melted_snowball: (food)
melted_snowball ([personal profile] melted_snowball) wrote2009-07-27 07:40 pm

Review: Squeezed

Alissa Hamilton's Squeezed is a book about processed orange juice.

What's to know? Orange juice, after all, is "100% orange, pure and natural".

Actually, much of what's to know is available right on Tropicana's website, which kind of blunts the claim of the book that they're trying to lie to you.

Anyhow, what is to know? Well, both pasteurized orange juice and concentrated orange juice, if you created them in the obvious ways, would taste awful. So in both cases, what happens is that a quantity of fresh juice or of orange oil is added to them; both concentration and pasteurization destroy these flavour components.

Also, ready-to-serve "not from concentrate" brands turn out to be pasteurized twice: once when they're juiced and placed into huge chilled OJ tanks, and once when they're to be put in cartons or bottles. This means that the "less processed" image of this kind of OJ is totally bullshit. Once upon a time, it was actually a little better: they were frozen straight after being juiced, and then pasteurized right before being bottled.

Another funny situation is that the "Florida" image that Tropicana and Minute Maid cultivate is increasingly bullshit: the actual juice processing plants, including those in Florida, are owned by Brazilian companies these days, while Tropicana and Minute Maid are largely marketing companies. (This is not, one notes, much different from the state of affairs for pet foods; after the melamine-in-pet-food scandal a couple years ago, one of the surprising facts is just how many different pet food companies Menu Foods made pet food for.) Anyhow, most American juice manufacturers are starting to use Brazilian concentrate (or pasteurized not-concentrate) in their production of OJ. They don't have to actually document the quantity of this in their label; they can just say, "from the US, Brazil and South Africa" or whatever.

All of this is vaguely interesting, but the book enters some weird rhetorical flights of absurdity, which gets tiring. Not just the one I posted about a few days ago, but she also waxes at length about how much consumers want more of a connection to all of the steps in their food's processing. I don't really think that's so; probably some do, but others still enjoy their Twinkies, thanksverymuch.

The book ends with a big jeremiad about how awful it is that citrus farming in Florida is losing out to the state being a giant condo community for retirees, and how terrible foreign (Brazilian, in this case) food is for US society.

This really amuses me, because of course, Floridians, until the Brazilians started selling more, used to supply the world with lots of its OJ. So, um, is international trade in foodstuffs only a good thing when it's exported, not imported? Oh, okay. Good to know.

Really, orange juice, like any other commodity is manufactured and standardized. We shouldn't be surprised that international trading partners enter into the process of producing it, and that as a consequence of that, it becomes less possible for people in the First World to make a living producing it. In fact, we should be surprised if that didn't happen.

A couple of other thoughts about OJ. First, I know people who prefer reconstituted OJ or pasteurized OJ to fresh-squeezed. I'm pretty sure my mom does, in particular. Do you?

And second, it does interest me that juice oranges are worth something like $3/bushel to growers. I don't want to think about how much more I pay for them when I buy them here and juice them in my food processor.

Oh, and it should be clear, but don't waste your time reading this book. This could have been an okay Harper's article of 5 or 10 pages, but 200 is way, way too much.

[identity profile] 2009-07-28 12:51 am (UTC)(link)
This topic is interesting. Thanks for the summary so I don't have to read it myself.

I only drink fresh-squeezed, if at all. I'm not much of a juice drinker, so even that is maybe once a year. Dr. Thingo must have his not-from-concentrate (or fresh-squeezed if he's lucky) every single morning.

[identity profile] 2009-07-28 01:56 am (UTC)(link)
[ profile] da_lj drinks a fair amount of OJ. I have it sometimes, but not all that often. I prefer whole oranges, which I really only eat in the winter when there's nothing else good.

[identity profile] 2009-07-28 01:02 am (UTC)(link)
I know people who insist that the not-from-concentrate juice is less acidic and more pleasant to drink. I also thought this was twaddle, and now I can back that up. Pasteurized twice, just what you need.

Thanks for the summary, this was interesting and I'm glad I don't have to read the whole book.

[identity profile] 2009-07-28 01:55 am (UTC)(link)
The book makes it pretty clear that this is one of those amazing triumphs of marketing: if you put "recon" (the tradespeak for reconstituted concentrated OJ) into the Not From Concentrate cartons, people prefer it to NFC juice in recon cartons.

