Cheese Isn't Very Vegetarian Or Healthy

For airlines around the world, "vegetarian meal" usually equates to "melt some cheese and vegetables together". Cheese often plays a significant role in vegetarian diets, but that doesn't necessarily make it a sensible option, especially if there's an ethical base to your choice to forego meat.

Picture by docman

At EcoSalon, Caitlin Fitzsimmons points out that no matter how delicious cheese is, that doesn't necessarily equate to a food that's particularly healthy or particularly ethical. While cows don't die directly as a result of cheese-making, the way in which dairy cattle are reared is a cause for concern, and the carbon emissions produced in any form of cattle farming are significant. And when it comes to healthy eating, beef may actually stack up better than cheese:

Generic cheese is 27% fat. A whopping 62% of that is saturated fat, while only 22% is protein. Admittedly you do get a decent serving of calcium with your fat, but there are 84 calories and a heart-stopping 20mg of cholesterol in just one slice. By contrast, a typical cut of beef compares favourably with 26% protein and 20% fat, of which just 39% is saturated fat. You don’t get so much calcium, but that’s more than compensated for by the fact that 20% of your meal is iron, something many women lack. There is also less cholesterol in beef than cheese.

Whatever side of the vegetarian fence you sit on, it's an interesting read. For the record, Lifehacker's editor consumes large quantities of both cheese and meat. If you're a vegetarian who needs to silence a grumpy carnivore, check out our meatless dishes that even meat eaters like.

Think Cheese Is More Eco + Humane Than Meat? Think Again [EcoSalon]


    The general public generally has no idea about veganism either.

    Vegans don't eat/use/wear any animal products at all, so no leather jackets, wool jumpers or leather shoes. No cheese, milk, eggs.

      So if you're a green Vegan, what do you wear?

      Can't wear cotton cause it's a water hog, can't wear acrylics cause they're made from Oil..

      Hemp perhaps?

      Surely Vegans can wear wool! The sheep would boil to death in an Australian Summer if they weren't shorn!

        Stevo, while obviously not shearing sheep during an Australian summer would add further cruelty to the practice of sheep farming, the point is sheep shouldn't BE in Australia, suffering through Australian heat. And wool comes from sheep bred for wool, it's not a by-product of the sheep meat industry.

        Hi Stevo, I am a vegan and so obviously won't wear animal hair or skin. Leather and wool are not by-products but contribute hugely to the profits of the animal exploitation industries. Synthetics do cause environmental damage yes but then so does leather and wool (which also use many chemicals, energy and water in the processing). My solution is to get 90% of my synthetic or plant-fibre clothes from second-hand stores (and I've got some really good quality ones there), some of my clothes are actually made with recycled plastic bottles - the company Patagonia for example does this, and others fromorganic plant fibres. If buying new it is best to buy good quality that will last a long time. Hope this helps!

        Cotton is not water hog, it is a plant.

    The vast majority of cheeses are not even vegetarian. They use rennet (from the stomachs of calf's) as an enzyme.

    Um... like the article mentions, most cheeses contain rennet, which is obtained from dead calf stomachs. Any vegetarian worth his salt will know your average cheese is not vegetarian.

    Luckily there are some products that use synthetic rennet, Mainland has a block specifically marketed as vegetarian, and if you check some Devondale and Woolies cheeses you'll find they're okay for vegetarians too.

    Problem with food vendors and airlines etc claiming products with cheese are vegetarian is there's no way of knowing if they use these specific vegetarian friendly cheeses - I usually assume they do not because they'd go for the cheapest option.

    The general public also doesn't know that vegans think they are better than everybody else.

    Being vegan is an elitist mindset.

    I doubt you'll ever find a vegan in Haiti !

      I'm a Haitian vegan, and I know plenty of others, in Haiti and abroad. Just because one comes from a poor country doesn't mean ethics don't apply.

      Talk about an elitist mindset!

    Vegetarians I can stand (sometimes), but vegans... They are so goddam pretentious and their skin looks transparent.

    Vegetarians and vegans are a minority, so I'm sorry but you will have to bend for the world, not the other way. Otherwise I'll call myself a meatarian and demand meat only consumables :-P jk jk

      I'm vegan and am neither pretentious nor have transparent skin. I'm actually quite healthy, work out often, and don't give my friends s#$% if they want to order steak tartare. I'm of the opinion that lifestyle choices are deeply personal choices.

      I'm rather sorry that you've met a few bad apples, but they don't speak for the rest of us vegans.

    And we believe saturated fats are bad because????....
    ...I heard from a friend?
    ...some important looking person on the TV said so?

    Hmmm.... Do a little research for yourself and you'll find that saturated fats, prepared properly are not only good for you, but are downright essential.

    However, keep in mind that some saturated fats are can become harmful if heated.

    Coconut oil, one of the best fats in the world (if not the best), is so demonised and misunderstood you can't even find it in most major grocery chains!

    The popular trend away from saturated fats is an unhealthy one.

    Stick to whole foods, a balanced diet, lots of exercise and love your saturated fat and live guilt free!

      It's all good and well to say "saturated fat is vital" etc. but that sends a bad message to people. Australia is one of the fattest countries in the world. Of course our lifestyles and eating habits are to blame. We shouldn't be promoting "eat saturated fat" because that will result in people eating more hamburgers and friend chicken. The reason why government agencies are encouraging us to eat more fruit and veg is because they are low in fat and high in fibre. Australians need to eat less fat, less meat, less dairy, more fruit and veg. Simple.

