One of Big Food’s tried-and-true strategies to drive sales is to create recipes that call for use of their products. Most larger food companies have a team of home economists designing these recipes. Sometimes contests like The Pillsbury Bake-Off ask consumers to share recipes. These days even bloggers are getting in on the action by designing “sponsored” recipes. But every so often one of these recipes literally becomes so profitable it’s what industry insiders call a “signature recipe.”
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If you venture into a grocery store this time of year you can start to see them stacked high. Like red and white mountains towering from the supermarket shelves, these cans adorn end-of-aisle displays and pop up across the store. Yes, it’s the American processed food classic—Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Condensed Soup.
Founded in 1869 the Campbell’s Soup Company has become an icon of the packaged food industry. It’s a surprise to some, but its famous condensed soups weren’t invented until 1897. When I ran the Progresso Soup business, Campbell’s was the 800-pound gorilla of the soup aisle. Yes, Progresso’s adult soup strategy carved out a bigger slice of the category, but Campbell’s still called the shots. Its condensed recipe soups were an American staple and a “cash cow” for Campbell’s and grocers alike.
But when you take a closer look at the condensed Cream of Mushroom soup label, it’s hard to feel very good about this popular item.
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So what side dishes are on your menu for Thanksgiving? If you’re like a lot of folks, über-sugary, sweet potato casserole might be making an appearance on your table.
Perhaps this is heresy to admit, but I’ve never been a fan of this traditional Thanksgiving dish. Sadly sweet potatoes that have been drenched in brown sugar and marshmallows taste more like a kids’ cereal than a side dish. Sweet Potato Frosted Marshmallow Crunch, anyone?
While making this dish once a year is hardly a crime, I thought I’d suggest something new for your holiday menu. Switching things up can be fun, right? And if someone in your extended family is a sweet potato casserole die-hard, perhaps they can bring it this year ?
So what do I suggest you make instead? Continue Reading >>
Canned cranberry sauce was a mainstay on my mom’s Thanksgiving table. Refrigerated and cut into slices, it was exceptionally easy and popular—even us picky kids ate it up! But somewhere along the line a good friend of my mom’s introduced us to REAL cranberry sauce. Over the years hearing the “pop” of cranberries on the stove has become a new tradition, and something I think your family might enjoy as well.
Why should you consider Kicking the Canned Cranberry Sauce? It’s pretty simple. With a whopping 24g of sugar per 70g serving, Ocean’s Spray’s Jellied Cranberry Sauce is OVER ONE-THIRD added sugars. And by the way, we’re not talking unprocessed sugars. Nope! Ocean Spray uses Big Food’s finest sweeteners: high fructose corn syrup and corn syrup. If that’s not enough reason to make the switch, another is to avoid Ocean Spray’s continued sketchiness about BPA in their cans. After going around and around with their staff, the closest I could get to a statement was, “yes, our cans contain trace amounts of BPA.” Unfortunately, more and more research suggests it doesn’t take much BPA to effect your body, so I think we can all do better.
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Factory-farmed turkeys. Yikes! What a mess. If you missed my earlier post, I interviewed a former turkey farmer who supplied a Big Ag company. I think the single best insight from this interview was when George “Buddy” Black said,
So what can you do? If you’re not a vegetarian or vegan, but want to serve up a healthier, more sustainable option for your Thanksgiving dinner, here’s a game plan:
- Shop organic: Organic certification assures that the birds receive organic feed, have access to the outdoors, and are raised without antibiotics or growth-enhancers like Roxarsone and Topmax.
- Shop local: Smaller, local farms usually employ more sustainable practices that can be better for your turkey and the environment. Even if these farms aren’t certified organic (since getting certified can be costly), it’s probably a better choice. Over the past 5 years of my food journey, I’ve learned that it’s a good idea to get to know your farmer and where you food comes from!
- Find a “heritage” turkey: What’s a heritage turkey? Heritage turkeys are what turkeys were before Big Ag started industrializing production with big, broad-breasted birds that are anything but natural. In fact, did you know that industrial turkeys can’t reproduce naturally, they can barely walk, and their narrow gene pool makes them very susceptible to disease? In contrast, heritage turkeys are from strong genetic stock, and they’re raised outdoors with plenty of grass and sunshine. If you’re interested, the Naragansett and Bourbon Red varieties are two great heritage turkey options. For my Thanksgiving this year we’re serving a Bourbon Red turkey from a local farm called Little Bend Heritage Farm (sorry, they’re already sold out of turkeys for 2014).
- Ditch the pre-basted turkey: To help you out I did some research and called the Butterball hotline to see if they have any non pre-basted options. Unfortunately what I learned wasn’t great news. First, all of their turkeys are pre-basted. For their regular (not “all-natural“) turkeys that means they’re injected with water, salt, spices, sodium phosphate, and modified food starch. As I discussed in my post about rotisserie chickens, the overuse of phosphates in our food is being linked to some serious health conditions. So I’d avoid these turkeys at all costs. Butterball’s so-called “all natural” turkeys skip the sodium phosphate and modified food starch additives, but they’re still industrialized birds, and they’ve been injected with water, salt, and spices. I realize we’re all in different circumstances and places on our real food journey, but if at all possible, I’d try to avoid these highly commercialized birds.
Finding a better bird, however, can be a bit of a challenge, especially with just a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving. But if you’re interested here’s what I’d suggest: Continue Reading >>