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WHAT'S IN YOUR CHEESE?
By Sally Clinton

We've recently received a lot of requests from members who are interested in finding out which cheeses are vegetarian. Others have asked for information about dairy products in general. As a result, we've compiled the following information about cheese companies that do carry vegetarian cheese, and a brief explanation of some of the reasons many vegetarians choose not to consume cheese or other dairy products.

WHY WOULDN'T CHEESE BE VEGETARIAN?!?

A crucial ingredient in the production of most commercial cheeses is an enzyme that comes from the lining of the stomach of calves,called rennet. Sometimes an enzyme from pigs is also used. Obviously, this is of concern to vegetarians, since these are products obtained from slaughtered animals. According to the American Heritage Dictionary, `rennet' is actually the lining of the fourth stomach of calves and other young ruminants, but this term is also used to refer to the enzyme that is extracted from the stomach lining for use in making cheese. `Rennin' is another word for this enzyme, although it is less commonly used. These enzymes are important because they are the ingredients that cause milk to coagulate and eventually become cheese. Following is a very informative letter we received from the Consumer Service Department of Kraft General Foods, Inc., which clearly describes the role animal enzymes play in the production of cheese. We are grateful to Ellen Schwarzbach of Kraft for taking the time to give us such a thorough explanation.

"Thank you very much for asking if Kraft cheese products contain any animal derivatives. Our comments here apply only to products produced in the United States. Many cheese products produced in the United States do contain a coagulating enzyme derived from either beef or swine. The process of changing fluid milk into cheese consists of coagulating the milk by one of two commonly used methods, each resulting in cheese having distinct characteristics.

The most common method of coagulating milk is by the use of an enzyme preparation, rennet, which traditionally was made from the stomachs of veal calves. Since the consumption of calves for veal has not kept pace with the demand for rennet in the preparation of cheese, a distinct shortage of this enzyme has developed. Consequently, a few years ago it became a common practice to mix the rennet extract from calves' stomachs with a pepsin enzyme derived primarily from the stomachs of swine. These enzymes convert the fluid milk into a semi-solid mass as one of the steps in the manufacture of cheese. This mixture of calf rennet and pepsin extract is quite commonly and widely used within the United States.

A more recent development in this area has been the use of enzymes derived from the growth of pure cultures of certain molds. These are termed microbial rennets. They are commonly used for the production of certain types of cheese and contain no animal products. Kraft Domestic Swiss Cheese (any Kraft Swiss not labeled "Imported" from a foreign country) is made with microbial rennet. Apart from Kraft Domestic Swiss Cheese,it is almost impossible for us to assure you that any hard cheese product which you might purchase from Kraft or any other American source is absolutely free of animal-derived enzymes.

The other method of coagulating milk is the result of the growth of pure cultures of bacteria in the milk and the development of lactic acid. These cheeses have distinctly different characteristics from those produced using the coagulating enzymes. Our cream cheese products under the PHILADELPHIA BRAND name (brick, whipped and soft varieties) and Kraft Neufchatel Cheese fall into this category. Kraft does not use coagulating enzymes in cheese of this type, but we cannot be sure what other manufacturers may use. Our process cheese and process cheese products are made by grinding and blending. With the aid of heat, cheese is made by either one of the two methods of coagulating mentioned above. Therefore, it is impossible for us to assure you that a given American-made process cheese product is free of animal-derived enzymes including pepsin and/or rennet."

As this letter states, enzymes are now available which are not animal derived called `microbial enzymes.' Information obtained from Walnut Acres Company states that microbial enzymes are `a cultured strain of bacteria that digests protein.' It is neither animal nor vegetable but in a class by itself. Microbial enzymes are the same as those often referred to as `vegetable enzymes' or`vegetable rennet.' These terms were originally used to clarify that the enzymes were not of animal origin. Technically there is no such thing as `vegetable rennet' since rennet, by definition,comes from animals, and so `vegetable rennet' is a contradication in terms. We sent 111 letters to cheese companies around the country asking whether or not their cheese products contain animal enzymes or any other products of slaughter. Both commercial and alternative cheese companies were questioned. We received 28 responses, and additional information was obtained from a few other companies through phone calls. In general, the majority of answers that we received were from the smaller alternative and gourmet cheese companies. We contacted every national cheese company for whom we had an address; however, undoubtedly some were missed. Please let us know if you are aware of any other sources of vegetarian cheese that are not listed here. Our apologies to those companies who do have vegetarian cheese that we missed.