(The other difference, really, is that Tropicana throws a lot of money at designing the "flavor pack" of orange oil and the like that goes into Pure Premium, so it has a consistent taste that consumers train themselves to like. Which, well, makes sense.)

[identity profile] 2009-07-28 01:35 am (UTC)(link)
thanks for reading this to save your dear readers the effort!

I wasn't inclined to read it because I didn't expect to be surprised.
So it's this processed drink (much like my milk, I'd argue, except that they add orange oil), which tastes good to me, has some vitamins, and bears some relationship to the fruit. And it's not "fresh from the grove", it sits around in big vats for a while first. Oh, the horror.

If they want to tell me that it doesn't actually contain any vitamin c, or is likely to be contaminated with weirdshit in addition to the vitamin C(no, orange oil is not weirdshit), etc, then I'd probably be more shocked.

[identity profile] 2009-07-28 01:52 am (UTC)(link)
Yeah, I think the analogy to milk is pretty much right.

And indeed one of the things that's missing from the book is basically, "okay, so OJ is a heavily processed agricultural commodity. Is it any different from any of the other 'pure'-ish commodities I eat? Is it more processed than milk for drinking? Or flour? Or canned tomatoes?" I still don't know. I know, in part from [ profile] chickenfeet2003 that all milk products result from first separating milk into its constituents and then re-assembling them, so "cream cheese" is no more "cheese made from cream" than is "whole milk" whole.

I do think it's interesting that, say, 100% pure OJ can have tangerine juice or seville orange juice in it, up to 5% each (they're there for colour and flavour balance, basically), and there was another round of "natural flavour is just artificial flavour produced in the most inefficient way possible" as well. But no, the story isn't especially special.

(The vats are fucking huge, also. 1M litres, say, in facilities that have dozens that large. That's a lot o' oj.)

[identity profile] 2009-07-28 02:44 am (UTC)(link)
And now, I have enjoyed a glass of pasteurized orange juice in a carton, thanks to this discussion. Ahh.

[identity profile] 2009-07-28 02:00 am (UTC)(link)
Actually, much of what's to know is available right on Tropicana's website, which kind of blunts the claim of the book that they're trying to lie to you.
This raises the interesting question of whether the information *was* on Tropicana's web site before these (gasp!) horrendous revelations. The latest snapshot of is from January '08, and that doesn't seem to contain any useful info on what goes in their juice...

[identity profile] 2009-07-28 10:20 am (UTC)(link)
*nods* They certainly do mislead the customer in other ways. Their Trop50 thing (the watered down juice with fake sugar) is marketed in ways I find quite troubling.

[identity profile] 2009-07-28 02:07 am (UTC)(link)
Thank you for reviewing the book. My mom called about the issue, all upset by a radio show on it. I had the impression that the manufacturer was putting _artificial_ flavours into the juice. That would bother me, but the natural flavours are no biggie.

I do however object to the energy expended in shipping liquid long distances. So I will stick to the frozen concentrate, to reduce carbon emissions. (Hm, I wonder if shipping a smaller can in a freezer truck costs more energy than shipping a large jug in a fridge truck...)

[identity profile] 2009-07-28 10:22 am (UTC)(link)
It really is worth remembering that "natural" flavours are just artificial flavours produced inefficiently.

The energy involved in transportation is almost surely small compared to the energy involved in keeping the concentrate frozen or the NFC chilled during the time it's in Florida.

[identity profile] 2009-07-28 12:42 pm (UTC)(link)
Tropicana provides some info on carbon emissions, and the "distribution" segment is pretty big. Of course, since they don't explain their breakdown, for all we know chilling in Florida could be a part of "distribution".

[identity profile] 2009-07-28 12:56 pm (UTC)(link)
Huh. That's really neat. Thanks, though as you say, that's not super useful...

