Archive for the ‘Faux Food’ Category

Service of What’s Mine is Not Yours

Thursday, August 24th, 2023

There have been countless news features about people breaking windows and display cases and wholesale robbing jewelry and handbags from high fashion stores as well as swooping items off drugstore shelves and goods from the ground floor of department stores.

Many of us have been impacted as well by cybertheft.

Some theft is subtler than what happens when thieves break into stores and smash display cases. Manufacturers of luxury goods and foods have long fought counterfeiters who charge a few hundred dollars for fake $5,000 handbags or palm off cheap versions of pricey cheese or wine as the real thing.

Is this “real” Parmesan?

The Parmesan cheese people in Italy have come up with a new way to fight the makers of fake parmesan by putting a chip in the skin of their wheels wrote Joanna Partridge in The Guardian. When I heard about the embedded microtransponders I thought of jars of pitted olives or cherries and how even with the pitted claim, I’m careful as it’s so easy to munch on a rogue pit and crack a tooth.

I don’t think we need to worry about swallowing or chomping into these teensy chips—she says that are about the size of a grain of salt inserted in the label—because neither I, nor most others, eats parmesan’s hard outer skin and certainly not the label.

Partridge reported that parmesan, which she noted was first made by Benedictine and Cistercian monks over 1,000 years ago, “is one of the most counterfeited cheeses in the world.”

She continued: “The cheese, which can trace its history back to the middle ages, gained the EU’s prized protected designation of origin (PDO) status in 1996. Under those rules parmigiano reggiano – the only kind which can be called parmesan within Europe – must be made in a small part of northern Italy, including in the provinces of Parma and Reggio Emilia.”

The extensive PDO list is fascinating. It ranges from brands I’ve never heard of such as Dons wine from Southern Denmark and Lapin Puikula, a potato from Lapland to Abondance, a cheese from Haute Savoie, and the better-known Champagne and Camembert de Normandie. 

The chip should help to confirm that stores, where PDO rules prevail***, are buying and paying for the right 88lb wheel of parm but I’m not sure how consumers will know whether the chunks they purchase are knockoffs or real. Partridge reported that “Last year, the PRC was successful in blocking the US food giant Kraft Heinz from registering the ‘Kraft parmesan cheese’ trademark in Ecuador, and hailed this as a notable victory, given that the EU’s PDO status is not recognised everywhere outside Europe.”

***The United States does not recognize it. Should it? Do you wonder, when paying a lot or a little for well-known products, such as parmesan, that you may not be buying the real thing?

Do you think that the chip will help discourage faux parmesan sellers in the EU and UK and effectively protect the brand? Have you seen other ways luxury brands protect their goods? Can you think of more effective steps food and wine producers and manufacturers can take?

Coach on Fifth Avenue, Manhattan
Ferragamo on Fifth Avenue, Manhattan

Service of Medium Rare Synthetic Burgers and Steak

Monday, March 1st, 2021

People of a certain age would never have believed the impact that Michael Bloomberg would have on cigarette smoking in NYC and the world.  In addition to making the habit socially unacceptable in many circles, the Smoke-Free Air Act of 2003 nixed puffing in restaurants, bars and most workplaces. The ban has moved to beaches, parks and more recently to many apartments in NYC in both public and private spaces in co-ops, condos and rentals.

Dana Rubinstein reported in politico.com that only Turkmenistan had such a ban in ’03 but, said Bloomberg in a speech 10 years later, 49 other countries had joined up.

This is why steak houses had best pay attention to Bill Gates. Nicole Lyn Pesce reported on one of many points he made in his new book “How to Avoid a Climate Disaster: The Solutions We Have and the Breakthroughs We Need.” She wrote in marketwatch.com: “And among his calls to action: switching to synthetic beef to reduce methane emissions, aka the gases that cattle and sheep release when they belch or pass gas.” She continued “it’s simply a biologic fact of life that the bacteria in the digestive tracts of livestock releases methane as it breaks down food.”

Companies such as Burger King tried to quell the gases by adding lemongrass to beef feed and researchers in Maine and New Hampshire are studying the impact of feeding seaweed to cattle.

Pesce quoted Gates from a piece in Technology Review: “You can get used to the taste difference, and the claim is they’re going to make it taste even better over time. Eventually, that green premium is modest enough that you can sort of change the [behavior of] people or use regulation to totally shift the demand.”

She quoted a Morningstar forecast that by 2029 plant based meat sales will hit $74 billion as compared to $12 billion last year. She reported that McDonald’s and chains Taco Bell and KFC plan to “roll out plant-based sandwiches and other alternative meat items this year.” We’ll see how well they sell. McDonald’s stopped selling salads in 2020.

