In the food industry, rennet is used as a coagulant – in cheese-making; in certain dairy products, including some yogurts; and in junket, a soft, pudding-like dessert.
Rennet is extracted from the inner mucosa of the fourth stomach chamber of young, un-weaned calves. These calf stomachs are a by-product of veal production (which is an off-shoot of dairy production.)
Rennet can also be derived from non-animal sources, and in North America, GMO-Microbial rennet is used more often in industrial cheese-making because it is less expensive than animal rennet.
But before you breathe a sigh of relief at the discovery that your favorite dairy cheese or yogurt might not be coagulated with rennet from the stomachs of calves, don’t forget that they are all made with milk – the primary product of the dairy industry – which is the reason these calves are being slaughtered in the first place.
In other words, if you’re an ethical vegetarian who avoids the products of animal slaughter, keep in mind that offering financial support to the dairy industry is essentially agreeing to support the killing of male calves for the production of veal.
However, the good news is that there are many vegan varieties of cheese, yogurt and pudding available on the market, some of which are also suitable for those with soy allergies. And with a little time and effort, you can even make your own!