"Gypsy gold does not chink and glitter. It gleams in the sun and neighs in the dark."

~ Saying of the Gladdagh Gypsies of Galway

Friday, March 30, 2012

Real Food: Yogurt

I am on such a 'rant' with yogurt at the moment! Purchasing what I like is not easy for me due to geographic's. So, let's dissect yogurt - real yogurt. 

Now, for the sake of argument, I am going to be referring to yogurt when you are purchasing it from a store -- making you own is usually the better option, but that is a whole other post for another day :)

Reading labels is so crucial anymore if you truly want to know what you are buying and eating. Just because something claims to be 'natural', 'organic' or 'cage-free', doesn't mean you are getting what you think you are. *Gasp* I know - how annoying. No wonder so many people throw in the towel and go on with life and the motto 'Well it hasn't killed me yet'. It is so frustrating with all the false advertising. But the key word there was yet!

Let me first say, I purchase PLAIN yogurt and then I add my own flavorings - maple syrup, honey or homemade fruit syrups etc. Plain yogurt is an acquired taste...or at least it was to me. If you are used to eating the fruity, chemical packed yogurt cups dyed to look pretty, it will probably be an acquired taste to you at first too. And you might need to help yourself get used to the texture. It isn't molded into the container, jiggling like Jell-o, all while holding the shape you scooped it out in!

Second, I always purchase full fat yogurt. I don't buy into, or purchase, any of the 'low-fat' and 'fat-free' labeled garbage out there. Because...it is garbage. Another good topic for a later post!

So with that being said, my first choice for yogurt is the Seven Stars Farm Brand.

It's ingredient list is simple: organic whole milk [from Jersey or Guernsey cows*] made in small batches right on their farm, only adding in natural live active cultures Acidophilus & Bifidus.
Their cows are pasture grazed as long as possible before snow sets in and their farm is cared for using biodynamic and organic practices. I could go on and on about all the great things they do, but you can check it out for yourself here!

Unfortunately, the closest store to me that sells it is not right around the corner -- it is about a 35-40 minute drive from me...and in the opposite direction of where I usually am traveling. So, I can't just swing in regularly to pick some up. 

When I can't take the trip to purchase the Seven Stars Farm brand yogurt, my back up choice is Dannon's All Natural, Plain Yogurt. But, again, I had to read the ingredient list; just because it says 'All Natural', doesn't mean it really is.

The ingredient list for Dannon's All Natural Plain Yogurt is: Cultured Grade A Milk. It also notes further down on the container that it contains Active Yogurt Cultures including Acidophilus.

That is pretty cut and dry. Chances are the milk is from some Holstein working overtime, pumped with hormones and antibiotics, in a feed lot type industrial dairy barn - a far cry from Seven Stars pasture grazed gals. I realize this and take this into consideration. These are things that are not printed on the products container - I doubt they ever will be - but when consumers educate themselves, these are the things you 'see' when you read into the label. And you make the ultimate decision what you are, and are not, okay with. 

At my latest trip to a local grocer, neither of these choices were an available option so I had to check out all those that were, and again, make the best educated decision possible. I chose this Stonyfield brand [below] of Organic Plain Yogurt.

Let me preface by saying, I have read up enough and learned enough by now to be hesitant of most larger companies touting themselves as natural, organic and everything rainbows and green grass with happy, content livestock. When you go to the Stonyfield website, it screams corporation with a marketing department paid to make you think they are natural, organic & earth loving hippie farmers ... but maybe it is just me that notices things like this since my professional career is in the marketing field. I much prefer to pull up a website like the Seven Stars one; this site looks like a small, family-ran farm that does love the earth, and their cows, and has doesn't have a marketing department that meets in the board room to finalize marketing plans. Their 'boardroom' probably doubles as the mud room in their barn :)

So, where was I? Oh yes, about the Stonyfield yogurt. Well, who knows if they are truly organic - sad you can't trust what the label says, isn't it? How's this article for a smack in the face? I know it is dated, but none the less. According to their container, their 'Organic Promise' is that the yogurt is made without the use of antibiotics, synthetic growth hormones and persistent pesticides. Another thing that makes me wonder is the claim it touts that the yogurt  'tastes creamier than ever' - I ask, why? What did you chose to add to it to make it that way. And for the record, I don't care for the yogurt - taste or texture.