READ THE LABEL

Due to the widespread use of rennet and other animal enzymes in the production of cheese, we can only assume that for the companies that did not respond, these substances are probably used. This is especially likely to be true for the large commercial cheese companies. Most cheese products should list the ingredients on the label. Some companies will specifically list `rennet' or `rennin' while others might just say `enzymes.' Other terms to look out for include `chymosin' and `rennase.' For those that list `enzymes,'these are most likely animal enzymes. Even some cottage cheese and sour cream products contain rennet. If a company is using microbial enzymes, it will probably state specifically `vegetable enzymes' or `vegetable rennet.' Here is a summary of the responses we received, beginning with those cheeses that are vegetarian. These products are listed in alphabetical order by their brand name first, if applicable, then by company.

VEGETARIAN CHEESES

Bresse Bleu Montrachet. Bresse Bleu Inc., N. 2002 Hwy 26,Watertown, WI 53094, (414) 261-3036. The Montrachet varieties are their only products which are vegetarian.

Cabot Monterey Jack and Vitalait Cheese. Cabot Creamery,PO Box 128, Cabot, VT 05647, (802) 563-2231. These products use microbial systems. Their cheddar uses rennet.

Coach Farm Goat's Milk Cheeses. The Coach Farm, RR1 Box 445, Pine Plains, NY 12567, (518) 398-5325. All of their cheese products are vegetarian, without preservatives.

Falbo Cheese. Falbo Cheese, 1931 N. 15th Ave., Melrose Park, IL 60160, 800-982-0753. They carry a wide variety of Italian cheeses, all of which use only microbial systems and are therefore vegetarian. Available in grocery stores.

Fleur de Lait Neufchatel Cheese with Garden Vegetables, and Neufchatel Cheese with Herb and Spice. Fleur de Lait Foods,Ltd., 254 Custer Ave., New Holland, PA 17557. We have determined these two varieties of Fleur de Lait cheeses to be vegetarian from reading their labels.

Kraft Domestic Swiss and Kraft Neufchatel Cheese. Kraft General Foods, Kraft Court, Glenview, IL 60025. These are their only two products that are vegetarian.

Lifetime Natural and Lifetime Fat Free Cheeses. Lifeline Food Co., Inc., 426 Orange St., Seaside, CA 93955, (408) 899-5040. All their products use only microbial enzymes.

Morningland Dairy Organic Raw Milk Natural Cheeses.Morningland Dairy, Rt. 1, Box 188B, Mountain View, MO 65548,(417) 469-3817. All of their 13 varieties of cheeses are vegetarian, organic and contain no artificial colors. Mail order.

Mozzarella Company Caciotas, Montasio and Pecorino. Mozzarella Company, 2944 Elm St, Dallas, TX 75226, (214) 741-4072. These are their varieties which contain no animal rennet. Cow's milk and goat's milk cheeses available.

Organic Valley Farms Organic Cheeses. Organic Valley, Main St.,PO Box 159, La Farge, WI 54639, (608) 625-2602. Organic Valley offers both raw milk and regular cheeses, all of which are vegetarian and organic.

Philadelphia Brand Cream Cheese. Kraft General Foods, Kraft Court,Glenview, IL 60025.

Pollio Mozzarella and Pollio Ricotta Cheese. Pollio Dairy Products Corporation, 120 Mineola Blvd.,Mineola, NY 11501, (516) 741-8000. These are probably available in regular grocery stores.

Shalom Farms Organic Cheese. Shalom Farms,RD 1, Box 1628A, Bethel, PA 19507, (717)933-4880. All their cheeses are vegetarian. Raw milk and regular cheese.

Tillamook Cheese (except for the Vintage White Extra Sharp Cheddar Cheese). Tillamook County Creamery Association, PO Box 313, Tillamook, OR 97141. All Cheddar (Medium, Sharp, Special Reserve Extra Sharp, Kosher/Vegetarian, Smoked and Reduced-Fat), Colby, Colby-Jack, Monterey Jack, Mozzarella, Pepper-Jack, Reduced-Fat Monterey Jack, Shred Blends and Swiss cheeses use microbial rennet.. [updated 6/4/2005 by The Natural Connection]

Walnut Acres Cheeses (except for Baby Swiss). Walnut Acres,Walnut Acres Rd, Penns Creek, PA 17862, 800-433-3998 to place an order, 800-344-9025 for a catalog. Walnut Acres is an organic farm which has a wide variety of both cow's milk and goat's milk cheeses available by mail order. The Baby Swiss variety is being discontinued.

