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In honor of Vegetarian Awareness Week, we’re here to help you pick out some of our vegetarian cheeses to fill your sandwiches, veggie burgers, pastas, and soups. What better way to celebrate than by munching on as much veggie-friendly cheese as possible?

So what makes some cheese vegetarian and some not? The distinction in Tillamook Cheeses depends on the rennet we use. Rennet is an enzyme, which is vital to our cheese-making process because it kick-starts the formation of cheese curds. We add a tiny amount of rennet to make the milk coagulate, which then begins to develop into curds.

For centuries, the only known milk coagulant for cheesemaking was an enzyme from a cow’s stomach. Now we’re able to make most of our cheeses using a fermentation-produced rennet product that has Kosher and Halal certification, and is vegetarian-friendly.

This veggie-friendly rennet is used to make all of our cheese except Tillamook Vintage White Medium Cheddar, Vintage White Sharp Cheddar, Vintage White Extra Sharp CheddarVintage White Smoked Extra Sharp Cheddar, and the 3 Year Vintage White Extra Sharp Cheddar, which use traditional, bovine rennet. Other than these five cheeses, all other Tillamook Cheese is vegetarian!

What’s your favorite cheesy vegetarian meal to cook up!?

18 comments

Julie

I really appreciate that your cheeses are vegetarian friendly and are from cows not given bovine growth hormone. I would love to know if they are fed GMO foods? Thanks!

September 19th, 2013 at 1:57 pm

Callie

Tillamook Team

Hi Julie,

Thanks for your question, and for being a fan of our veggie-friendly cheese! To answer your question about GMOs, we know this topic is a sensitive and important one to some consumers, and we want to be as accurate as possible in responding to questions about it. The farmer-owners and all the dairymen who supply milk for Tillamook dairy products use a variety of forages and grains for feed. While the mixture varies dairy to dairy, it’s likely to include a mix of grass, alfalfa, some corn silage, and grains such as barley or soy.

At this time, and in the absence of any clear standards or definitions around genetically modified substances, it is hard to know if the feed purchased for every cow contributing to our milk supply is GMO-free. In today’s market, it is extremely difficult to source feed for cattle that is 100% verified as GMO-free, given how pervasive GMOs are in the grain supply chain. Even organic feed for organic farms is extremely difficult to verify as GMO-free because of cross-pollination.

Thanks again for your comment! If you have any more questions, please feel free to ask them here on the blog, or contact us here.

All the best,

Callie, of the Tillamook team

October 1st, 2013 at 12:06 pm

veggie

Thanks for making vegetarian friendly cheese

December 29th, 2013 at 3:53 pm

Callie

Tillamook Team

You're so welcome! Let me know if you give any of these recipes a whirl!

Best,

Callie, of the Tillamook team

January 3rd, 2014 at 3:23 pm

kim

Does Tillamook use non-gmo certfied rennet or is it gmo?

February 20th, 2014 at 9:58 pm

Callie

Tillamook Team

Hi Kim,

Thank you for your question. We know the GMO topic is a sensitive and important one to some consumers, and we want to be as accurate as possible in responding to questions and concerns about it. Your question regarding rennet involves a somewhat complex answer, so I will do my best to explain it here.
For a few of our aged white cheddar cheeses (Tillamook Vintage White Medium Cheddar, Vintage White Sharp, Vintage White Extra Sharp Cheddar, Smoked Vintage White Extra Sharp Cheddar, and 3 Year Aged Vintage White Extra Sharp Cheddar), we use a traditional bovine rennet. These products are not considered vegetarian.

For the majority of our other cheeses, we use a fermentation-produced rennet product that has Kosher and Halal certification, and is vegetarian-friendly. This rennet is made by first inserting cow genes into a microbe. During the fermentation process, the microbe grows and produces rennet that is exactly like that produced naturally. After purification, the end rennet product does not contain any genetically modified material, since it no longer contains DNA from the cow gene. It is considered non-GMO by U.S. food industry standards. This rennet allows us to make vegetarian-friendly cheese that maintains the high standard of quality that Tillamook is famous for. We use this rennet to make all of the following varieties of Tillamook cheese: Medium, Sharp, Special Reserve Extra Sharp, Kosher, and Reduced Fat Cheddar cheeses, as well as Monterey Jack, Mozzarella, Colby, Colby-Jack, Pepper-Jack, Swiss and Reduced Fat Monterey.

I hope this information helps. Thanks again for taking the time to write to us, and please let me know if you have any more questions!

Thanks,

Callie, of the Tillamook team

February 27th, 2014 at 3:45 pm

Sylvia Lawrence

You said " For the majority of our other cheeses, we use a fermentation-produced rennet product that has Kosher and Halal certification, and is vegetarian-friendly. This rennet is made by first inserting cow genes into a microbe."

