The Rennet Firestorm

This summer, my kids and I and our good friend Griffin, he’s 14, were at a party at a friend’s house. All the kids were hanging out around the campfire. Someone brought out some marshmallows to roast. Dylan and Griffin started to kind of lecture the kids on why they shouldn’t eat marshmallows. Why, you ask? Because they have gelatin( in them. After the party we started to talk about this. The issue, I think was really about hidden animal products in food but also about how to educate people about them.

Does lecturing work?
Oh boy, have we had many discussions and probably arguments about this issue in our house. In the case of the marshmallows, the boys were saying things like, “gross, do you know what is in that?”. And, “I can’t believe you eat gelatin. Don’t you know what gelatin is?”, “it’s boiled up animal hooves!”. What do you think happened?The other kids just went on eating their marshmallows.

The ripple effect
Strangely enough, it might not have gotten the target audience thinking but it sure got me thinking. A few days later, we were on our way to an Un-school conference, me, Griffin, Xoey(Griffin’s 13 year old sister), and my sons Dylan and Deven, 9 and 7 years old. We got on the topic of lecturing gelatin eaters. I said, well, you guys eat cheese right? They said, yeah, we love cheese but it’s vegetarian! Nope, I said, most cheese has rennet in it( Rennet is a coagulant used to make most hard cheeses. Most rennet comes from the lining of a calves stomach. Yuck.

This conversation has encouraged many more, and lots of research on the internet about what is in our food. The boys have also taken to asking in restaurants what kind of cheese they use and then looking it up to find out if that company uses rennet or not. We now know that many big North American cheese makers like Cabot, use vegetarian rennet. That is the good news. The bad news is that these guys are usually big factory farms who are trying to keep their costs down. I guess veal calves’ stomachs are more expensive. Of course, personally, I have a very simple solution, don’t eat cheese at all! It seems obvious to me as a vegan of 3 years. However, I knew about rennet, I knew about the connection of the dairy and meat industry, especially the veal industry for years, but I still ate dairy and eggs.

Kids can change the world
When I was a kid, I wasn’t thinking about rennet and gelatin and politics as these kids do. I wasn’t thinking about much at all. Not that these kids are not having a great time and enjoying life. Quite the opposite, being home-schooled gives them a lot more time to do other things like having interesting discussions about food, life and the world we live in.


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