SOY CHEESE/CHEESE ALTERNATIVES

All soy cheeses are vegetarian. Some do contain calciumcasienate or "casein", which is a milk derivative. It is a protein which is the ingredient that enables soy cheese to melt like regular cheese. A few pure vegetarian (vegan) cheeses do exist, but are less similar to regular cheese in texture, and they do not melt quite the same. The vegan cheeses are also listedbelow and are marked with an asterisk (*).

*Better Than Cream Cheese. Tofutti Brands, Inc., 5- Jackson Dr., Cranford, NJ 07016, (201) 272-2400. Vegan.

*Mrs. Margareten's Parvemage. Margareten Enterprises, 2900 Review Ave, Long Island City, NY 11101. They carry one of the few lines of vegan soy cheese. Various flavors are available including cream cheese and sour cream.

NuTofu. Cemac Foods Corp, 1821 E. Sedgley Ave, Philadelphia,PA 19124, 800-724-0179. NuTofu sliced soy cheeses, alternative cheese spreads, cream cheese and dips.

Soy A Melt. White Wave Soyfoods Inc., 6123 Arapahoe Rd, Boulder,CO 80303, (303) 443-3470. They offer a wide variety of soy cheeses made with organic tofu.

Soya Kaas. American Natural Snacks, PO box 1067, St. Augustine,FL 32085, (904) 825-2057. These soy cheeses are available in a variety of flavors.

Soyco. Soyco Foods, PO Box 5204, New Castle, PA 16105,800-441-9419, (412) 656-1102. Mail order is available through Joanne's Selections, 800-874-7952. This is a line of soy cheese that comes in various flavors and includes parmesan,sour cream and cream cheeses.

*Soymage. Soyco Foods, PO Box 5204, New Castle, PA 16105,800-441-9419, (412) 656-1102. Mail order is available through Joanne's Selections, 800-874-7952. Soymage vegan cheese substitute in various flavors and vegan sour cream.

Tofu-Rella. Sharon's Finest, P.O. Box 5020,Santa Rosa, CA 95402, (707) 576-7050. Cheddar, Monterey Jack, Jalapeno Jack,Mozzarella, and Garlic-Herb soy cheeses.

CHEESES CONTAINING RENNET

Blue Castello, Blue Note. Tholstrup Cheese USAInc., 1 Mountain Blvd., P.O. Box 4194, Warren,NJ 07059-0194, (201) 756-6320. These varieties contain rennet.

Bresse-Bleu Brie and Bresse-Bleu Bleu Cheeses. These contain rennet. Address listed above.

Cabot Cheddar Cheese. Cabot Creamery,previously listed. Only the cheddar cheese uses rennet. The Monterey Jack and Vitalait use microbial enzymes.

Dorman-Roth Foods. Dorman-Roth Foods, 14 Empire Blvd., Moonachie, NJ 07074, (201)440-3600. From their letter, "We are unable to state with certainty that any particular cheese does not contain animal enzymes."

Fleur de Lait. We did not receive a response from Fleur de Lait, but from reading labels determined that the two cheeses mentioned above are vegetarian. We are assuming that the rest of their products contain animal enzymes.

Kraft Cheese Products. Most Kraft cheeses may contain rennet. Exceptions and address listed under vegetarian cheese section.

Land O'Lakes Cheeses. Land O'Lakes Inc., P.O.Box 116, Minneapolis, MN 55440, (800)328-4155. `We can not guarantee that any of our cheeses do not contain rennet.'

Maytag Blue Cheese. Maytag Dairy Farms, Box 806, Newtown, IA 50208, (800) 247-2458,(515) 792-1133. All of the Maytag cheeses contain rennet.

Mozzarella Company. Most of their products contain rennet. Those which don't are listed under the vegetarian cheese section. Address previously listed.

Pollio Cheese Products. Except for those mentioned above, their products contain animal enzymes.

Saga Soft Ripened Cheeses. Tholstrup Cheese USA Inc., 1 Mountain Blvd., P.O. Box 4194,Warren, NJ 07060-0194, (201) 756-6320. All of the Saga varieties contain rennet.

Tolko Specialty Cheeses. Tholstrup Cheese, 1Mtn. Blvd., Box 4194, Warren, NJ 07060-0194,(201) 756-6320. Imported cheeses fromDenmark, all of which contain rennet.

Tillamook Vintage White Extra Sharp Cheddar Cheese. These contain animal rennet. Address previously listed. [updated 6/4/2005 by The Natural Connection]

WHAT ABOUT KOSHER CHEESE?

