Rennet: Animal, Vegetable, Microbial?

The more I learn about food, the more concerns I have about where it came from. Likewise, the more educated I become about animal products, the pickier I get about what I put on my plate. The growing number of food documentaries and the vast information available on the internet gives us the opportunity to be more informed about our food sources than we have ever been in my lifetime, and probably my parents’ lifetime too.

One of the most eye-opening food experiences I have had this year was when I discovered rennet. Rennet is a combination of digestive enzymes that is used in the production of cheese. Many cheese makers use animal-derived rennet, which comes from the stomach lining of a calf. The rennet is a byproduct of veal production. So imagine my surprise when I realized that I was indirectly supporting this practice by consuming cheese. Being anti-veal, I freaked out a little, and temporarily banned cheese from my diet until I could learn more. I discovered that there are three types of rennet: animal, vegetable and microbial. When I reincorporated cheese into my diet, I bought only cheese made with vegetable rennet, which I found at our local market, Ellwood Thompson’s.

click to enlarge

I took it a step further and started questioning where all of my animal products came from, and now I make more informed decisions about those animal products that I eat (typically just dairy and eggs). I don’t always research every food that I put in my body (for example, cream at the coffee shop, and cheese on a take-out sandwich), but I am getting better.

The reason I bring it up today is that when I was perusing the Trader Joe’s website, I found a very helpful guide to rennet that calls out which of their cheeses use animal, vegetable and microbial rennet. I wish more retailers made this information readily available. I thought you might want to check it out, so here is the link.

Trader Joe’s Rennet Guide

TJ’s has several other helpful guides, and I encourage you to check them out on their website. I hope you find this information useful while making your weekly grocery list. If you have any other helpful and reliable online resources for food education, please leave them in the comments for those of us who love to research what we eat!

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