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The Source of Rennet

liquid rennet being diluted in custard cup of water

Qgreen_40px I’m a cheese lover, so, please, don’t take me wrong. I’ve just started reading about the art of cheesemaking and I’m genuinely curious. How does the process of obtaining the rennet work? How many baby animals are killed to get rennet for how much cheese?

Agreen Firstly, it is important to know that animal rennet is very much a by-product from young animals. It is extremely unusual for an animal to be killed only for production of rennet because, quite apart from anything else, it does not make economic sense and would be very wasteful of the rest of the animal.

The process for obtaining animal rennet is that the fourth stomach (containing the necessary enzymes for coagulation) of the ruminant animal is dried so that it becomes solid. The process varies slightly according to geography and scale of production, but in remote areas the dried stomach is then cut into strips or pieces and preserved in some way, occasionally in salt or just refrigerated. When the time comes to create the rennet, a small piece is soaked and rehydrated in water and then the water – minus any solids – is added to the vat of milk.

Kate Arding

Kate Arding is an independent dairy consultant specializing in small-scale cheese production. She is also a co-founder of culture, the acclaimed first national consumer cheese magazine launched in December 2008. A native of Britain, Kate has worked in the farmhouse cheese industry for 18 years, firstly, as wholesale manager for Neal's Yard Dairy in London, where she developed extensive knowledge – and love – of the farmhouse cheese industry. In 1997 Kate moved to California to help establish Cowgirl Creamery and Tomales Bay Foods, a business modeled after Neals Yard Dairy but focusing on American artisanal and farmstead cheeses. Since 2003 Kate has worked extensively both in the United States and overseas as an independent consultant, specializing in affinage, sales and marketing, and helping small-scale cheesemakers adapt to changing market demands. Additionally, Kate is intrinsically involved with the day to day running of Culture magazine. Kate is lives in rural New York.

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