When we think of the word Halal, most of us think of meat. Is there Halal cheeses? You may not know it but yes!
Process of making cheese
For centuries, the process of making cheese has not changed. It is all about coagulating the milk with an enzyme whose purpose is to separate the serum from the main material, cheese base. The used enzyme is usually based on rennet extracted from the stomach of the calf.
For a cheese to be Halal, many religious obligations are imposed, one of which is the use of a non-animal rennet. Instead, vegetal or microbial rennet must be used. The latter is not always recommended because it changes the taste of the cheese. As for vegetal rennet, it also brings a special flavor. Finally, there are genetically modified but prohibited rennet in some countries, including Switzerland.
Many cheeses are made without the use of animal rennet and sold as Halal. It is true that the use of animal rennet is Haram (illegal), but this is not enough for the cheese to be completely legal or Halal. Indeed, there are many other constraints along the value chain, from milk collection to packaging. In order for the consumer to make sure that the cheese strictly complies with Sharia, a ‘Halal’ certification label is stamped on the packaging.
In general, a certification is a very complex process that goes beyond the change of rennet, or use of a particular detergent or oils for cheese cutting machines. Since sharia implies many restrictions, there are many interpretations according to the Imams and thus according to the predominantly Sunni or Shiite countries. This explains the variation of certifications recognized or not according to national, supranational or religious communities. For example, some Imams see no problem in using alcohol to sanitize hands and cheese pots as this allows deeper cleansing and does not intend to deceive the believer because the alcohol evaporates and is not integrated into the final food.
Halal Certification in our stores
Some retailers selling ‘Halal’ cheese prefer to have consumers visiting their websites to learn about the nature of the ” Halal ” cheese they place on shelves rather than placing certification on the packaging. We wonder if this makes it possible not to offend the so-called “classic” consumers that a “Halal Certified” logo would repel, nor the Muslims who will mind surfing or even better, using the good old word-of-mouth.