Store Bought Beef Broth or Stock — Not the Real Deal

Store Bought Beef Broth or Stock — Not the Real Deal post image

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

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

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

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

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.

Digestive Benefits

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.

Where to buy broth made from the bones of grassfed animals

Check out more recipes for broth and soup!

This post is shared at: Gluten Free Wednesday, Mommy Club, Sustainable Ways, Allergy Free Wednesday, Healthy 2Day, Real Food Wednesday, Wheat Free Wednesday, Party Wave Wednesday, Creative Juice Thursday, Full Plate Thursday, Simple Lives Thursday, Eat Make Grow, Thank your Body Thursday, Pennywise Platter, Freaky Friday, Gluten Free Friday, Fresh Bites Friday, Fight Back Friday, Foodie Friday, Seasonal Celebration, Melt in Mouth Monday, Monday Mania, Slightly Indulgent Tuesday, Traditional Tuesday, Hearth & Soul Hop, Tasteful Tuesday


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Leave a Comment

  • Amy November 14, 2012, 1:02 pm

    This needs to be shouted from rooftops! What a well written, interesting, informative article. Funny thing, people might be more willing to make this if they knew how it makes your hair and nails grow … visible proof of benefits. I’m a new health food nut and learn something outrageous every day. Ive been using powdered beef gelatin to thicken stuff and make fruit snacks.

    Gonna pin it, and as soon as we get our cow back from the butcher, gonna make some.

    Thank you!!!

  • Denise @WholemadeGoodness November 16, 2012, 4:32 pm

    Great post. I’ve recently been exploring repeatedly using the same bones for multiple batches of beef broth and am amazed at how well this is working. Who knew I was wasting perfectly good bones by tossing them out after the first batch?

    • Jill November 16, 2012, 6:12 pm

      HI Denise,
      Yes I have used the beef bones twice so far and it works well.

  • Heather November 16, 2012, 8:35 pm

    Your articles are always so well-presented and well-researched. I love reading informative, interesting content where I actually learn something! I make my own broths, but I get those same headaches when I eat soup in a restaurant. I found the information on the misnomers/unlabeled ingredients most enlightening. Thank you!

    • Jill November 16, 2012, 10:13 pm

      Hi Heather,
      Thank you so much for your kind words. Your chickens are awesome! Really beautiful!

  • Miz Helen November 17, 2012, 3:45 pm

    Wishing you and your family a very Happy and Blessed Thanksgiving. Thank you so much for sharing with Full Plate Thursday and hope to see you soon!
    Miz Helen

  • Heather T November 21, 2012, 12:30 am

    I am using the Firefox browser and when click on the link for the co that makes Bone Broth it just takes you to a list of food topics. Then I had to search to the bottom of the page for a link cause the food topic’s aren’t linked. Then I found US wellness, do they do bone broth? It would be great if you just linked to the co from this article.

    Great article otherwise.

  • Danielle @ Analytical Mom November 21, 2012, 12:51 am

    That lovely layer of fat on top of the broth is another added bonus! Thanks for the translation of all those mysterious labeling words.

  • Kaarin Puhala November 21, 2012, 6:22 pm

    Thanksgiving season is a great time to load up on turkey parts for turkey stock! I just bought a 10 LB box of turkey necks and the butcher gave me a deal. I’ve got four pots of stock going right now.

    • Jill November 21, 2012, 8:33 pm

      Hi Kaarin,
      Great idea!

  • April @ The 21st Century Housewife November 25, 2012, 11:35 am

    It’s really scary to think how many additives could be in something that is labelled ‘beef’! Very interesting post!!

  • Crystal February 6, 2013, 11:20 pm

    I searched on the USDA’s website for your info about 135 part water to 1 part beef and couldn’t find it. Would you mind sharing the link so I can read about it? Thanks so much!