It is a component of numerous dairy products: animal rennet. The mixture of different enzymes is indispensable for the production of cheese. Read about the importance of animal rennet and how it is obtained.
What is animal rennet?
Animal rennet consists of the enzymes pepsin and chymosin, which are obtained from the abomasum of young ruminants – usually calves. Since pigs do not chew the cud, they are not suitable for rennet production. The coagulation enzyme breaks down the milk protein and thus ensures that the calves can digest their mother’s milk. Man has been taking advantage of this fact for thousands of years: when making cheese, animal rennet thickens the milk, so that popular specialties such as Swiss cheese with its special features or Parmesan can be created. In addition to hard cheese – the expert will explain the difference between Parmesan and Grana Padano to you – cream cheese is also produced with rennet.
Is there cheese without animal rennet?
Anyone who consistently eats a vegetarian diet could have a problem with obtaining animal rennet. After all, animals are slaughtered for it. As an alternative, products with microbially produced rennet can then be considered. It is obtained in the laboratory using microorganisms. Microbial rennet is sometimes declared as a rennet substitute on corresponding products. However, there is no obligation to list, since rennet is considered a production aid and not an additive. It is safe to consume microbial or animal rennet during pregnancy. If you want to do without veal rennet for ethical reasons, you are most likely to find a selection or list of cheeses without animal rennet in organic shops and health food stores. The type of rennet has no influence on the taste.
Important to know for Muslims and vegans
Muslims often ask themselves whether animal rennet is “halal”, i.e. permissible according to Islamic beliefs. Since the animals are slaughtered uncleanly, this is to be denied. Cheese with microbial rennet, on the other hand, is unproblematic. And vegans? They don’t need to worry about the issue at all since they don’t eat dairy anyway. The focus here is more on the search for a general cheese alternative for pasta, gratins, and bread toppings. Vegan Parmesan without animal rennet and other animal ingredients can be made from almonds, for example.