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People shocked after learning why Parmesan cheese isn’t vegetarian
Featured Image Credit: Brent Hofacker/Fudio/Alamy Stock Photo

People shocked after learning why Parmesan cheese isn’t vegetarian

Parmesan cheese, and a whole load of other cheeses, aren't suitable for vegetarians because of a specific ingredient they contain

A whole heap of people are just realising that Parmesan cheese isn’t suitable for vegetarians, and they’re not pleased with their new knowledge.

Sorry, if this is the first that you’re hearing of, but if you’re a vegetarian and have been eating Parmesan anyway, you’ve been consuming a meat product unwittingly the whole time.

Obviously, vegans won’t have been bothering at all, because cheese isn’t vegan, is it?

Anyway, Parmesan – or Parmigiano-Reggiano – is a special hard cheese that can only be called so if it comes from a very specific place in Italy.

If you’re not bothered about consuming meat products, it’s absolutely lovely if a little bit expensive.

However, if you are vegetarian, it’s got some stuff in it that might turn your stomach.

Well, it’s definitely turned something’s stomach, anyway.

Yes, lovely Parmesan has a non-veggie secret.
Vladislav Gudovskiy/Alamy Stock Photo

That’s because the coagulation process by which it is made uses an enzyme that is catchily called chymosin.

Chymosin is introduced to the product using something called rennet. This is where the problem for plant-based people is also introduced.

If you’re of a squeamish disposition, you might want to skip over how they get the rennet.

A baby cow is killed, it has its stomach taken out and dried out, before that stomach is cut up into cubes and added into the cheese mixture before it has become cheese.

Told you that stomachs would be turned, or should that be churned?

Problematically for anyone who loves Parmesan but has been put off that, this step in the process is so vital that anything that does not contain cow’s milk, salt, and calf rennet can’t even bear the name Parmesan.

It ain’t the only cheese to use this product, either.

Grana Padano – a popular substitute for Parmesan – uses calf rennet too, as does gorgonzola.

What’s more, a load of other favourites do as well, such as Gruyère, Manchego, Pecorino-Romano, Camembert, Emmenthal, Vacherin, and Bucheron.

Bad news, veggie cheese fans.

Within the EU, cheeses that are marketed as Parmesan must have been made in the region of Parma, Reggio-Emilia, or Bologna if they are to bear the name, as well as having been made in the specific fashion we’ve described.

Anyway, this is news to some people.

It's not just Parmesan either.
Zoonar GmbH/Alamy Stock Photo

One said: “Today years old when I found out Parmesan cheese is made from baby cow’s stomach & I could go cry.

“I’m just gonna have to go full vegan at this point.”

Another said: “TIL: Some cheeses are not vegetarian because they use rennet, an enzyme from the stomach lining of goats and calves.

“The rennet is obtained by means of slaughtering the animal.

“These cheeses are Gorgonzola, Gruyère, Manchego, Parmesan, and Pecorino Romano among others.”

A third simply wrote: “Parmesan cheese isn’t vegetarian?!”

Nope, it isn’t.

So, if you’re a vegetarian, really sorry about that, but it’s time to pack in the chicken parms.

Topics: Food and Drink, Vegan, Science