Cheese that is certified kosher, may or may not be vegetarian. Your best bet is to read the labels. As stated in the February 1991 issue of Kashrus Magazine, "If the source of rennet is a kosher species of animal, ritually slaughtered under rabbinical supervision, it may be used to turn milk into cheese." Gili Kosher Cheeses are vegetarian.

DO IT YOURSELF CHEESE

For those adventurous folks who would like to make their own cheese, supplies can be obtained from the New England Cheesemaking Supply Co. They do have both `liquid vegetable rennet' and`vegetable rennet tablets'. Contact the New England Cheesemaking Supply Co., 85 Main St.,Ashfield, MA 01330, (413) 628-3808.

ALTERNATIVE SOURCES OF CALCIUM AND VITAMIN D

Since cheese is so widely used in our society and found in or on everything from pizza, chili, and casseroles, to salads, sandwiches, and quiche,many people rarely give eating cheese a second thought. However, there are people who avoid dairy products for health, ethical, and environmental reasons. Cheese and other dairy products have long been promoted as the source of dietary calcium for Americans and also as our primary source of vitamin D, but nutritionally we do not need to consume these products. Calcium can be obtained from leafy green vegetables such as spinach, collards, kale and broccoli, blackstrap molasses, soybeans, sesame seeds, and tofu processed with calcium sulfate. Vitamin D is not naturally found in milk, but is added to increase its nutritional value. It is only found naturally in egg yolk and fish oil. Our bodies are able to synthesize vitamin D through exposure to sunshine. At least 10-15 minutes of summer sun on hands and face 2-3 times a week is recommended for adults so that vitamin D production can occur. Infants should receive at least two hours of sunshine a week on face and hands throughout the year. Nature takes care of both our mental and physical health through requiring us to spend time outdoors and enjoy fresh air and sunshine. If you cannot spend adequate time outdoors and are following a vegan diet, you might want to take a vegetarian vitamin D supplement.

For those who are interested in decreasing their intake of dairy foods, there are many substitutes available in addition to the soy cheese products previously listed. At your health food store, and even some progressive supermarkets, you can find soy milk, dairy-free ice creams, fruit sherberts, creamy tofu salad dressings, and soy yogurt, to name a few. In addition, there is an endless possibility of foods you can make at home. These might include nut milks, dairyless whipped cream, fruit shakes, tofu cheesecakes,and even homemade tofu ice cream! With a little bit of imagination and a good vegan cookbook,you can come up with a substitute for almost any dairy food. The New Farm Vegetarian Cookbook has an excellent recipe for nutritional yeast cheese and also a vegan cream cheese. Tofu Cookery by Louise Hagler contains many recipes for dairy substitutes. (See resource page to order.)

For those who avoid cheese and other dairy products for ethical reasons, their opposition may stem from the connection between the dairy and veal industries, and the treatment of dairy cows on modern `factory farms.' They feel that these animals are viewed as `machines' and manipulated to produce as much as possible. Other people do not consider it `natural' for us to be consuming cow's milk, since they feel it is not designed for humans, and no other species consume milk past infancy. From an environmental standpoint, the dairy industry is another industry that many people feel is contributing to water pollution, deforestation,topsoil depletion, and other negative impacts on the earth. Since all these issues are very complex and may require more thorough research, they will be examined in a future issue of the Vegetarian Journal.

LET THEM KNOW IT MATTERS

The letter from Kraft demonstrates the importance of making our dollars talk. Since the consumption of calves for veal has not kept pace with the demand for rennet, alternatives are being developed, as is being demonstrated with the increased use of microbial enzymes. If you are opposed to the use of rennet in cheese, loath companies know! They do listen, and if enough people bring it to their attention, changes will be made. In addition, it is important to thank those companies that have gone to extensive efforts to produce healthier, more environmentally sound products. These companies need our support, so let's let them know it matters! DAIRY-FREE RECIPES

NUTRITIONAL YEAST "CHEESE"from The New Farm Vegetarian Cookbook

1/2 cup nutritional yeast flakes*1/2 cup flour 1/2 tsp salt 1/2 tsp garlic powder 2 cups water 1/4 cup margarine 1 tsp wet mustard

Mix dry ingredients in saucepan. Whisk in water.Cook over medium heat, whisking, until it thickens and bubbles. Cook 30 seconds, then remove from heat,whip in margarine and mustard. It will thicken as it cools, but will thin when heated, or when water is added.Makes 3 cups.

Note: If you'd like to lower the fat content of this recipe,use a tablespoon of margarine. This works just as well. It can also be prepared without using any margarine at all.

