I have heard many people tell me that they could give up milk, but they “could never give up cheese”’. Maybe this will change their minds.
Did you know that cheese is made from rennet? Rennet is obtained from the lining of the fourth stomach of newborn calves that have been slaughtered. The enzyme’s purpose is to help the baby calf digest his mother’s milk. Rennet can also be obtained from the stomach of piglets. In either case, the stomachs are cut up or milled and put into a solution to extract the rennet which is then used to coagulate milk to make cheese.
You may say to yourself (as I did), but cheese has been around for centuries, surely the ancient cultures didn’t kill baby calves to make cheese! So I did some research and found out that cheese making originated somewhere between 8,000 BC – 3,000 BC. Most likely it originated in the Middle East or Central Asia. In ancient times, animal skins and inflated animal organs were used as storage containers. It is believed that cheese making was discovered accidentally when milk was stored in a container made from the stomach of an animal, exposing it to rennet and turning it into cheese! (source: wiki.answers.com/Q/Where_does_cheese_come_from)
There are vegetarian means to produce rennet. Fig juice, dried caper leaves, mettle thistles, mallow and ground ivy have all been used throughout history. Typically commercial vegetable rennet comes from fermented fungi or bacteria. However in many cases the vegetable rennet comes from genetically altered rennet that came from DNA of the calves’ stomach. And so, as with anything, it is important to check the labels and make sure the manufacturer discloses the source of their vegetarian rennet.
Good news — Trader Joe’s carries cheese made from vegetable and microbial rennet. http://www.traderjoes.com/guides/rennet-test.asp