All Natural … Really?: Breyers Ice Cream

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Breyers All Natural Ice Cream Contains rBGH hormones in it

As long as I can remember, Breyers Ice Cream has been in my freezer.  My Dad loved Breyers All Natural Butter Pecan and Neapolitan Ice Cream.  As kids, if we were going to have dessert, it was often a scoop of Breyers that was offered up.  Now some may argue that ice cream is bad for you, but I don’t believe there’s anything wrong with having an occasional scoop of real, all natural, ice cream.  So Breyers had earned my trust, and literally was one of the few brands I have had a life-long loyalty to, until now.

rBGH

Got Milk? Then check to see if it’s rBGH free. © All rights reserved by Leo Blanchette

A couple months ago, a good friend of mine shared with me an article entitled, Is Your Favorite Ice Cream Made with Monsanto’s Artificial Hormones? In it, John Robbins, son of the founder of Baskin-Robbins, revealed that Breyers All Natural Ice Cream and most other major national brands of ice creams are made with rBGH milk and cream.  Nary a mention of this genetically engineered hormone originally developed by Monsato is made on the label, not even in the footnotes, even though many countries have found rBGH so dangerous that they have outlawed it.

I know this ingredient news surprised me, and I consider myself  more educated than most in the field of food, especially after working in the industry for almost twenty years and writing FAT PROFITS, a thriller about a corrupt food company.  Instances like this confirm my belief that some corporations have made it exceedingly difficult for your average consumer to really know what is in his or her food.  After all, if we apply common sense to the phrase “All Natural,” who in their right mind would think dairy products from cows treated with a genetically engineered growth hormone could fit within its definition?  Thanks to Monsanto’s lobbying efforts the FDA, Unilever (the makers of Breyer’s Cream), and numerous other ice cream manufacturers seem to disagree with me.  And despite my emailing and writing a letter to Unilever to complain about their deceptive labeling practices, I’ve never heard back a word.  Wow, now that’s a great way to handle loyal, die-hard consumers—ignore them.  Fortunately, now armed with real information, I can choose a rBGH-free variety of ice cream at my local Trader Joe’s or even better, make my own organic ice cream at home.

So what do you think?  Do you really know what’s in your ice cream?  Do you trust food companies anymore?  How have you changed your diet to respond to concerns over food safety and quality?

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26 comments… add one

  • jodi holiday November 2, 2011, 10:46 am

    Thank you for this article. I essentially try to stay away from the big box stores and the big supermarkets. Especially any of their products labeled healthy. Its in the food industry interests to keep us all fat,unhealthy and physically and emotional addicted to cheap food.
    Luckily there are healthy food shops, Trader Joes and the wonderful farmer’s market with local artisans to make ice cream.
    I rather pay more for quality and eat less than buy eat nefarious food! Either way pay more now or later in doctor bills. Keep on writing Bruce, we are reading!

    Reply
    • Bruce Bradley November 2, 2011, 11:18 am

      Thanks so much for your kind comments Jodi. I totally agree with you … quality over quantity is true for most things … especially food!

      Glad to hear you are enjoying my blog. It’s great to help speed the word about REAL FOOD.

      Thanks,
      Bruce Bradley

      Reply
    • MaryEllen Seehafer November 5, 2011, 9:56 am

      Be careful though, not everything at Trader Joe’s is healthy! You still have to read the labels. It is only because I have food allergies and HAVE to read the labels that I realized this fact. It is amazing how much soy is in food! Consider that 90% of the soy in this country is GMO. Unless it is organic it isn’t safe to eat.
      Still, TJ’s is one of my go-to stores for shopping.

      Reply
      • Bruce Bradley November 5, 2011, 10:04 am

        Oh, I totally agree. And TJ’s is on my “do not patronize” list, at least for now. See the link about labor abuses in the tomato fields that TJ’s won’t address. Link: Politics of the Plate by Barry Estabrook, Say it Ain’t So, Trader Joe: Grocery Chain Snubs Delegation of Rabbis and Pastors

        Reply
        • MaryEllen Seehafer November 5, 2011, 10:33 am

          :[
          They are where I buy my organic wine. Whole Paycheck is way too expensive for that. I’m already growing some of my own veggies to avoid the dilemma of where to shop for Real food. I guess I better buy a book on how to grow grapes…..I am working on saving money so that I can move further out in the country and be more self sufficient.
          Thank you for your blog. Very interesting! I’m trying to educate my family but amazingly am meeting with real resistance!

          Reply
  • Gail Nickel-Kailing November 2, 2011, 3:11 pm

    Bruce,

    I’d highly recommend you give up Trader Joe’s and join one – or more – of the terrific natural food co-ops in the Twin Cities. There are some of the best in the country there.

    Love your blog! Take a look at what we’re doing here in Seattle: http://www.goodfoodworld.com. Been at it a year and would much appreciate your thoughts!

