A dairy-tale ending (Day 142)…

love me moo

Now that I’ve pledged to only eat happy meat and free-range eggs, my final installment in the Ethical Eating Trilogy of this challenge will be to limit myself to organic and if possible rennet-free dairy products.

“Rennewhat?” you say. “Don’t tell me there’s another ingredient I’m supposed to be worrying about!”

Unfortunately, there is, unless you’re one of those people who eat veal and can still sleep at night with tortured baby calves on your conscience (in which case, you know what, just leave. Seriously — just go, because this really isn’t going to work out).

While I know approximately nothing about cheese-making other than the fact that it involves words like whey, bacteria and curd, a Wikipedia entry provides this run-down on what exactly rennet is, which in turn explains why a lot of organic cheeses come with the tagline “rennet-free”.

Milk products in general have been getting a bad rap lately, and folks like Meghan will be happy to go on about how we’re not really meant to digest milk in the first place and it’s full of udder pus and our digestive tracts don’t like it and so on. But because I’m Caucasian and my lactase enzyme is in perfect working order, and because if I don’t consume any dairy my body starts telling me to with specific cravings for cheese, ice cream and yogurt, and finally because I believe in the practice of dairy farms, I’m going to continue eating these things (there’s a cute lactose tolerance campaign going on right now with a very funny video, and I’d endorse it wholeheartedly if it weren’t being run by Nesquik).

After browsing around the Dairy Farmers of Ontario website, pretending I was a farmer and looking up all their safety regulations — I had no idea there was such a thing as teat dip, or for that matter teat-dipping cups — I’m reassured that most local, small-scale dairy farms are bovine and human-friendly. But it’s not as though one single farm produces all the milk that ends up in a carton of Sealtest or Beatrice.

The safest, most ethical way to go here, I think, is to make sure all the dairy products I consume are organic, unless I can verify that it comes directly and solely from a good local farm.

Photo above from my personal collection — “Love me tender, love me moo” by Bill Weedmark. The cows are from a farm in Napanee, ON (yes, the birthplace of Avril Lavigne).

9 Responses to A dairy-tale ending (Day 142)…

  1. Rhett says:

    But if you can’t eat veal, why support dairies when they are so commonly the place veal calves come from? From Wikipedia:

    Most dairy farms sell the male calves borne by their cows, usually for veal production, rather than raising non-milk-producing stock

    If we’re going to aim for cruelty-free dairy, then there’s a pretty serious question about what farms are doing with their male calves. Do any of the organic labels cover this topic?

    I don’t know about you, but I can’t just drink milk (of any kind) as a beverage, and I can cook with soy milk just fine. Except for a rare morsel of cheese in my one non-vegan meal a week, getting rid of dairy is really not that big of a challenge, and it leaves few questions.

  2. Morgan says:

    Go Soy Milk!!!! and oh yeah…go bison…Bison is another great source of meat protein and it doesn’t appear that the industry is involved in the bizarre chemical grow-grow-juice that farmers tend to pump in to other typical livestock like cows, pigs and chickens…

    If you can find a local bison farmer…the meat is tasty, lean and free of bizarre practices…Around Saskatchewan it appears to be anyway!

    I just watched Fast Food Nation…and now I’m reconsidering meat entirely!!!!

  3. Rachel says:

    Another great step. We’ve been buying organic hormone free milk for awhile now and it tastes so much better you just can’t go back. We recently added a dwarf milk goat to our little farmette, but at less than 3 cups a day she’s not going to be the sole milk provider for our family of five anytime soon. But I’ve had fun making my own dairy products- you should try making yogurt, it doesn’t have to be refrigerated when it’s setting up, so if you used the “thermos method” you could have fresh yogurt every morning without a fridge.

  4. pat farquharson says:

    go genetically engineered rennet.
    sounds good to me!

  5. Lori V. says:

    Organic dairy for me, too, Vanessa. I’m not ready to give up the dairy anytime soon, and neither are my teens. And soy milk is out, because I think it tastes pretty awful.

  6. besweet says:

    I also think soy milk tastes pretty awful; I don’t like soy at all, actually. I think it’s worth pointing out that soy production and the processed soy foods that result are not necessarily “green”.

    Hemp milk tastes better to me, but I don’t love it. I do, however, quite like hemp seeds, which are finding their way into my salads and sauces regularly now. Hemp is a good vegetarian source of protein and omega fats, with a near ideal ratio of omega-3s to omega-6s. Hemp is also a plant that naturally grows without requiring much pesticide use, because it shades out weeds. And there are a few good Canadian companies making hemp products, so buying them supports farmers in Manitoba and Saskatchewan. (I just did a bunch of research on hemp for work…)

    I’m fine with drinking milk — in fact, I like milk — but I buy all organic now. It *does* taste better. I also get my milk in glass bottles, which I return for the deposit. I don’t actually like cheese or yogurt, so that’s not an issue, but I buy organic yogurt for my boyfriend.

  7. Christy says:

    Some organic cheeses use vegetable rennett, which I also use when I make cheese. I use raw organic milk to make cheese but I don’t drink it because it is too rich for me. I do drink organic pasteurized milk.

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  9. Susan Bowers says:

    For those who can’t take dairy OR soy (mostly bioengineered and can be an issue with hormones) try rice milk (organic of course). It isn’t the thing to drink by the glass but on cereal and for cooking it is great.

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