Variation: For a richer stretchier sauce that's good on pizza,substitute for the flour: 1/4 cup cornstarch and 2 Tbsp Flour. Instead of margarine, whip in 1/2 cup of oil after it cooks, and add as much as 1 cup of water at the end, or as needed to make a thick, smooth sauce that pours easily. Pour it on pizza and for the last few minutes of baking, put pizza under broiler for a few minutes to form a stretchy, golden brown speckled skin._______________________________________________________ _________*Nutritional Yeast comes in both flakes and powdered form. Theinformation and recipes included here pertain to nutritional yeast flakes. They have a yellow or gold color, and make a tasty topping for vegetables, salads and popcorn, and can be used to make many delicious gravies, casseroles and sauces.Nutritional yeast flakes can be found in many health food stores or ordered through the mail. They are available through the Mail Order Catalog, PO Box 180, Summertown, TN 38483, 800-695-2241; or Walnut Acres, Penns Creek, PA 17862, 800-433-3998.

Nutritional yeast is often cited as containing vitamin B12, although there is some controversy as to how much of it the body can use. We do know that at least one type, Red Star T6635,has been tested and is shown to be a reliable source of active vitamin B12. The nutritional yeast flakes available from both The Mail Order Catalog and Walnut Acres are the Red Star T6635 type.Apparently, the powdered form from Walnut Acres is Red Star NBC 600 which is not a good source of vitamin B12.________________________________________________________ __________

MACARONI AND "CHEESE" CASSEROLE from The New Farm Vegetarian Cookbook

Cook 3-1/2 cups elbow macaroni. In a saucepan,melt 1/2 cup margarine over low heat. Beat in 1/2 cup flour with a wire whisk and continue to beat over a medium flame until the mixture(called a roux) is smooth and bubbly. Whip in 3-1/2 cups boiling water, 1-1/2 tsp. salt, 2 Tbsp.soy sauce, 1-1/2 tsp. garlic powder, and a pinch of turmeric, beating well. The sauce should cook until it thickens and bubbles. Then whip in 1/4 cup oil and 1 cup nutritional yeast flakes.

Mix part of the sauce with the noodles and put in casserole dish, and pour a generous amount of sauce on top. Sprinkle top with paprika, and bake for 15 minutes in a 350 degree oven. Put in broiler for a few minutes until "cheese" sauce gets stretchy and crisp. Serves 5.

TOTAL CALORIES PER SERVING: 585 % OF CALORIES FROM FAT: 46%

MAPLE CHEESECAKE from Tofu Cookery by Louise Hagler

Have your favorite 8-inch pie shell ready.Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.Blend in a food processor or blender until smooth and creamy:

1-1/2 lbs. tofu 3 Tablespoons oil 1-1/3 cups maple syrup Pinch of salt

Pour this mixture into an unbaked pie shell. Bake for 1 hour until set. Serve cold. Serves 6.

TOTAL CALORIES PER SERVING: 445 % OF CALORIES FROM FAT: 42%

PROOF YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE As we go to press, Mary Bolgert from Amberwave Foods called with some information about the cheese used on their Graindance Pizza. This was in response to a letter we had written asking whether or not the cheese on their pizza contained rennet. She consulted the three cheese companies they use, and found that one of them does use rennet. After finding this out,she said they are switching companies! So, soon this pizza will be rennet-free! They also carry a soy cheese pizza called Soydance. They make their own cheese for this, which is vegetarian but contains casein. At present their soy cheese is used only for their pizza, but they plan on marketing it individually in the near future. They are also working to develop a vegan cheese.

This article originally appeared in the _Vegetarian_Journal_, published by:

The Vegetarian Resource Group P.O. Box 1463 Baltimore, MD 21203 (410) 366-VEGE

WHAT IS THE VEGETARIAN RESOURCE GROUP?Our health professionals, activists, and educators work with businesses and individuals to bring about healthy changes in your school, workplace, and community. Registered dietitians and physicians aid in the development of nutrition-related publications and answer member and media questions about vegetarian diets. The Vegetarian Resource Group is a non-profit organization. Financial support comes primarily from memberships,contributions, and book sales.

The contents of this article, as with all The Vegetarian Resource Group publications, is not intended to provide personal medical advice. Medical advice should be obtained from a qualified health professional.

For questions or comments on this article, please contact Bobbi Pasternak at bobbi@clark.net. This article may be reproduced for non-commercial use intact or with credit given to The VegetarianResource Group.

 

 

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