Last week we talked about why we crave cheese so much! This week, as promised we are going to talk about how to give up cheese. Why do we crave cheese again? The short answer is that diary based, animal-based cheese is loaded with salt, fat, and a funny sounding element called casomorphin. Casein is a protein found in milk. When scientists break down any protein, it becomes long chains of amino acids. Milk contains amino acids called casomorphins named after the protein casein. You are reading it right – morphine, like the drug. Casomorphin is part of cow’s milk that keeps the baby cow coming back for more because the baby feels so good. Blissful in fact. Did you forget that milk and cheese are products made from the breast milk of cows? Right! Due to casomorphins, salt, and fat many people find that it is hard to give up cheese.

1. Think about the actual mother cows.

All mammals nurse their young, humans, dogs, cows, cats, pigs, panda bears, every one of them. When a cow is impregnated and gives birth, she produces milk for her baby just like a human. Instead of letting the cow nurse her little baby, the dairy industry workers takes the infant away from the mom and then proceed to take the mothers’ milk for our purposes. When the mother cows’ babies are taken away, they cry for days. After a while, when her milk dries up, she is impregnated again and the cycle starts all over. The mother cow in enslaved to our needs for dairy products. We haven’t even begun to talk about what happens to the babies! Most mother cows live in torturous conditions, filthy, unnatural factory farms. Look at video session 10 for more information on this disgusting topic. Bottom line: many people find the treatment of cows cruelly horrific and that keeps them motivated not to eat cheese. Seeing a face in your next bite of gooey cheese pizza is unnerving. It is easy to give up cheese when you think of big beautiful brown eyes looking up at you.

2. Think about how raising animals for us to eat influences the environment.

This is a big topic! Let’s focus on water usage. The animal agriculture industry uses a lot of water. For example, first water has to produce feed for livestock and that is mostly corn and soy, which require quite a bit of water, then water to hydrate the cows at 50 gallons per day. Finally, lots of water is needed to keep the processing plant clean. Seven hundred cows at a typical plant use 3.4 million gallons per day.

  • 50% of the freshwater used in US is for the animal agriculture industry
  • 400 gallons of water is used at the slaughterhouse to kill butcher and process one cow
  • 1 pound of beef represents 1,800 gallons of water! While 468 gallons represents one pound of chicken, and 576 gallons of water for one pound of bacon or pork
  • 1 pound of nuts require 4.5 cubic feet of water; beans require 2 cubic feet and vegetables 0.15 cubic feet of water
  • 1 gram of beef protein requires six times as much water as 1 gram of protein from beans, peas, or lentils

By 2050: Experts say we will need 50% more water when our global population increases from 7 to 9 billion people. Right now 1.2 billion people live where water is scarce. This is not getting any better. Are saying by our actions that those one plus billion people are less important than the animals people eat?  If we give up cheese, we can contribute to a better world where people have enough water.

3. Think about replacing the cheese with non-dairy alternatives.

When we became plant based back in 2005 there were not as many alternative, plant based, vegan products as there are now. The alternative, faux, non-dairy cheese market has also exploded because people are concerned about their health, the environment, as well as the animals themselves. One Green Planet writes, “there are more brands available than ever. There are cheeses, hard and soft, that spread, slice, grate, and most importantly, melt. Yes, vegan cheese is better than ever”, and describes 11 brands worth trying. With so many alternatives, it is easy to give up cheese. Keep some on hand and ask for it when eating out. The more we ask for it, the more non-dairy cheese will become the new normal.

4. Think about what you will say to friends and colleagues.

Do you worry what other people think? I do! When we transitioned to plant based in 2005, I was shy about talking about it. I did not want to upset anyone or put them out. Now I feel confident to say what I need to say in a polite, kind, and calm manner. Being vegan is just who I am.  Many of us worry about changing old habits because it is scary. I get that, and have thought about it a lot. This is why I recommend you have some words to say when you are out. For example, you are with your work team: there is all sorts of cheesy pizza sitting right there, what will you say? What will you do? If you want to give up cheese, you need to have a plan. You need to have words to say why you want to give up cheese. It doesn’t matter what it is, as long as it is important to you. Practice what you say to your mother-in-law when she serves a fully loaded cheese lasagna. When we make transitions around our food choices, we need to be strong and keep our backbone yet not militant and alienating. Sessions 6 and 7 go over transition and the emotional, social aspects of plant based, vegan nutrition in more depth.

In conclusion, if you want to give up eating cheese, you can, quite simply! Think about mothers crying for their babies, the excessive usage of limited natural resources (water), and maximizing available alternatives. If you want to give up cheese, get organized, go shopping, and get your head wrapped around the reasons why it is important. Everyone has their own story, their own reason. Be clear about yours and enjoy a gooey dairy free cheese pizza today! Happy Eating!

Photo: Thank you Ryan Moreno at Unsplash