When you pick up a container of something as simple as cottage cheese, wouldn’t you think it would contain…let’s say…milk, cream and salt? That’ s what I thought too. Assuming cottage cheese would be nothing more than cottage cheese, I never thought to check the label past the fat content. Recently, I did…and I was shocked! I shouldn’t have been…but I was.
While shopping at Walmart, I decided to swing through the grocery section to pick up a few items that we needed at home (this was before our decision to go organic.) Without even thinking, I grabbed a container of Great Value cottage cheese. It was the cheapest and all cottage cheese is the same, right? Wrong. Noticing that it was only half eaten and sitting in the fridge forever, something told me to check the label.
Here are the ingredients: Cultured pasteurized grade A fat free milk, cream, whey, salt, maltodextrin, citric acid, lactic acid, phosphoric acid, guar gum, carrageenan, modified cornstarch, carob bean gum, dextrose, potassium sorbate (for freshness), enzyme. My first thought was, “wow…what IS all of THAT?” So, I turned to my best friend, Google, and started researching.
- Maltodextrin – food additive thickener; even though it’s processed, it comes from natural food, not a chemical additive
- Citric Acid – a weak organic acid used as a natural preservative; However, most citric acid in the food industry is not extracted from citrus fruit, but fermented by Aspergillus niger mold from scrap molasses, waste starchhydrolysates and phosphoric acid
- Lactic Acid – coagulator
- Phosphoric Acid – mass produced chemical used to acidify foods and beverages; provides a sour taste; has been linked to lower bone density in studies (does this defeat the purpose of eating cottage cheese? For medical use, it’s used as a dentistry etching solution for teeth.)
- Guar gum – extract of the guar bean; can be used as a thickener, emulsifier or stabilizer
- Carrageenan – extract of red seaweed; different uses; thickens dairy products
- Modified cornstarch – starch derivatives prepared by physically, enzymatically, or chemically treating native starch, thereby changing the properties of the starch; may be modified to increase their stability against excessive heat, acid, shear, time, cooling, or freezing
- Carob bean gum – gum extracted from the seeds of the Carob tree; thickening agent and gelling agent in food technology.
- Dextrose – a simple sugar
- Potassium Sorbate – is the potassium salt of sorbic acid. Its primary use is as a food preservative (E number 202); inhibits mold; increases shelf life
In no way do I claim to be a food chemist, nutritionist or all around know-it-all about food production. All of this information simply came from Wikipedia. Anyone can find it with a little searching. What I DO know, is that list contains WAY too many ingredients for the simple making of cottage cheese. Of course, that’s MY opinion…and you know what they say about those.
So…what about the Kroger brand that I had been buying on a weekly basis? Cultured skim milk, milk, cultured cream, whey, salt, cultured dairy solids, cultured dextrose, maltodextrin, sorbic acid (to maintain freshness), citric acid, carrageenan, guar gum, locust bean gum. The item I had the biggest beef with, phosphoric acid, was not included in this list. That tells me it’s not a necessity in the making of cottage cheese. Just an observation.
For our third comparison, let’s consider the Daisy Brand “Pure & Natural” cottage cheese. Cultured skim milk, cream, salt…that’s it. Daisy is NOT an organic brand, though their products contain 100% natural ingredients, no additives or preservatives and no growth hormone. The choice seems obvious, doesn’t it? But, let’s factor in cost, taste and nutrition.
In comparison of the labels, the calories per serving are all the same. Kroger brand has the least fat, 4.5 g. as opposed to 5 g. As far as cholesterol, Daisy wins with 15 mg, followed by Kroger with 20 mg and Great Value with 25 mg. The same goes for sodium content: 360 mg, 450 mg and 460 mg. Daisy brand only has 3 g carbs with 3 g being sugar. Kroger brand has 5 carbs with 4 g sugar and Great Value has 5 g of carbs with 5 g being sugar. Again, Daisy wins in the protein area with 14 g. Kroger has 12 g and Great Value has 11 g. The only area in which the Great Value brand wins is with calcium, having 25%. The others only have 8%. Though, does the Great Value brand need to have a higher calcium content in order to make up for the phosphoric acid eating away at your bones? Purely speculation…but something to think about.
- Great Value: $1.97 – small non-consistent sized curds, not strong or pungent flavor, kind of chalky
- Kroger: $1.99 on sale – small defined curds, creamy taste
- Daisy: $3.39 – strong, rich cottage cheese flavor, slightly tangy/acidic flavor
In reviewing these stats, obviously, the cheapest cottage cheese has the least flavor and worst nutrition label. The most expensive has the strongest flavor and healthiest label. Which do we prefer? Honestly, we like the Kroger brand. Texture, price and taste are all appealing to us. Just because we like it, doesn’t mean I’ll buy it. We’re going to give the Daisy brand a go and see how it works out. We already love their sour cream, it’s time to test out the cottage cheese. Obviously, they are not all created equal.
Take your pick.
What’s YOUR choice?
***UPDATE: We have changed our cottage cheese choice to strictly Daisy brand now. Even though it is not organic, it only contains three ingredients. We also choose the Daisy brand for sour cream because of the same reason. It’s so important to read the labels and know what you’re eating.***