I know that for lots of produce, shipping is mostly a red herring in terms of energy use (which is why "food miles" is not so useful most of the time). But refrigerated OJ trucks may matter.
navrins: (Default)

[personal profile] navrins 2009-07-28 02:09 am (UTC)(link)
I definitely prefer Tropicana-type orange juice to fresh squeezed. I don't think I can tell the difference between "not-from-concentrate" and "from concentrate," though I think I can sometimes tell the difference with apple juice.
dpolicar: (Default)

[personal profile] dpolicar 2009-07-28 02:31 am (UTC)(link)
Fresh-squeezed OJ is a completely different drink from carton OJ, in much the same way that, say, cranberry juice is. I'm fond of both of them, but I can only drink a little of the former at a time.

[identity profile] 2009-07-28 10:23 am (UTC)(link)
I really prefer the fresh-squeezed. (With blood orange!)

[identity profile] 2009-07-28 03:32 am (UTC)(link)
she also waxes at length about how much consumers want more of a connection to all of the steps in their food's processing

Indeed. That is why you see so many people with axes held over their heads running around crying "here, piggy piggy, here!".

With regards to fresh-squeezed: I do like it, but feel it is absurdly expensive. No doubt because if they could just squeeze it at the distribution plant and ship the end product it costs a lot less. But if you can get citrus fruit at a discount it is so much tastier.

[identity profile] 2009-07-28 10:24 am (UTC)(link)
I *really* wished I'd had my food processor when I lived in Davis, since oranges there were either free off people's trees or $3/10lbs at the farmers' market.

[identity profile] 2009-07-28 03:44 pm (UTC)(link)
Free is an excellent price. There's someone down the block from me with a nice lemon tree, but I've never seen them out and about and would feel weird going up to knock on their door and beg lemons from them. (someone must be picking them because all the low-hanging fruit is usually gone around the time it ripens)

[identity profile] 2009-07-28 03:48 pm (UTC)(link)
I ate so many Meyer lemons during those six months. Gah.

[identity profile] 2009-07-28 03:37 am (UTC)(link)
What? You mean they didn't stick a straw directly in the orange for me to drink? I'm outraged!

I feel the same way as you about great swaths of non-fiction. Most of it does not need to be a book. But articles just don't have the same cultural cache or bang for their buck.

[identity profile] 2009-07-28 10:24 am (UTC)(link)
Yup. She needs a book on her CV, presumably.

[identity profile] 2009-07-29 12:48 pm (UTC)(link)
I find it's far more interesting to actually meet the people who write books like that. Listening to someone who is that passionate about orange juice talk about how important it is to them is a far more thrilling activity than reading what they wrote about it!

[identity profile] 2009-07-29 01:04 pm (UTC)(link)
Especially since one is curious what else they might know about. I'm sure this persons expertise on processed food is much larger than just orange juice.

[identity profile] 2009-07-29 02:10 pm (UTC)(link)
If it is, she didn't show it in places where it would have been helpful. As an example, an obvious question is, "how does OJ processing compare to milk processing?" And she never addresses it at all; her only reference to dairy stuff is that it's misleading to have pasteurized OJ next to milk in dairy cases. (Why? They're both pasteurized, no?)

[identity profile] 2009-07-28 09:43 am (UTC)(link)
Oh, geez, I am so surprised by what the author has to say that I'm glad I'm sitting or I'd be fainting... :-P

I can tell which is freshly squeezed, which one is not from concentrate and which one is from concentrate. Not a big deal. If they all had different names, no one would blink and it'd be perfectly OK, just like the different kinds of chocolate or coffee. I can even drink instant coffee, as long as I have not been misled into thinking I'd be getting real coffee.

What I think is that the several kinds of OJ have a different balance of flavors, both not-from concentrate and concentrated taste cooked but I figure that for people who never had or rarely have OJ freshly squeezed from real oranges, they might get confused into thinking NFC is the real deal. It's not. Moreover, I grew up used to having dozens of different breeds of oranges, and people can tell what kind of orange the OJ is from in places like that -- it's about the same as people who can tell what kinds of apples, peaches etc they're tasting here. One of the reasons OJ tastes weird here is that they mix several kinds of oranges to try and balance the flavor and get some flavor consistency. Also, by the time oranges get to us in the supermarkets, they're not as fresh either, which changes the flavor a bit.

Anyway, like I said, I prefer fresh oranges freshly squeezed, but I'm perfectly willing to not only drink, but we actually buy the other kinds. We've been buying stuff like Simply Orange or Tropicana or Florida's Natural (I think that's the name?) because I prefer the balance of flavor, but we also buy frozen (concentrated OJ) sometimes.