    Gail

    Reply
    • Bruce Bradley November 2, 2011, 3:30 pm

      Thanks for your comment Gail. Yes, you are right. I do some shopping at a local natural foods store, but it is smaller, and doesn’t have the selection of some of the bigger ones in town. I don’t profess to be 100% “there” on my food journey, but I’m certainly learning along the way. Three years ago I was eating 100% processed foods with a decent amount of store bought fruit and produce. Now my CSA is my source for veggies. Filling in the winter months and feeding my teenage son are the challenges, but I’m learning more step by step.

      Love the link. I will try to spend some more time with it later and get back to you! Thanks for sharing!

      Reply
  • Martha Constable November 3, 2011, 7:44 am

    Bruce,
    I too have been a fan of Breyer’s vanilla ice cream all my life (especially the little specks of vanilla bean!). Reading your post saddened me, but it did not surprise me. At all. For years, the term “all natural” has been so leached of any substantive meaning that I just ignore it and look for more substantial information on products, like the “no rBGH” pledge or organic certification.

    To effect real, meaningful changes in our food supply regulations — and all other health aspects of American life, actually — the SINGLE most important change we can make is to enact strict campaign finance reform. Until we get the corporate “deep pockets” out of Congress, the Oval Office, the FDA, etc., they will continue to control the conversation and staunch the flow of reliable, objective information to the American public.

    Meanwhile, kudos to you for using your blog to get the good word out there. Keep it up!

    Reply
    • Bruce Bradley November 3, 2011, 8:06 am

      Thanks for your comment Martha. I totally agree. Keeping corporate America’s deep pockets out of our political world is essential. Why do corporations deserve such influence? Unfortunately our society has drifted to a place where corporations have more rights and fewer responsibilities than our country’s citizens. That needs to change. Occupy Wall Street is a start, but so much more needs to be done.

      Thanks again for being part of my blog community and for your kind words. I will definitely keep it up, and with help from people like you, we can really spread the word.

      Reply
  • Deliciously Organic November 3, 2011, 11:52 am

    I became aware of this a few years ago and ever since I make my own ice cream (and just about everything else). It’s sad that I can’t go to the store and buy something as simple as ice cream and it be made out of “real food”. Over the last 10 years I’ve revamped everything in my kitchen. Now I make just about everything with organic, unprocessed foods, and my family and I are healthier for it.

    Btw, I’m loving your blog. Great information. Thank you!

    Reply
    • Bruce Bradley November 3, 2011, 12:16 pm

      Glad you are enjoying my blog. I started making our own ice cream occasionally as well this summer. It is a bit of a hassle, but it does taste delicious!

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, and I look forward to many, many more comments!

      Reply
  • gabrielle heynekamp November 3, 2011, 12:35 pm

    It is even worse: the cows treated with bovine growth hormone are also fed a diet of Monsanto’s Round-Up Ready gmo grains and – pretty soon- Round-Up Ready alfalfa.So we are force-fed a potent herbicide with our beloved ice cream…Thanks, but no thanks!

    Reply
    • Bruce Bradley November 3, 2011, 12:40 pm

      Here, Here! I agree with you Gabrielle. And if our politicians won’t listen to us YET, we still have a voice. Our wallets are the most powerful things big business listens to. If enough people stop buying Breyers because of all this misdeeds, perhaps Unilever will listen. That said, I don’t think I could trust Breyers or Unilever again.

      Thanks for sharing your comment Gabrielle!

      Reply
  • trish mckeen November 3, 2011, 12:59 pm

    Reading the ice cream article… I will use it at Christmas in grade 8 science when I have some (amazing!) grade 12 students do demos for the younger ones. One of the things we do is make liquid nitrogen ice cream. I make a “mix” of cream, milk, vanilla (real stuff, no beaver butt) and a small (and I do mean small) amount of sugar. We freeze it in moments, make a mess, and have tons of fun. The kids and staff RAVE about it – and ask why commercial ice cream can’t taste like that! It also melts quickly because it has no stabilizers, but all the more reason to dig in and eat!

    Kudos to you for stepping away from the corporate food world. Soon it will be just like “Futurama’s” “Momcorp”, a dark, dark day.

    Reply
    • Bruce Bradley November 4, 2011, 2:10 pm

      Thanks for your comment Trish. Your school sounds very lucky to have you. Thanks for visiting my site. I hope to hear from you again with more cool stories!

      Reply
  • Timothy Brown November 13, 2011, 12:15 pm

    I used to hawk this stuff 1990-about 1994. The big truck would pull up to the store, unload it into the store’s back-end freezer, then I would go ’round and “pull product” from the big storage freezers and put the half-gallons in the aisles’ freezers for people to buy. ‘funny thing: the old type of floor freezers that were always open at the top, the one’s where you lean over to look at the products, they were called coffins. I stocked Breyers’ ice cream for a dozen stores. A half gallon was about $2-3, and often 2 for 1 on the weekends here in hot Florida summers. Publix and Winn-Dixie had large coffins and Albertsons had huge end cap stand up freezers. In Abertsons alone I would typically stock up at sale price 100 gallons of ice cream and then top it off the next day. Publix and WD often came in a close second and third. All of them are great grocery stores — ‘just that Albertsons had sold more room to the Breyers at that time. At the time Bryers was owned by Kraft and Kraft was in turn owned by — get this — Phillip Morris, the cigarette manufacturer. “All Natural” is no moral difficulty for the company that claims that there’s no evidence that smoking is bad for your health.