How is this vegetarian?

April 12th, 2014 at 4:23 pm

Lauren

Tillamook Team

Hi Sylvia,

Thank you for your question! I know this topic can be confusing so I’ll try to clear it up a bit! Yes, the final rennet product is vegetarian-friendly. The rennet does originate from a cow gene, however after the fermentation and purification process, it no longer has any traces of animal ingredients.

All the best,

Lauren of the Tillamook team

April 16th, 2014 at 2:54 pm

jewel

Hi is the bandon cheese kosher?

May 11th, 2014 at 6:29 pm

Lauren

Tillamook Team

Hi Jewel,

Thanks for your question! No, Bandon Cheese is not certified kosher. The only Tillamook Cheese that is kosher is our Kosher Medium Cheddar. However, Bandon Cheese is vegetarian and Halal certified!

All the best,
Lauren of the Tillamook team

May 12th, 2014 at 1:54 pm

Kevin

Basically, the fermentation rennett that coagulates the milk is caused by a genetically modified microorganism. That organism is then killed by the cheese making process, thus making it gmo free. Is this accurate?

July 6th, 2014 at 8:56 pm

Lauren

Tillamook Team

Hi Kevin,

Thank you for your question. Yes, after purification during the fermentation process, the end rennet product that we use for the majority of our cheeses does not contain any genetically modified material. It is considered non-GMO by U.S. food industry standards. I know the GMO subject a complex one with frequently changing details and definitions. If you’d like to chat more about this topic, please reach out to our Consumer Relations team at any time.

All the best,

Lauren of the Tillamook team

July 9th, 2014 at 11:24 am

Ahmed

Finally I can enjoy sandwich. Couple questions if you don't mind:

Are all the rennet you use from caws? or do you use other animals as well?

I was in a store yesterday, but I couldn't find any labeling on your cheese that says halal or kosher.

July 19th, 2014 at 12:58 pm

Lauren

Tillamook Team

Hi Ahmed,

For the majority of our cheeses, we use a fermentation-produced rennet product that has Kosher and Halal certification, and is vegetarian-friendly. This rennet is used to make all of the following varieties of Tillamook cheese: Medium, Sharp, Special Reserve Extra Sharp, Kosher, and Reduced Fat Cheddar cheeses, as well as Monterey Jack, Mozzarella, Colby, Colby-Jack, Pepper-Jack, Provolone, Muenster, Swiss and Reduced Fat Monterey. The finished product of all of these cheeses is halal certified, but the only cheese that is kosher certified is our Kosher Medium Cheddar Cheese.

For a few of our aged white cheddar cheeses (Tillamook Medium White Cheddar, Sharp White, Vintage Extra Sharp White Cheddar, 3 Year Aged Vintage Extra Sharp White, and Smoked Vintage White Extra Sharp), we use a traditional, bovine cow rennet. These products are not considered vegetarian.

I hope this answers your questions!

All the best,

Lauren of the Tillamook team

July 23rd, 2014 at 8:47 am

Maya

Hi, I have your medium cheddar cheese and it says the ingredients are cultured milk, salt, enzymes, and annatto (color). Under it it says contains no animal rennet (vegetarian). But I was wondering are your enzymes vegetarian? I have a lot of different things just wondering if that type of cheese is vegetarian. Thanks!

July 29th, 2014 at 11:51 am

Lauren

Tillamook Team

Hi Maya,

Thanks for your question! I think you will be happy to hear that our Medium Cheddar Cheese is vegetarian! The enzyme used to make this cheese is a fermentation-produced rennet that is vegetarian-friendly. The rennet is also kosher and halal certified. I hope this information is helpful!

All the best,

Lauren of the Tillamook team

July 29th, 2014 at 3:45 pm

Kim

in a prior comment you state:

"we use a fermentation-produced rennet product that has Kosher and Halal certification, and is vegetarian-friendly. This rennet is made by first inserting cow genes into a microbe. During the fermentation process, the microbe grows and produces rennet that is exactly like that produced naturally."

what is the bacteria that the cow gene is put into? or what other materials are used in the fermentation process? is there any soy used...ever? My son is so sensitive to soy that he gets sick from eating things even made with soy. he is allergic to ALL vitamin E as 99% of it is all made from soy.

I really appreciate your help. thank you!

August 2nd, 2014 at 3:14 pm

Lauren

Tillamook Team

Hi Kim,

Thank you for your question! Good news, our cheese is 100% soy-free, including the fermentation-produced rennet that is used in our vegetarian cheeses listed above. There is also no vitamin E, so your son should be able to eat our cheese!

Thanks again for your question!

All the best,

Lauren of the Tillamook team

August 5th, 2014 at 2:55 pm
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