What’s Really in Store-Bought Beef Broth?
Beef broth and stock are starting to get a lot of play in the kitchen as the cold weather moves in over most of the country. We find ourselves making stews, soups and slow-braised dishes of meat to fight off the chill and fortify ourselves. Beef broth also provides a delicious base for a hearty meat ragu or gravy. These long-cooking dishes warm the house, as well as the soul.
Most of us keep an ample store of homemade broths and stocks in our freezers, and it’s a good thing we do. Jill (the Real Food Forager) recently examined the most commonly found ingredients in store-bought beef broth and stock, and they are a far cry from anything most of us would classify as “food”. These ingredients, combined with industrial food practices, scrape out a product that barely merits the label “beef” at all. We’re breaking out our stock pot right now.
Did you know that commercial store bought beef broth and beef stock has hardly any beef in it? The The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) requires a ratio of 135 parts water to only 1 part beef in broth or stock. So you may as well ask – where’s the beef?
Manufacturers are intent on creating a beef stock that emulates the beef stock and broth from traditional cooks but at a much lower cost and consequently a much lower quality. Does that surprise you?
Advances in Food Chemistry
There are always new techniques and advances in food manufacturing and stocks and broths have followed suit. The company goal is to make a stock or broth that really tastes beefy and savory but without using a lot of beef. There is no attention paid to the actual health benefits (which are many) of a good quality homemade beef bone broth. And none paid to the nutrition or lack thereof, in commercial stocks.
In fact, most commercial stocks use chemical additives and flavor enhancers to beef it up.
Cooks Illustrated Took a Look at Beef Broths
In 2010 the magazine Cooks Illustrated revisited beef broth tasting. In a previous tasting, they had found that most commercial broths tasted, “like the foam and crud you might skim off a pot of stock.”
However, in 2010 they tried again and found two companies that seemed to produce a good tasting stock. When they evaluated the ingredients, they were surprised to find that both companies used very different ingredients.
“One brand listed nearly 20 ingredients—many of them processed additives—while the other listed less than half that. According to the labels, the former stock also boasted a total of 7 grams of protein per serving, while the latter had just 3. How could two broths with quite different protein counts still share such a similarly beefy flavor—and accomplish it in seemingly very different ways?”
They found that that depends upon how you define protein. Aha. Another underhanded industry deception.
Moisture-Protein Ratio (MPR)
The first ingredient in one of the two favorites was beef stock. But this couldn’t account for the beefy flavor, as it is only 1 part meat to 135 parts water. This is known in the industry as the moisture-protein ratio.
That translates to less than 1 ounce beef to a gallon of water. At home you would use at least three to four pounds of meat to one gallon of water.
The MPR of 1:135 clearly means that it is watered down considerably — pathetically. Any nutrients that may actually be in the commercial broth would be few and far between.
Beef extract is also a term that is regulated by the USDA. It refers to a mixture made from boiling consecutive batches of meat in the same cooking liquid until it boasts 75 percent “solids” to 25 percent “moisture.”
This could bring up the protein content on the label and account for the beef flavor.
However, the beef extract is typically made from highly processed meats such as corned beef or corned beef byproducts which may have very questionable additives used in the curing process.
Do you make all your own stocks and broths at home?
This article originally appeared on RealFoodForager.com. It is partially posted here with permission of the author.
Photo Credit: Jill (the Real Food Forager)
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