    I never absolutely confirmed it, but Phillip Morris was said at the time to own stock in Health Care / insurance organizations. See?

    Who knew before the age of the internet that grandpa’s mutual fund was killing people?

    Until you change the way money works you change nothing at all.

    Reply
    • Donna Hall November 14, 2011, 11:18 pm

      Kraft is also one of the biggest users of “milk protein concentrate” (MPC),a powdered ‘ingredient ” that is legally imported for industrial purposes,glue,etc.,from countries like China,India ,Russia,etc. China’s melamine,purposedly added,sickened about 300,000 ,killed some,(in China)and has popped back onto the market three times! China is one of the biggest manufacturers of baby formula.Many pets were also affected. MPC,to my knowledge,has never had any scientific safety or nutritional tests done to get FDA’s GRAS status. Another book ?

      Reply
  • Timothy Brown November 13, 2011, 12:16 pm

    . . . and oh yeah, I ate the stuff too. . . . fattest I’ve ever been in my life to date!

    Reply
  • Joan November 15, 2011, 9:27 am

    When I bought ice cream, it was always Bryer’s because they have several yummy ice creams that do not contain corn syrup or HFCS. But I wasn’t paying attention to the milk!

    Reply
    • Timothy Brown November 16, 2011, 6:36 pm

      As the advert says “It’s not your Father’s. . . anymore.”

      Milk: It’s Milk.
      But it’s not.

      Reply
  • grandpa August 31, 2012, 7:55 am

    I just bought a tub of Breyers’ black raspberry-chocolate ice cream and after the first spoonful I knew something was different. They removed the words “all natural” from the label and now list the chemicals in the ingredient list. I’m 84 and used to buy a Breyers’ Dixie Cup on the way home from school if I had a nickle. The new product (I can’t call it ice cream) tastes greasy and not fit for consumption. Good Bye Breyers’!

    Reply
    • Bruce Bradley August 31, 2012, 8:25 am

      I so agree with you. My dad, who would have been 82 this year, was also a HUGE Breyers’ fan would be so disappointed in what they’ve turned their brand into … just another processed, junky ice cream.

      Reply
  • Connie September 9, 2012, 1:26 pm

    Wonderful article, Bruce. You mentioned you no longer shop at Trader Joes and neither will I after this article. What about Whole Foods? I haven’t found a co-op near me.

    Reply
    • Bruce Bradley September 9, 2012, 1:42 pm

      I don’t shop much at Whole Foods, but it’s fine. Unfortunately most of larger chains have their “sins”—none of them are perfect. It’s all about trying to do your best, though.

      Thanks for your visiting my blog and for your comment!

      Reply
  • GREG WOOD December 16, 2012, 10:28 pm

    Thanks so much for your information above. I’ve read Seeds of Deception and Diet for a New America and continue to be more and more leery of our governments protection of our food supply. But then pure greed will rule forever no matter the consequences or deaths.
    My question to you is what can we can we do? What actions aside from writing letters and making phone calls. Are there groups meeting somewhere that I could get in touch with. I live in northeastern PA and our yearly Farm Show is in our state capital, Harrisburg, January 5-12. This seems like a good place to have some personal contact with people explaining GM foods as well as how agri-business treats all animals for production.
    Do you have any additional suggestions as to we ACTION might be taken to wake up people?
    Thanks for listening!
    Greg

    Reply

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Commenting Policy: Following the advice of a popular blogger, I’m running my blog conversation like it’s my living room. Just so you know, I won’t tolerate bad behavior in my living room, and I won’t tolerate it on here. Critical is fine and differing opinions are encouraged. But if you’re rude … bye bye. And when commenting, please use your PERSONAL name or initials and NOT your business name, as the latter comes off like spam. The bottom line is, be cool, keep it clean, and have fun! Thanks in advance for adding to the conversation!

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about.me

Bruce Bradley

Bruce Bradley

I'm a father, food advocate, consultant, and author.

Bruce is a former processed food exec turned food advocate, blogger, and author.

Before his food advocacy work, Bruce worked for over fifteen years as a marketer at companies like General Mills, Pillsbury, and Nabisco. As one of the only former processed food marketers actively speaking out about concerns over the food we eat, the media often seeks Bruce out for his honest perspective. His 2011 interview, Confessions of a former Big Food Executive, was one of Grist online's Top 10 clicked stories for 2011.

Bruce now writes, performs speaking engagements, and provides business strategy and marketing consultant services to help ethical, sustainable businesses reach their potential.

Bruce graduated with an MBA from Duke University and a B.A. from Davidson College. Born and raised in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, he now lives in Minneapolis, MN with his son and their dog, Katie.

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