Sunday, 13 May 2012

Veggie friendly cheese - two of Switzerland's biggest supermarket chains make a giant step forward in veggie friendliness

When I first moved to Switzerland back in 2003, vegetarians were not that well catered for by the major supermarket chains like Coop and Migros.  Since then things have moved on a lot, most likely driven by globalisation, and Coop and Migros have both been offering their own lines of Quorn and tofu products for a number of years now.

It is still hard to know which of the other products are veggie friendly and which are not though, and there is no commonly used system of veggie friendly labelling like there is in the UK.  For many years now, the UK supermarkets have been labelling the majority of food products as veggie friendly (if they are of course) either themselves, or by means of an official approval from the Vegetarian Society.

I noticed a few months back that Dr Oetker pizzas now have several varieties that specify they are vegetarian friendly on the packaging.  They have mushroom, mozzarella, spinach, vegetable and 4 cheese vegetarian varieties.  A fantastic start and a pat on the back for Dr Oetker.

Some of you may be asking how mozzarella pizzas can be non-vegetarian friendly.  After all a pizza is just dough and cheese and tomato isn't it?  Well you are correct that lacto-ovo vegetarians are free to eat cheese, but that cheese should be vegetarian friendly.  To make cheese you need to use rennet.  Rennet can come from one of two sources: animal or plant.  Animal rennet is derived from the stomach tissue of a slaughtered calf, which is clearly not vegetarian.  Vegetarian cheese must therefore be made using plant rennet.

Until very recently I could not find any cheeses in Coop or Migros that specified they were vegetarian friendly.  That all changed a few months back when I noticed that both Coop and Migros have started selling Cathedral City Cheddar.

I was so happy when I saw this, and have been buying it ever since.  I used to buy other cheeses from time to time, but as a lacto-ovo vegetarian of more than 20 years, I always felt a little pang of guilt eating them and not knowing whether or not they were veggie friendly.  Now I don't need to feel any sense of guilt and can eat as much damn cheese as I want.  To top it all off I simply adore cheddar, and it was impossible to find it in the big supermarket chains before this breakthrough.

You may find it strange that I am writing about cheese on what is predominantly a training blog, but this blog is also about other aspects of my personal life too, and one of those is being a vegetarian.  Cheese is a great source of protein, which until now in Switzerland I had largely avoided.  I no longer have any need to do so.  Three cheers for Coop and Migros, and may the veggie friendly movement in Switzerland continue.

If any of you in Switzerland have made similar discoveries of new veggie friendly products entering the Coop and Migros product range (such as the Dr Oetker pizzas or the Cathedral City cheddar cheese), please let me know about it.