Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Retrospective #263: Ice Cream Games

Some time ago we had company over for dinner. I made Ossobuco alla Milanese. Nancy made risotto, Brussels sprouts tossed in olive oil and roasted, and instead of a salad, roasted cauliflower with melted cheese topping. Nancy insisted we have a dessert, so she made an apple crisp and sent me out to the store to buy a pint of ice cream. I thought one pint would not be enough for 4 people, so I bought two. Maybe I was hoping there’d be leftovers…
I bought what I thought were two premium pints: Breyers vanilla and Häagen-Dazs butter pecan. I didn’t look at the prices but I did make sure I was buying ice cream, NOT ice milk. Later, though, I looked at the receipt and noticed that the Breyers was less than half the price of the Häagen-Dazs. Interesting, I thought. Breyers must be on sale. WRONG!
When it came time for dessert, I passed on the apple crisp and served myself a spoonful of vanilla and a spoonful of butter pecan. I noticed that the Breyers vanilla was light and easy to dig into; the butter pecan was dense and creamy. The vanilla was thin in taste too; the butter pecan was rich. But the difference passed and the conversation turned to our friend’s recent trip to Tonga to swim with the whales. I was not until next day when I found both containers empty – we call this mysterious disappearance during the night “evaporation” – that I learned the real difference.
According to Wikipedia, a 1994 change in United States Food and Drug Administration rules allowed ice milk to be labeled as low-fat ice cream, “…based in part on a petition filed jointly by the Milk Industry Foundation (MIF) and the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), and a petition filed by the American Dairy Products Institute (ADPI),” designed to “promote honesty and fair dealing in the interest of consumers; increase flexibility for manufacturers of lower-fat dairy products; and increase product choices available to consumers.”
The problem is the ice cream I bought was NOT labeled low-fat ice cream. It was simply labeled “Ice Cream.” Either there has been another change in FDA rules, or Breyers is breaking the rules. But the labeling of this product does not “promote honesty and fair dealing” and is not “in the interest of consumers.” It does, however, I admit, “increase flexibility for manufacturers of lower-fat dairy products and increase product choices available to consumers.”
The Breyers container, it turned out, was one full pint in volume (473ml), but it weighed only 264 grams. The Häagen-Dazs container, on the other hand, although it had the same rim diameter, had a slightly tapered side and was only 414ml, or <9/10s of a pint, but the smaller Häagen-Dazs weighed 397 grams (14 fluid ounces), an astonishing ~50% more than the bigger (by volume) Breyers pint. That difference in weight is in large part due to the air (an ingredient that is not listed on the container) that is entrained in this “low-fat ice cream,” making it light and so easy to dig into.
The ingredients, and the order listed, tell another part of the story. Breyers vanilla: milk, cream, sugar, natural flavor, tara gum. Note, milk, listed first, is 88-89% water. Häagen-Dazs butter pecan: vanilla ice cream, cream, skim milk, sugar, corn syrup, egg yolks, salt, vanilla extract, roasted pecans, pecans, coconut oil, butter, salt.
But the real difference is in nutrition. A one half-cup serving of Breyers Vanilla (BV) has 130kcal, Häagen-Dazs butter pecan (HDBP) 300kcal. Thus, the Breyers vanilla has only 43% as many calories and only 30% as many calories from fat. The Breyers also has only 32% as many grams from total fat and only 40% as many grams of saturated fat; And only 25% as much dietary cholesterol and 37% as much sodium.
So, if reducing your total calories, saturated fat, dietary cholesterol, and sodium are important to you, and you brought your calculator with you to the grocery store, these facts might interest you. But before you make a “product choice,” you should also compare the carbohydrates and sugars and other ingredients (air, water and tara gum).
The Breyers vanilla still had 70% as many carbohydrates and 82% as much sugar as the rich, creamy Häagen-Dazs. In other words, the quality ingredients that made Häagen-Dazs so delicious were deleted in the Breyers in larger proportion than the junk sugars, air, water and thickening agents that were added to Breyers. But you saved money on your “pint.”

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