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.
Beef powder is defined by the USDA as “dried pulverized beef tissue”. Hmmm. I wonder what that could be? Actually, this contains the naturally occurring flavoring compound glutamate, commonly known as monosodium glutamate, or MSG. While it is naturally occurring in homemade bone broths (in very small amounts), this is a way of adding MSG to a commercial product without listing it as MSG on the label.
Pretty tricky. That could be dangerous for people who are sensitive to MSG. I’ll raise my hand here. I always wondered why my head felt swollen after I ate soup in restaurants — it is the MSG. They can trigger far worse symptoms in sensitive people, which is a topic for another post.
Beef fat, called beef byproduct by food companies, may also be included in a commercial beef stock. It is not the good beef tallow from grassfed cows that we know and love.
Oh no — it is not even fat — it is simply another term used for glutmates.
Yeast Extract or autolyzed yeast extract is also simply another term for glutamates.
All these ingredients add to the beefy, savory flavor in the broth and used together, they potentiate the flavor.
Through the use of processed beef products and glutamate-rich additives, food companies can have a low-cost formula for creating beefed-up beefy flavor. But with so little meat as the base they still need the help of other substances like corn syrup solids, soy lecithin, and gums to create the body that in a homemade stock comes from the breakdown of meat collagen and connective tissue.
Concentrated Beef Stock
This is another industry term that refers to a beef stock with an MPR of 67 – 1. That is, 67 parts water to 1 part beef. While still diluted this is twice as concentrated as the regular stock ratio.
Even if a company is using this concentrated beef stock they will probably still use yeast extract to beef up the flavor and possibly gums to beef up the texture.
Homemade Broth or Stock is Best
There is nothing in a commercial stock that can compare with homemade beef stock or bone broth. In a Real Food kitchen, it will be made from the bones and meat of grassfed cows and it will be simmered with a splash of cider vinegar for 24, 36 or 48 hours to extract all the minerals from the bones.
Commercial Broths are Not Made From Bones At All
None of the beef stocks evaluated by Cooks Illustrated included the use of bones. That is where most of the nutrition lies. Traditional cultures never wasted any part of the animal and the bones were revered for the marrow and the minerals. Modern commercial recipes do not even use the bones at all so there is a negligible amount of minerals in the broth.
Health Benefits of Real Bone Broth
The health benefits are many. The minerals are very available in the broth when properly made from bones.
There would be no need to take any mineral supplements or joint supplements like expensive condroitin sulfate because the collagen and gelatin in the broth is actually more bioavailable and will nourish the joints better than supplements made in a lab.
For people with allergies and/or leaky gut, bone broth is the ticket to healing. It is an essential part of any healing protocol as the collagen and gelatin in the broth not only helps the joints, but the mucous membrane lining of the intestine as well.
Bone Broth is a Superfood
Bone broth is dense with nutrients and mucous membrane supporting molecules that are easily assimilated in the intestines. In my practice it is a critical and mandatory part of my recommendations.
It’s Cheap To Make
It’s actually much cheaper to make your own broth or stock that may be used in stews, soups and sauces even when you are using the most expensive meat and bones from grassfed cows. The bones are very cheap and you can use very inexpensive cuts of meat as well.
The recipes usually call for a large amount to be made so you do it once and it will last for a while. When calculating the cost per quart, you will find that is it much cheaper than buying a quart of organic beef stock that does not compare to the quality you can make at home.
It’s Simple To Make
Real Food beef stock recipes are very simple. The ingredients are quality bones, good meat for broth making, like oxtail and short ribs, filtered water, sea salt and time.
There are very few companies that make this kind of broth and sell it. It is a labor intensive procedure and it requires good quality meats. In order to get the broth that has a lot of gel or collagen and gelatin from the bones, it needs to be properly simmered in low temperatures, over a long period of time. It’s best to make these at home.
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