What Happened to Dairy?

Dairy foods used to be my favorite foods, but not anymore.  Not since the food manufacturers started taking the “dairy” out of dairy.  Have you looked at the ingredients of dairy products lately?  They are rarely made from cream and milk but instead have all these fillers like xanthan gum, guar gum, modified food starch, locust bean gum, etc.  It has really affected the flavor and mouthfeel of these once-delicious products to the point where it’s almost not worth buying them at all.  Here, I analyze what’s in today’s dairy products.  However, I’m not analyzing where the milk is sourced and if it comes from cows not treated with hormones and antibiotics–that is another issue I’m concerned about with dairy today.  Here, I’m only looking to see if it’s made from milk and cream and not fillers.

I do think this tasteless dairy results from governmental pressure on food manufacturers to take fat out of food.  Either that or it’s a way to make products even cheaper than they are already made.

Cream cheese

Next time you get a bagel, take a good look at your schmear.  Philadelphia brand regular cream cheese is now made from whey protein and gums.  Its taste reflects that.  It reminds me of what used to be light cream cheese.  Here is the ingredient list:  Pasteurized Milk and Cream, Whey Protein Concentrate, Salt, Carob Bean Gum, Cheese Culture.  Kraft also owns Temp Tee cream cheese, which used to be so creamy and delicious.  Its ingredient list:  Pasteurized milk and cream, cheese culture, salt, carob bean gum.  Bruegger’s Bagels’s plain cream cheese is no better:  Pasteurized cream and non fat milk; sodium and calcium caseinates (milk proteins); salt; citric; phosphoric; acetic acids; xanthan; locust bean; and guar gums; potassium sorbate (maintains freshness); natural flavor.  All of these cream cheeses amount to tasteless white paste.  Sometimes, and it is rarely, I find a cream cheese made with good ingredients.  However, these cream cheeses rarely taste like cream cheese should taste.  Cream cheese used to be so creamy and delicious, a wonderful treat now and again when we would get bagels.  But now that it is no different from plaster, I rarely eat cream cheese or bagels anymore. Luckily, Russ & Daughters still makes real cream cheese.  And Murray’s sells Ben’s Cream Cheese which is also real cream cheese.

Yogurt

Yogurt was the first dairy to go.  I stopped eating it a long time ago.  I would only eat Greek yogurt before Greek yogurt became the rage.  But once Greek yogurt became popular, a lot of brands popped up on the market offering better quality yogurts.  You can find plain Greek yogurt that doesn’t have any fillers, but that’s usually not the case for flavored yogurts.  And the worst offenders are the ones that are supposed to be better for you like the lowfat and nonfat ones.  They have the most fillers.  So you’ll see the gums, starches, pectin, gelatin, agar agar etc.  (If you’re vegetarian, you don’t want gelatin.) I stick with plain Greek yogurt and try to buy local.

Buttermilk

I’ve already sung the praises of buttermilk, but you’d be hard pressed to find real buttermilk anymore.  Real buttermilk does have a sour flavor, but it’s wonderful to drink.  The stuff they sell as buttermilk in the stores is incredibly nasty to drink.  It’s got carrageenan in it and gums.  Very unpleasant.  Once in a while I find a brand of buttermilk that doesn’t skimp and I try to buy them out. 

Milk

When I was growing up, I loved cereal with milk.  Whole milk used to be a treat.  Skim milk was a bit more watered down, not so pleasant.  These days, skim milk is like water and whole milk is almost like how skim milk used to be.  On the rare occasion I eat a bowl of cereal, I find myself using light cream instead of milk to get the taste of what whole milk used to be.

Heavy cream

When we were kids, it was a delight to get out the hand mixer and make our own fresh whipped cream.  We’d have it with berries sometimes in the summer.  As an adult, I still do that on occasion.  If I make a dessert, I like to make my own whipped cream.  But it’s impossible today to find heavy cream that doesn’t have fillers.  Most have carrageenan, some have mono & diglycerides, some have milk.  I still use it, but only when I find a brand that’s just cream.

Sour cream

Apparently, one can still find sour cream made from cream.  Thank goodness for Daisy sour cream

Cottage cheese

Again, thank goodness for Daisy cottage cheese, which is made from milk and cream while other brands like Kraft’s Breakstone’s add whey, modified food starch, xanthan gum and guar gum.

Ice Cream

Ice cream was my favorite food, but I rarely find one I truly enjoy these days.  For the most part, I think it is being made with this same fat-less milk I mention above.  Haagen Dazs is the only brand that uses real milk and cream but even some of its flavored ice creams have ingredients like soybean oil and soy lecithin (ones with chocolate).  What bothers me is that luxury brands that go up to more than $10 a pint still have gums and fillers.  I appreciate that Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream uses fair trade ingredients.  But for premium ingredients, the ice creams have tapioca starch in them, and also, nonfat milk is the first ingredient in most of them.  Steve’s uses grassfed milk and cream as the first ingredients in most of his ice creams, but they all have guar gum too.  I’m wondering if ice cream makers need to add gums because of the problem I mentioned with the milk above–that it doesn’t have a high-enough fat content?  I understand that these gums act as stabilizers and emulsifiers.  However, why do manufacturers need them now when they didn’t used to?  What is different about the milk that requires the use of these ingredients?  Honestly, I grew up in a time when ice cream was made from cream, milk and sugar and it tasted good–like ice cream should.  Why can’t it be made that way anymore?  My guess–the lack of fat in today’s milk.  I don’t need a stabilizer to make ice cream at home.  I buy top-of-the-line heavy cream and milk and it works just fine.

Read my post on ice cream here.

In the days of high unemployment, a food scientist is probably one of the few people who have stable employment these days, scrambling to come up with new ways to disguise plastic as food.

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