Few slices of cheese placed on a board.
The Need-To-Know Reason Why French Cheese Isn't Actually Vegetarian
By C.A. Pinkham
Unless you're lactose intolerant, you probably love cheese and enjoy it in everything from salads and sandwiches to soups, or even as a snack or on some crackers. A common food in most cultures across the globe, cheese is believed to be mostly vegetarian, but this might not be true of French cheese.
One of the crucial components in cheesemaking is rennet, which is used as a coagulant to curdle the casein in milk, separating the curds from the whey. Rennet is an animal enzyme harvested from the stomachs of young ruminant mammals such as calves, lambs, or kids, and —
despite the availability of a few alternatives — it is a staple in French cheesemaking.
In France, the official AOP cheeses must include animal rennet, and even for non-AOP cheeses, many vegetarian rennets are banned. Even some cheeses produced through lactic fermentation aren't safe since French cheesemongers sometimes kick off the fermentation process by adding animal rennet.