Comprehensive Report Gives Consumers Valuable Tool to Decode Dairy Aisle

The Cornucopia Institute, which produces science-based reports that empower consumers to make informed decisions about their food choices, recently completed an investigation into the cottage cheese industry, a re-emerging market that’s forecasted to grow nearly 10% by 2022. Its new Cottage Cheese Scorecard rates more than 100 cottage cheese products from 24 brands.

Due to a recent surge in popularity, dairy consumers now choose from a growing number of cottage cheese options, ranging from organic and minimally processed cottage cheese to products laden with sugar and other potentially harmful additives. Cornucopia’s new report, Weighing the Curds, helps consumers separate nutritious options from overly processed concoctions.

“A lot has been written recently about the ‘comeback’ of cottage cheese. Cornucopia’s work offers more than a market data analysis—we actually give consumers a tool to differentiate the quality among the products available,” said Anne Ross, Cornucopia’s director of international policy.

Some manufacturers heavily sweeten cottage cheese to improve its flavor. Many add thickeners and gums, such as the gastrointestinal inflammatory agent carrageenan, to make their products “creamier.” These additives mimic yogurt products that are marketed as healthy, but contain sugar and unnecessary additives.

“Cornucopia’s analysis found that organic cottage cheese products are far superior to their conventional counterparts,” continued Ross. “This is, in part, because most organic brands stay true to the simplicity of authentic cottage cheese.”

Conventional cottage cheese often contains ingredients not allowed in organic cottage cheese, such as artificial flavors. Consumers should also watch for “natural flavors” in conventional cottage cheese, as these ingredients are not held to the same strict standards dictated by organic food. The natural flavors in conventional foods are commonly processed using synthetic, petroleum-based solvents, such as propane and neurotoxic hexane.

Many conventional cottage cheese products also contain modified cornstarch and modified food starch. These ingredients are derived from corn that is heavily sprayed with synthetic fertilizers, herbicides, and insecticides—and is likely genetically modified. Likewise, maltodextrin in conventional cottage cheese is sourced from genetically modified and conventional crops and genetically modified yeast.

Since all ingredients in certified organic products must be GMO-free, organic cottage cheese is always made from non-GMO ingredients.

“Cottage cheese from grass-fed cows can have increased nutritional benefits when compared to cheese made from milk derived from dairy cows raised in conventional confinement and fed a diet high in concentrates including grain and soy,” said Kestrel Burcham, Cornucopia’s director of domestic policy. “When you buy authentic organic dairy products, you support farmers who promote soil health and high animal welfare standards not seen elsewhere in the dairy industry.”

Picking the highest-quality brands out of a crowded dairy case is only getting tougher.

“As more manufacturers seek to cash in on the growing popularity of cottage cheese, we want to give dairy consumers the information they need to separate the occasional treat from a nutritious food, while identifying products they might consider eliminating altogether,” observed Ross.

She continues, “Unfortunately, some food manufacturers will always be motivated by lucrative profit margins at the expense of consumer health. We want consumers to know the best options, which undoubtedly always means organic.”

To see how your favorite cottage cheese brand rates, access our mobile-friendly scorecard and read the full report

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