Sunday, March 30, 2014

Have you heard of rennet and tallow

Everyone is entitled to their own way of life. For some, like me, it is more so a way of reducing one's harmful impact on all other living beings in whatever way you can.

In this quest I came upon, what according to me are, two best kept secrets. World over people have unknowingly or mistakenly purchased good containing these ingredients without really knowing where they come from.

First up is rennet! So when I went to the cheese and wine festival on the Southbank I came across this cheese owner who took the effort to explain to me that in the western world most cheese is made with rennet which comes from the inner lining of a calf's stomach. This is used as a starter culture or cheese culture and is a bacteria that helps curdle the milk to separate it into solids and liquids. The solids are then compressed into cheese! 

You will find some cheese that uses microbial rennet, which uses rennet which was once upon a time extracted from a cow's intestine but thereafter is cultured in petri dishes. So to say, the source comes from a cow but thereafter lesser cows are used to produce this bacteria, instead they are reproduced in a laboratory.

And lastly, you get vegetarian or vegan cheese that uses starter culture bacteria derived from plant sources like thistle and milk sourced from coconuts or soy. This is the type of cheese I would prefer to have. The sad part is most manufacturers, sellers, retailers are not aware or not able to answer where their cheese comes from and how it was made. In that case, if in doubt, don't eat is the mantra that I follow.

The second secret is tallow! An animal by product that has made its way into candles, soaps, cosmetics, shampoos, shaving gels, inks, paints, lubricants, adhesives, deodorants, chewing gum, toothpaste and the list is endless. It comes in many forms and names - stearic acid, palmitic acid, glycerin, glycerol, polyglycerol, glycerides, oleic acid, myristic acid, lauric acid, palmitoleic, linoleic, stearyl alcohol to name a few. All of these can be produced or replaced with plant based acids and humectants. And there might be more derivatives with different names for tallow being used in your everyday products. Again, the only best solution around this is to always ask or enquire before you buy a product. And if they don't answer just make you own. 

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