    @Jim Stone
    I'm guessing you'll find plenty of vegans in Haiti - meat there is a luxury most can't afford.

    Besides, many cultures (particularly islanders) have a tradition of vegetarianism.

    I'm not vegetarian myself - I can't handle these black+white rules - but if there's one thing I can't stand, it's intolerant, ignorant rednecks who will put down people just for trying their best to do something good for the world.

      The people who put down other people for trying to live a moral life are simply showing their insecurities. Most people who eat meat don't like to think that they are doing anything wrong (despite all the evidence suggesting otherwise). So to counter these feelings, they mock people who disagree with them to try to justify their meat-eating ways. If they can make someone else look silly for not eating meat, then they feel like their side is the right side. Anyway, it's simply a basic psychological defence mechanism. If they realised that they are just going along with all the other immoral people, then maybe they might start thinking for themselves.

    "While cows don’t die directly as a result of cheese-making"
    The calf has to die! A cow only lactates when it has a calf, and that calf drinks milk. So for you to be able to take that milk instead of the calf, the calf is killed and sold as veal.
    Some of the comments here are definitely ignorant, but redneck? It's a sad fact that most city folk have no idea where their food really comes from. Sorry, but milk does not come from a carton in the fridge.

    1Kg of Rennet coagulates about 15000 litres of milk and in the USA about 80-90% of cheese uses a synthetic replacement produced by bacteria or fungus with some calf genes in it. Note, this is different to microbial rennet, but even that's still pretty common.

    “While cows don’t die directly as a result of cheese-making”

    The lifespan for a diary cow is far less than what its 'natural' would be. After 3 - 5 years of milking, the milk production is considered no longer economic viable and the cow ends up as meat.

    Cows don't end up in pensions or free-range farm to spent their old day. They are milked for all they got and are then killed.

    So vegetarians that eat cheese cause the dead of diary cows, and the dead of the bulls that end up as veal as stated.

    Being vegan isn't an elitist mindset, it's trying to not be part in an absurd system. A system you all seem willingly to defend, even tho it is only designed to make an economic profit on the back of animals. Nice crusade for capitalism you are all fighting.

    Open your eyes, this isn't about your right to consume, this is about their right not to be enslaved, abused, raped and murdered.

    We humans are just another breed of animals, we aren't magical creatures that are totally different than non-human animals. What makes that we can act as arrogant bastards just because we can ?

    Vegans show that a more compasionate lifestyle is perfectly possible. Are your taste buds really worth all that suffering that farming animals bring with it.

    Stop being ignorant, stop being arrogant, stop repeating propagandi made by the meat and dairy industry, start thinking for yourself and come to the conclusing that being vegan is the only ethical option.

      "Vegans show that a more compasionate lifestyle is perfectly possible. Are your taste buds really worth all that suffering that farming animals bring with it."

      Have you seen the aftermath of a wild dog attack on a sheep farm? Have you seen farmers in tears at the sight of sheep that have been torn to shreds by wild dogs yet are somehow still alive and struggling for every breath? Ever had to put a bullet in a living thing's head to end its suffering?

      You don't see many vegans volunteering to spend the night standing guard over sheep to protect them from wild dogs. Seems the vegan form of compassion for animal suffering only goes far enough to get on a computer and throw around words like "rape" and "murder" at people who spend nights putting themselves between a flock of sheep and a pack of wild dogs.

      Just keep reading Singer and telling yourself that you're morally righteous if that gets you to sleep at night. Safe in your bed. Out of harm's way. The animals will be just fine.

        Why is it human's duty to stand around protecting sheep? That is absurd logic and I don't see how that makes vegans look bad (well, no more than it makes any human look bad). Sheep are not a native species to Australia. The only reason farmers protect them is because they lose money when they die. Do farmers equally protect rabbits, or dingoes, or even the native kangaroo? Of course not! Protecting these animals result in no economic gain for them. Actually, many Australians actively hunt these animals.

        So before you start making up ridiculous scenarios that you seem to think make vegans look bad, how about you just step through your logic and realise the flaws.

    Who honestly thought cheese was healthy? I know a guy that started losing weight simply by cutting cheese out of his diet - no other changes were made (he liked cheese but wasn't overeating it).

    It is not true to say that cows do not die directly as a result of humans eating cheese.

    Cows must give birth each year to keep the milk flowing. Their babies are either slaughtered at birth, crated for veal and slaughtered at 6 months, or sent to beef and slaughtered when they are 1 year old.

    The impact on a cow's body of being constantly pregnant while constantly producing more milk than is natural, leaves their bodies ravaged. Most are "spent" at the age of 4 or 5 (17 in human years) and are slaughtered.

    If you don't eat meat for ethical reasons, there is absolutely no ethical justification for eating or drinking dairy products.

    The best way is to go VEGAN! The dairy industry is a great resource consumer, and the major reason why for the demise of the Murray Darling food bowl. The amount of fat is not healthy, so non-vegetarians seem to think that they can off-set the lack of meat/chicken/fish with cheese! Vegan food is the most healthy and interesting and creative.

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now