming foods. Instead I found some insight on the topic:

"Vegans and vegan wannabes, I believe that when you're eating out, you also shouldn't be too concerned about ingredients that make up less than 2 percent of your meal. You'll obviously want to avoid dishes served with meat, cheese or eggs, but it doesn't really matter if there's a modicum of butter or whey or other animal product in the bun that your veggie burger is served on. You won't stop animal suffering by avoiding such minuscule amounts of animal ingredients. But you may give your nonvegan friends -- not to mention the restaurant wait staff -- the idea that vegans are difficult to please. The goal is to show others how easy it is to eat in an animal-friendly manner and that restaurants can satisfy vegan customers without having to do cartwheels." - One Bite at a Time

I think she makes a very good point. Picky people can be irritating. I don't want to be that irritating person that makes other people dislike vegetarians as a whole. That makes me worry less about the restaurant factor. At the same time, I would like to avoid buying meat-based products when I'm the one who is preparing the food. I guess we are going to have to keep learning as we go along, and keep in mind that every bit helps.

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