Monday, February 13, 2006

The good, the bad, and the ugly

The good:

The great thing about Wednesday’s New York Times Article “Low-Fat Diet Does Not Cut Health Risks, Study Finds” is that it might mean we are turning the corner away from a food culture that champions synthetic, chemically altered foods that protect us from our favorite food villain: FAT. As cheesemongers we appreciate the terrific potential of this kind of shift in our culture. Cheese could actually move from the ranks of forbidden to recommended food. Then Oprah would not have to put a caveat in her magazine next to the Murray’s Selection holiday gift box suggestion- telling you to be sure you find a good cardiologist before you consume.

We would welcome this kind of change. At Murray’s we are fans of products made with ingredients we recognize: milk, salt, and rennet to name just a few. This change would do more than support our belief that eating largely whole and unprocessed foods- even the sweet and fatty stuff- in moderation, plus exercise is the equation for a healthy America. A shift in our diets towards whole foods could also alter the entire way our food is produced.

The bad

New York City recently slashed whole milk from the lunch line in all of its public schools. While we empathize with the complexity of the federally funded lunch programs in public schools their decision raises serious concerns. In our minds, Mr. Naczi of Dairy Management Inc (parent of the American Dairy Association) summed it up best in this statement, “Milk consumption in this country is in a 20-year decline because of competition from soft drinks; obesity is on the increase. I don’t know how you can take a decreasing graph and blame obesity on this product.” They are canning whole milk because it is easier to do than removing chocolate milk from the line up, or decreasing the number of soft drinks and other synthetic, processed foods consumed by their students.

Whole milk contains fats that are vital for your body and those fats contain vitamins that aren’t available from other sources. The synthetic vitamins that they add to low and nonfat milks are not the same, in fact they have been linked to some health problems. Adding insult to injury, industrial skim milk is not made from liquid milk, it is reconstructed from dry milk and during the process cholesterol is oxidized which actually raises cholesterol in the body. And besides, when is someone going to talk about the amount of sugar and processed food in children’s diets? We challenge the schools to figure out how to feed their students nutritious food made from whole ingredients that tastes good. We encourage anyone who says it can’t be done to read about successful efforts by some of our favorites Alice Waters ( and Jamie Oliver (

The ugly

While there are some amazing advances in American artisan foods there are seriously scary things happening on the processed side. Take “Pizza Cheese” the bastardization of Mozzarella that Pizza Huts around the world use on top of their pizzas. We give you this tidbit from The Milkweed a small, dairy industry monthly, “Pizza Hut’s cheese supplier- Leprino Foods- uses a silicone-based industrial chemical in the patented manufacturing of “Pizza Cheese: That chemical- Polymethylsiloxane- has no FDA approval for use as a food ingredient.” What is this about for Pizza Hut? Money. Leprino adds so much starch and water to the “cheese granules”, before flash-freezing, that they don’t melt properly.

The reality

We understand that the logistics, economics and ecology of food production are complex. But our bodies are also complex and we can’t help but think that maybe the best way to remain healthy is to feed our bodies food it understands- food that is made up of ingredients we can pronounce.