If you think ice cream is necessarily made from cream, or even milk, you’d be wrong. Indeed some ice cream is made from those ingredients, but most is not. Most commercial ice cream on the market today is composed primarily of “modified milk ingredients,” which can mean any of a number of different factory goops that are derived from milk.
If you’re lucky, the modified milk ingredients in your ice cream is simply powdered milk. More likely it’s casein (factory-extracted milk proteins), or whey proteins, or even a butteroil compound. The butteroil compound, according to a recent CBC Marketplace report, is 49% butteroil and 51% sugar.
You might ask, why bother using all this factory crap when we (especially here in Quebec) are surrounded by dairy farms? The answer is simple: money. Modified milk ingredients, which are usually made from by-products of other dairy product manufacturing, are cheaper.
The butteroil compound (which you will never see listed as such on an ingredients list) is particularly cheaper because it contains 51% sugar; since it is more non-dairy than dairy, it can be imported without having to pay any of the duties or levies that are applied to real dairy products. In other words, it is cheaper to use imported butteroil compound than to use fresh milk from the dairy farm just down the road.
Most of the butteroil compound used in Canadian-made ice cream comes from the U.K. or New Zealand.
This is a travesty. Not only does that locally manufactured ice cream carry a huge carbon footprint from all that international shipping, and not only is it a slap in the face to our local dairy farmers, but it makes for lousy ice cream because it requires the addition of further factory goop in order to make it resemble the texture and “mouth feel” of real ice cream. Worst of all, it pretty much always misses the mark.
Check the labels. Ice cream composed primarily of “modified milk ingredients” is also full of various gums (guar, cellulose, carrageenan, etc.) which is used to stabilize the product and to give it a creamy feel. However, it’s really more of a gummy feel, but we’ve become so accustomed to fake ice cream that most of us no longer know the difference.
I don’t know what the health implications of all those compounds and gums are, but from a purely aesthetic perspective think about it this way: on your left is a tub of frozen butteroil compound, glucose, and two or three gums. On your right is a tub of frozen milk, cream, and sugar. Now which one sounds more appealing? And which one do you think will actually taste better?
There’s a reason why ice cream from small producers like Le Bilboquet and Ripples tastes better (and is more expensive). It’s because they are made of real food, not factory by-products and lab goop.
Most supermarket brands fail the test. A few, such as Häagen-Daz, are made from real food, but most – especially the no-name brands – are total crap. Some will fool you, like Nestle’s “Real Dairy” product. Its first ingredient is real cream, but next comes “modified milk ingredients,” followed by corn syrup and three kinds of gum.
Below are the ingredients lists of a few popular brands to show you what I mean; they’re listed in order from “real” to “fake” (according to my own guidelines). Please read the labels before you buy, and vote with your hard-earned shopping money.
CREAM, SKIM MILK, SUGAR, EGG YOLKS, NATURAL VANILLA. (Source.)
Ben & Jerry’s Vanilla
CREAM, SKIM MILK, LIQUID SUGAR, WATER, EGG YOLKS, VANILLA EXTRACT WITH VANILLA BEAN SEEDS, GUAR GUM AND CARRAGEENAN. (Source.)
Nestlé Real Dairy Natural Vanilla
FRESH CREAM, MODIFIED MILK INGREDIENTS, SUGAR, CORN SYRUP, EVAPORATED SKIM MILK, STABILIZERS*, NATURAL VANILLA FLAVOUR, PURE GROUND VANILLA BEANS. *STABILIZERS: MONO- AND DIGLYCERIDES, GUAR GUM, CALCIUM SULPHATE, CELLULOSE GUM, CARRAGEENAN. (Source.)
Breyer’s Double-Churned Extra Creamy Natural Vanilla
MILK INGREDIENTS, SUGAR, MODIFIED MILK INGREDIENTS, GLUCOSE, NATURAL VANILLA FLAVOUR, MONO AND DIGLYCERIDES, CELLULOSE GUM, GUAR GUM, POLYSORBATE 80, CARRAGEENAN, PURE GROUND VANILLA BEANS. (Source.)
Breyer’s Double-Churned Extra Creamy Fat-Free Natural Vanilla
MILK INGREDIENTS, MODIFIED MILK INGREDIENTS, SUGAR, GLUCOSE, POLYDEXTROSE (3.4 G / 125 ML), MALTODEXTRIN, NATURAL FLAVOUR, PROPYLENE GLYCOL MONOESTERS, MONO- & DIGLYCERIDES, CELLULOSE GUM, CAROB BEAN GUM, GUAR GUM, COLOUR, CARRAGEENAN. (Source.)