and then say no thanks!
Of all the foods, cheese is probably the hardest thing for a vegan to give up. I think it is addicting myself. Who doesn't love cheese? Creamy, gooey, great taste, great texture. But how is cheese made?
Picture this, before the days of the Roman Empire, an Arab traveling through the hot desert with milk he stored in a dried sheep's stomach. He stops and makes camp for the night and wants to drink the milk he brought but realizes that something has happened to his milk. It was now separated in to a thinner liquid and lumpy curds. He decided to drink the liquid and eat the curds which he found to be delicious.
So how did this happen? The sheep's stomach contained rennet (enzyme derived from the fourth stomach of ruminant animals). Cheese makers today use rennet that comes from baby calves, usually male. Basically, the stomach lining is used to curdle the cheese which means it goes through the calves stomach before it goes into yours which also means that making cheese this way kills babies, a lot of babies. Only the babies have this special enzyme called Chymosin. Approximately 7 million calves are born each year. Around half of those 7 million calves born are female which means they will become milking cows and the other half, of course, are male which I just explained what that means for them. Unless they are turned into veal or dog food, they are slaughtered for the stomach linings. If you are a cheese eater, this vicious cycle of calf slaughter will continue.
And if all of that was not horrifying enough, you can also add some yeast, molds, and bacteria to the mix. Yep, for example, Brevibacterium linens used to make Munster, Limburger, and Raclette cheese. This specific type of bacteria is present on human skin and Brevibacterium linens is responsible for foot odor. Gross!
Why? So microbes a.k.a. bacteria are added to the milk early in the cheese making process which begins the fermentation process. The reaction taking place is the conversion of lactose to lactic acid which acidifies the milk. These are also called starter cultures and include Lactobacilli helveticus (for Swiss), Streptococcus salivarius (for mozzarella), and Lactobacilli lactis (for cheddar).
There are two main types of molds that are found in cheese, blue (Penicillium roqueforti and Penicillium glaucum) and white (Penicillium camemberti). Some cheesemongers add the mold to their cheese and some allow the mold to be grown naturally on the surface of cheese. (Oh my Gawd!).
If the above does not want to make you stop eating bacteria-laden, moldy, dairy cheese which baby cows died to make possible, then how about the fact that cheese can contain anything that the cow the milk came from had in it's system including bacteria and hormones and pus. Okay, how about the fact that 80% of the calories from cheese is pure fat? Or how salty it is which can lead to weakened bones, diabetes, hypertension, and kidney disease?
Follow Your Heart is my favorite. It tastes exactly like traditional cheese without the gross factor. You could also try Daiya or Go Veggie or Chao which are all delicious! Here is a big list of animal rennet-free cheeses. If you are not sure when you are at the store picking cheese stay away from cheese that says rennet, casein, whey, and enzymes. If it says vegetable rennet, you are good to go. That is a plant source of rennet which could be from safflower, dried caper leaves, thistle, or fig and no baby cows had to die!
One last thing while you are reading the cheese labels, avoid any cheese that has cellulose in it because that is code for wood pulp. You are just not supposed to know you are eating sawdust.
Happy cheese hunting!
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