Bloomberg’s detractors called his a “nanny state.” Gates has arrows aimed at him as well. Wrote Pesce: “Some other critics also questioned why Gates should dictate what countries should do to address climate change when a new report in the Nation named Gates as one of the world’s top carbon emitters. It notes he lives in a 66,000-square-foot mansion outside of Seattle, and his private jet consumes 486 gallons of fuel each hour it flies.”

I wrote in “Service of Healthy Frozen Desserts–But is it Ice Cream?” that I’d rather go without than eat an ersatz treat. On the other hand who knows–maybe the burger made of weeds will remind me of the ones we got in school that bounced if they fell on the floor and weren’t reminiscent of anything I’d eaten before. But I got used to–and even fond of–them.

If you’ve eaten faux meat how did you like it? Will you switch to chicken, pasta and grilled cheese sandwiches instead if synthetic beef and lamb is all that’s available? Will we need to worry about pesticides in our “burgers” if they will be necessary to ramp up growth for increased demand for greens? What will happen to cattle ranchers and their land? Are you concerned about potential climate disaster? What are you doing to mitigate it?

Service of Calling a Spade a Spade

Thursday, October 17th, 2019

I can’t sell a ring with glass in the setting and call it a diamond; I can’t call a synthetic textile cashmere, linen or silk no matter what it looks or feels like.

So why is it OK for the substitute milk producers to call their oat, almond or coconut alternatives milk?  And what about the food fiddlers who use the meat word to ID their plant-based alternatives?

In “Dairy, Beef Products Fight for Shelf Space with Plant-based Alternatives,” Wall Street Journal reporters Heather Haddon and Jacob Bunge write about what cattle ranchers and dairy farmers are doing about it.

They wrote: “Now, cattle ranchers and dairy farmers are starting to push back. Trade groups representing meat and milk producers said Monday they are ramping up marketing to underscore the difference between their cattle-made products and new rivals made from soy, almonds and peas. Plant-based replacements make up just 1% of the U.S. meat market by volume, Nielsen said.” [Nielsen the polling company.]

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association “also want legal limits on the ability of plant-based producers to call their products milk or meat. This year 45 bills have been introduced in 27 states that seek to police the labeling of plant-based products and cell-cultured meats, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration held a hearing last month on how to update dozens of labeling standards governing food products, including plant-based meats.”

The FDA is currently reviewing 13,000 comments that chime in on whether meat and milk can appear on packaging. One of the advocates for plant-based substitutes for meat thinks it’s unfair to bring the government into the discussion.

I think it’s simple: if it’s not meat or cow [or goat’s] milk the manufacturer shouldn’t use the words meat or milk in labeling and marketing. Your thoughts?

Service of Healthy Frozen Desserts–But is it Ice Cream?

Monday, August 12th, 2019

I have tried ersatz food and have learned that if for whatever reason I cannot find the real thing, I’d rather pass. This goes for meatless burgers, diet sodas or sugarless salad dressing and cookies.

Someday I would like to be proved wrong. In the case of ice cream, my verdict about the increasingly long list of faux treats stands–based on what they sound like: No thanks.

Anne Marie Chaker’s Wall Street Journal article, “‘There Was Something Else Ground Up in the Ice Cream,’ Children Revolt at Plant-Based Treats,” brought me up to speed on the artificial landscape for ice cream. She wrote “For ice cream lovers, it is the summer of our discontent. Eager to woo health-conscious consumers, food brands are marketing a growing range of ice cream alternatives made with ingredients such as avocado, cauliflower, beets, zucchini, oats and navy beans.”

One man in her article passed on dairy-free ice-cream [an oxymoron?] made of avocado. Other frozen treats in this category include ingredients from soy to sweet potato, pea protein to coconut.

Some dairy ice creams are supposedly healthy, promoting benefits like being “light” while including probiotics. Additional ingredients are spices or vegetables such as turmeric, cinnamon, spinach, zucchini or cauliflower. I like these vegetables and seasonings but for dinner, not in ice cream.

Chaker reported: “Ice cream must contain at least 10% milk fat for it to be labeled ice cream, according to federal regulations. Farm to Spoon bills itself as a ‘plant based frozen dessert’ while Snow Monkey pints made of banana purée and other ingredients say it is a ‘superfood ice treat.'”

I might like these frozen desserts if they tasted OK, but not as a substitute for my favorite food group. Maybe they’d work as a side to a main course. Have you tried any of these exotic concoctions? Would you seek them out? What faux or tampered with foods to make them healthy do you like? In referring to ice cream in Chaker’s article, several people used the word “fun.” Don’t vegetable-based frozen treats sound anything but fun?

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