Who does not love cheese???. The man who never enjoyed life, I believe :lol:. A few of my favorite foods involve cheese and pasta. My thoughts fly back to a tasty piece of lasagna I had at a potluck party. :-P. So one might be thinking what is the topic of cheese doing in the ‘Halal Food’ section. Please do check out. Is your cheese halal???
Yes cheese can sometimes be haram. This world is so suspicious that, at times one cannot even trust himself, leave alone cheese. I always was of the view that dairy items are spared from being quizzed about their halal status. Then came a time when I picked up some Cheddar from a local grocery story, and my hubby eyed the ingredients and declared that the cheddar was non-halal. And the reason???. It had animal-rennet.
What is meant by rennet???
Google defines rennet as “the curdled milk from the stomach of the unweaned calf, containing rennin and used for curdling milk in cheese production”. Rennet is a primary ingredient in cheese, as it helps in separating milk into solid curds and the liquid whey.
From where is rennet extracted???
Rennet is most commonly extracted from the fourth stomach of an unweaned calf. Most of the times the calves are slaughtered for veal (the flesh of young calve). And during the process of slaughter, rennet is also extracted from the stomach, to be used in the task of cheese making. In some cases rennet is also extracted from the stomach of lambs and kids.
Classification of halal and haram rennet:
Rennet is not a haram ingredient in itself. If it is obtained from the stomach of calves and lambs that have been slaughtered as per the Islamic law of halal slaughtering then there is no doubt that the rennet extracted from the animal is halal. But if one is not sure about the validity of the slaughter of the animal, then it is best to avoid the by-products of the slaughtered animal.
Alternatives to animal rennet:
The good news for cheese lovers— there is always the alternative of vegetable rennet. This type of rennet is obtained from plants that have coagulation properties— a few examples include ground ivy, nettles, thistles and mallow. Most of the times it is vegetable rennet that is used in the production of cheeses that demand to be met by the halal and kosher food guidelines.
Besides direct plant sources, rennet is also extracted from microbial sources of mold. The rennet extracted from this source is also classified under the vegetarian section. One main drawback of microbial rennet is that it gives a bitter taste to the cheese.
To overcome the defects of animal and microbial rennet, a new variety of genetically engineered rennet is often used as a replacement. In this method rennet genes derived from animals are injected into plant and microbial sources to produce the substance. This type of rennet is classified as halal, kosher and vegetarian only if it is extracted from non-animal sources that have been genetically engineered.
Finally, after much scrutiny I have found a few brands in London that produce cheese from non-animal rennet. To name a few— B J cheeses, tesco, asda, all produce non-animal rennet sourced cheeses. The best thing to do is to assure one’s self by buying cheese that specifically states that the rennet is from non-animal source, or an even easier method is to look out for the V for vegetarian symbol. Rest, Allah should guide us.