Nov 01 2007

Butteroil and Bad Ice Cream

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.

Häagen-Daz Vanilla

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.)

12 comments so far

12 Comments on “Butteroil and Bad Ice Cream”

  1. swan_pron 01 Nov 2007 at 11:12 am

    you should really try Coaticook’s. I don’t buy any other brand. I don’t know exactly where it’s being sold, but I can find it pretty much anywhere here on the south shore. And they are cheaper than the high end brands!

    here’s the link to their list of ingredients:
    http://laiteriedecoaticook.com/produits/ingredients.html

  2. Michelon 01 Nov 2007 at 11:57 am

    Coaticook ice cream can be found in most grocery stores; it’s the crappy-looking containers that make you think that the product inside must be awful, when in fact it’s good.
    But really, this post is just further proof that homemade stuff is just way better.

  3. blorkon 01 Nov 2007 at 12:31 pm

    I’ve heard lots of things about Coaticook, and I saw it at my neighbourhood Loblaws last week. Unfortunately the flavors looked weird. Orange? Pistachio? So old school. But their Web site lists other flavors, so I’ll look again and will give it a try.

    And yes, the the containers make it look like dollar store ice cream from China. Also, I’d like to be able to buy it in small tubs, like half-litre.

    The incredients for Coaticook vanilla, according to their Web site (http://laiteriedecoaticook.com), are:

    Lait, crème, sucre, poudre de lait écrémé, glucose, stabilisant, arôme naturel et artificiel.

    Translation: Milk, cream, sugar, powdered skim milk, glucose, stabilizers, natural and artificial flavors.

    That’s not bad. Mostly milk and cream, with a bit of milk powder (no sign of butteroil compound). The stabilizers are not specified, but they list guar, cellulose, and carrageenan in the glossary.

  4. lambicon 01 Nov 2007 at 1:16 pm

    For the most part I agree with everything you say, but I must object to one sentence:

    It’s because they are made of real food not factory by-products and chemicals.

    It bothers me when people mention chemicals like they are evil and horrible things. There’s nothing wrong with chemicals, we’re all made of them. If you’re talking about things that are (or might be) bad for you, then call them things that are (or might be) bad for you.

  5. blorkon 01 Nov 2007 at 1:23 pm

    Good point. When I was a student, a chemistry major I knew had a shirt that said “It’s ALL chemistry!” I will revise.

  6. lattegirlon 01 Nov 2007 at 3:28 pm

    Gak. And that Metro-brand French Vanilla I bought because it was cheapest on a tight budget day… never again. Butteroil just sounds horrible. Thanks for the heads-up.

  7. lattegirlon 02 Nov 2007 at 7:59 am

    Then, of course, I had to check the ice cream at Maxi last night — all those “delectable” sounding names, like Dairy this and Double-churned Cream that… President’s Choice ranked near the best of the lot, with modified milk ingredients approximately 7th in the ingredients list.

  8. Harryon 02 Nov 2007 at 10:04 am

    Why not go right to the plant in Coaticook? http://www.laiteriedecoaticook.com/

    It’s not quite a Ben & Jerry’s production, but after gorging you can visit the Coaticook Gorge with it’s nature trails and burn off a few calories! http://www.townshipsheritage.com/Eng/Archives/Outings/coaticook.html

  9. Brianon 02 Nov 2007 at 10:57 am

    That casket of fermenting walrus blubber by the stove is starting to look better all the time. No additives, all natural, no corporate bullshit, unless you count the POP’s that float over from the former Soviet Union.

  10. the millineron 02 Nov 2007 at 12:43 pm

    I knew I hated Breyer’s ice cream for a good reason. (It was only after reading your post that I learned what that good reason was, other than ‘bad taste’).

    Now I’m more convinced than ever that I’ll stick to artisanal Quebec-made sorbet & homemade ice cream.

  11. blorkon 02 Nov 2007 at 6:44 pm

    Harry, I spent a strange cold winter night in Coaticook one time many years ago. Saw the gorge from a distance and didn’t go to the ice cream factory. Maybe I ought to go back!

    Lattegirl, I was at Provigo earlier this evening and I checked the President’s Choice vanilla, and you are correct that modified milk ingredients (which doesn’t necessarily mean butteroil — it could be powdered milk or whey protein, etc.) is the THIRD ingredient. That makes it pretty good but not perfect. Still miles above the yellow label “no name” brand, that was all modified milk ingredients and gums. Blech!

    Milliner, I agree. I had been lead to believe that Breyer’s was very “natural” but I was always disappointed when I ate it. Just didn’t seem very good, and felt quite gummy.

  12. Evon 02 Nov 2007 at 6:45 pm

    You might think it a fool’s mission to try and beat Ben & Jerry’s at their own ice cream game, and in Vermont at that, but Island Ice Cream of Grand Isle, Vermont has done so. It is a small specialty producer that has mainly targeted restaurant accounts in northern Vermont, but it is also available in markets and convenience stores along US Route 2 through the Champlain Islands between Alburg and Burlington. If you are travelling south to Burlington take Route 2 through the islands instead of Interstate 89 and try some. Hero’s Welcome General Store in North Hero, VT is a good place to find it. Yummy!