Fact Check

Is Parmesan Cheese Made Using the Stomach Linings of Calves?

Some Parmesan cheeses (and other varieties) contain rennet, an enzyme traditionally taken from inner lining of calves' stomach.

Published Apr 15, 2023

 (Gregory Adams/Getty Images)
Image Via Gregory Adams/Getty Images
Some Parmesan cheeses are made using the stomach linings of baby cows.

Around early January 2023, a number of social media users expressed shock when they found that some brands of Parmesan cheese, the specialty from Italy, contain rennet, an enzyme that is traditionally taken from the stomach lining of calves. News articles confirmed the finding, with some citing the animal welfare organization, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). 

This revelation was not new, though. The information has long been available; see this article from The Guardian, and this 2013 post by the NZ Vegetarian Society on Facebook, "...Parmesan cheese is an EU 'protected designation of origin' product and has to be made using calf rennet, so it's definitely not suitable for vegetarians."

The enzyme is used for curdling milk in the cheese-making process.  

"Today years old when I found out Parmesan cheese is made from baby cow's stomach & I could go cry, tweeted @dtheebae on Jan. 9, 2023. "I'm just gonna have to go full vegan at this point."

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On Facebook too, some users were surprised. "It's made from what?!," asked UNILAD on Jan. 12, 2023. However, shocked reactions were neither new nor recent. "I just found out Parmesan cheese isn't vegetarian and basically my whole life is a lie," wrote BuzzFeed's Delaney Strunk in 2019.

The BuzzFeed reporter found that "apparently to earn the authentic legal title of Parmigiano-Reggiano, the cheese must be created using calf rennet." Parmigiano-Reggiano (or Parmesan, as it is popularly known) "is a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO mark) marked product." Parmesan got that POD status in 1996.

Besides Parmesan, there are other cheeses made using rennet. According to Vegetarian Society, Gorgonzola and Grana Padano use animal rennet. Insider lists more varieties in addition to those two, including Pecorino Romano, Camembert, Vacherin, Emmenthaler, Gruyère, and Manchego.

But hold on.

It's not all gloom and doom for Parmesan lovers. There are vegan alternatives available that do not use any dairy products. PETA has published a list of vegan cheese available in the market.

This was not the first time that claims of how certain types of cheese were made concerned the consumers. In 2016, we fact-checked a claim that several widely-available cheeses are partially made from wood.


Daire, Amy. "Parmesan Isn't Vegetarian — and It's Not the Only Cheese Non-Meat Eaters Should Avoid." Business Insider, https://www.businessinsider.com/is-cheese-vegetarian-2017-5. Accessed 10 Apr. 2023.

"Getting on Board with Cheese | The Vegetarian Society." Vegetarian Society, https://vegsoc.org/lifestyle/getting-on-board-with-cheese/. Accessed 10 Apr. 2023.

"Is Parmesan Cheese Vegetarian? The Internet Wants to Know." PETA, 14 June 2017, https://www.peta.org/living/food/is-parmesan-cheese-vegetarian/.

"Kraft Singles Are Getting a Vegan Makeover." PETA, 25 June 2015, https://www.peta.org/living/food/everything-you-need-to-know-about-vegan-cheese/.

"People Are Realising Where Parmesan Cheese Comes from – and It's Not Good." The Sun, 13 Jan. 2023, https://www.thesun.co.uk/fabulous/21035549/how-is-parmesan-cheese-made-baby-cows/.

Schofield, Ali. "No Parmesan Please, We're Vegetarian." The Guardian, 27 Feb. 2012. The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/wordofmouth/2012/feb/27/no-parmesan-please-we-re-vegetarian.

Strunk, Delaney. "I Just Found Out Parmesan Cheese Isn't Vegetarian And Basically My Whole Life Is A Lie." BuzzFeed, 29 May 2017, https://www.buzzfeed.com/delaneystrunk/cheese-is-love-cheese-is-life.

Tanatarova, Elmira. "People Shocked to Learn Parmesan Cheese Isn't Vegetarian." Mail Online, 13 Jan. 2023, https://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/food/article-11628705/Social-media-goes-wild-people-learn-Parmesan-cheese-isnt-vegetarian.html.

Damakant Jayshi is a former writer for Snopes.