In the vegan mockumentary ‘Carnage’, a support group of people name cheeses they once ate in an effort to let go of shame they feel about having done so. “Brie!” one confesses. “Edam!” another collapses into tears.
People rarely switch to vegan cheese because it tastes better. It’s an ethical decision, asking dairy cheese to moove aside for the benefit of other species and the planet.
Fortunately, plant-based alternatives, from humble cheddar to crumbly feta, even creamy mozzarella, have stepped up to make this transition easier – they’re gonna Roquefort your world!
This guide covers the major vegan cheese brands available in the UK. Since the last guide we removed the brands Happy Cashew and Tofutti because it appears they are no longer easy to find in the UK.
We have not included supermarket own-brand vegan cheeses in this guide because they tend to score poorly in our ethical ratings. We also include where you can buy the different vegan cheese brands.
Is vegan cheese the most ethical cheese?
The scores a brand gets in the table above includes all aspects of a company's ethical and environmental behaviour, in 300 categories from workers rights to tax avoidance, and not every vegan cheese is a good ethical choice. There are good ethical reasons to cut down, or cut out eating dairy cheese:
1. To help out the planet
Due to a lack of good studies and variations in production methods, it is difficult to give exact figures, but saying plant-based cheese is ten times better for the climate than dairy cheese probably isn’t a wild exaggeration.
While the production of one kilogram of dairy cheese creates 18 kg CO2e, the ingredients commonly used in plant-based cheeses are way less carbon intensive to produce (coconut 2.1 kg CO2e, tree nuts like almond and cashew 2 kg CO2e, soya beans 2 kg CO2e, potato 0.4 kg CO2e).
Our article comparing the climate impacts of dairy and plant products has more detail.
2. To protect rainforests
Valuable habitats like forests, grasslands and savannahs are being converted into land for soya production. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) says almost 80% of the world’s soybean crop is fed to livestock.
It says that 24g of soya is used to produce 100g of dairy cheese. So, perhaps surprisingly, if everyone stopped eating dairy cheese and switched to plant-based alternatives then overall soya production would likely plummet. Cathedral City (owned by Saputo) is one example of a dairy cheese company that’s been linked to deforestation in Brazil.
3. To stop funding animal suffering
All dairy products come from mothers that either just had a baby or are milked while pregnant. Animals can’t give consent to the cycle of forced impregnation, separation from their offspring, and endless milking that are integral to dairy production. Dairy animals are virtually always killed when their milk production slows down even though they are still young.