The ingredient list is the longest yet out of the three brands compared here: cultured pasteurized organic whole milk, pectin, vitamin D3 and six live active cultures.(elsewhere on the container, the 6 live active cultures are listed and include the ones we've already seen on the other brands, acidophilus & bifidus).

Things on this list that immediately struck me were the added pectin; I assume this was to achieve their creamier texture which is probably done to ultimately please consumers since they are most used to the industrialized yogurt of today's age molded into cups. My other immediate thought was the addition of D3 - why? Shouldn't that already be in your milk? But, if you are using pasteurized milk, D3 most likely is killed of in the pasteurization process. Stonyfield, unlike Dannon, is marketing themselves to be the happy, hippie organic farm yogurt so they want to make sure you know that D3 is in there. Dannon doesn't tout this on their container so while D3 was probably lost in the pasteurization of the milk they used too, they don't really have a need to discuss that with their consumers. People who buy Stonyfield and people who choose to buy Dannon are most likely 2 different types of consumers....or on rare occasion, maybe a freak like me that make a novel of a blog post out of the whole thing!


After dissecting these three yogurts, I think it is clear, if you are trying to go the route of a Whole/Real foods diet and you are purchasing your yogurt from a grocery store, your best choice is going to be Seven Stars Farm. They can be tough to locate, but if you find it, you have a gem! And boy wouldn't it be nice to be local to them; they now offer heavy whipping cream in their local area. Also good to note is that they are listed in the 2012 Weston A. Price Foundation's Shopping Guide as a 'Best' Choice for yogurt! (For further record, neither Stonyfield or Dannon are listed in there). The Cornucopia Institute gives them a '5 Cow Outstanding' rating on their website as well.

And gosh, I may just have to forgo my other choice options after re-reading this myself and make sure I am always stocked up with Seven Stars!

So are you curious what is in the yogurt in your fridge right now? Go look! I bet it has all kinds of sugars, like high fructose corn syrup, some other nasty stuff, and probably the ever ambiguous 'natural flavorings', which can really mean MSG, or, really, anything. Thanks FDA...thanks!

*Of course I don't stress over what breed of cow my dairy comes from...for the most part! But is is good to know when it comes from quality Jersey or Guernsey breeds -- their milk is top quality when cared for properly, compared to the Holstein breed, which for the most part, has become so industrialized it is like the Cornish Broiler Chicken of the Industrial Poultry World.

This post is linked up at Freaky Friday, Monday ManiaYour Green Resource and Real Food 101

All opinions on this blog post are 100% mine! I was not compensated by any companies mentioned.


Anonymous said...

You know, it's really really easy to make yogurt. Just flash boil your milk, let it cool and then add a cup of yogurt with cultures and keep it in the oven with the pilot light on over night. In the morning: yogurt!

I'm super picky about any yogurt I buy too, and generally stick with plain, full-fat, and add my own sweetener (leftover cranberry sauce from Thanksgiving is surprisingly my favorite).

City Sister said...

The nice thing about yogurt is that it freezes well...from what I've read the cultures stay alive that way too (as in you can freeze your starter in ice cube trays for later use) so you could go ahead and buy a case and put it in the freezer for later use.

AmandaLP said...

I haven't tried Seven Stars yogurt, yet, but my coop orders it regularly, so I might pick up one next time. The major "grass fed dairy" in NYC uses additional stabilizers in their yogurt, and I don't like it as much. Of course, nothing beats strained raw yogurt with some local raw honey!

Camille said...

I was just at the store today trying to find full fat yogurt and they didn't have any! And this was a major chain store. It was all lowfat or nonfat :( I've made my own, too. It tastes so much better than anything you can buy.

Justine said...

I've just started making our yogurt. I had been buying Stonyfield, but I agree with you about the taste and texture being off-putting. I love my tangy and lumpy homemade stuff, and it's much less expensive as an added bonus! My girls will eat it plain without honey or dried fruit, although we all prefer it that way of course. Thanks for dissecting the labels for us. This is a great article!