[identity profile] 2009-07-28 10:28 am (UTC)(link)
Well, they go past just balancing in different kinds of oranges to adding in tangerines and sour oranges, which is kind of neat.

There are a lot fewer varieties of oranges grown in Florida now than, say, 30 years ago: it's now dominated by two varieties, each of which has around 40% of the market. This is troubling, of course, since they're all clones.

But then again, one could say the same thing about bananas, and I'm not sure I need to read books about bananas...

[identity profile] 2009-07-28 01:38 pm (UTC)(link)
Fresh squeezed > NFC >> frozen. I suppose I'm disappointed to learn the shocking truth about Pure Premium and its ilk, though (1) it would be surprising if there weren't magic processing steps, given how different it tastes from fresh squeezed, (2) it really is much nicer to drink than frozen (which they're serving at The Banff Centre, grrr), and (3) ultimately it's not bad for you. If I found out they were enhancing the flavour with Liquid Cancer, I would change my ways.

[identity profile] 2009-07-28 03:49 pm (UTC)(link)
"she also waxes at length about how much consumers want more of a connection to all of the steps in their food's processing"

Strikes me as perhaps being the product of an echo chamber effect. Maybe that's more true in some regions (hers). But I don't think that's *really* the case even here, and out east that kind of talk is just the sort of thing a liberal rabblerouser from Ontario would come up with to begin with, and we don't take kindly to rabblerousers around these here parts unless they're OUR rabblerousers. Albertans would say they're already close enough to the moocows thankyouverymuch. I don't know what BCers think.

I certainly don't care much. I have enough other things to care about.

[identity profile] 2009-07-28 03:51 pm (UTC)(link)
*nods* I still think it's funny how much one globally manufactured good (food) seems to matter more to people in terms of how it's produced, marketed and processed, while so many others don't. But she is right that it does matter to some people. But I think the echo chamber is almost entirely class-based, not geography-based.

[identity profile] 2009-07-29 12:56 pm (UTC)(link)
I think it makes sense for us to care about the steps in our food's processing. When we eat, whatever it is we're putting into our bodies literally becomes part of our bodies. I think we grossly underestimate the degree to which that affects us. Modern culture for many of us has taken away so much of our control over how we meet our basic needs. Knowing what steps went into our food's process gives us back some of that control, or at least gives us the illusion that we are reclaiming some of that control.

At least, that's my theory of the day. ;-)

[identity profile] 2009-07-29 02:09 pm (UTC)(link)
Yes, that's true. I think it's at times a very false control, though. (And again, it's also frustrating to me how awful the author of this book found the current situation with OJ: really, orange juice that is pasteurized, stored, pasteurized again, and that has orange oil added to it? It's not nearly as worrisome as, say, CAFOs.)

[identity profile] 2009-07-29 06:45 pm (UTC)(link)
Yes, I understand that it's important.

I also understand that I have about fifty kajillion other things that are equally important, and so I've chosen to not care as much about this sort of thing as those others.

[identity profile] 2009-07-29 01:01 pm (UTC)(link)
I am highly amused at the timing of this post. I rarely spend money on orange juice; I usually think of it as being in the "gosh I wish I could afford that" category...but this week I'm trying to convince myself that I'm not as poor as I think I am, so I bought a big ol' Tropicana Orange Juice With Extra Pulp as a luxurious treat. So I'm sitting here drinking this orange juice, which I never have, and here I find this post. ZING!

It sure is delicious. :)

[identity profile] 2009-07-29 02:06 pm (UTC)(link)
Of course, the pulp is added during the bottling process. :-)

[identity profile] 2009-07-29 02:15 pm (UTC)(link)
Plus, it's not even orange! The juice I'm drinking is clearly yellow.

[identity profile] 2009-07-29 02:18 pm (UTC)(link)
They manipulate the colour by adding tangerine juice. :-)

[identity profile] 2009-07-29 02:33 pm (UTC)(link)
Okay, I can live with tangerine juice. At least it's a fruit. The only thing I can think of that would really make the juice orange would be carrots, and for some inexplicable reason the idea of carrots in any form less solid than "raw and crunchy" give me the heebie-jeebies.

Now I'm all curious about what they do to soy milk, though...I drink a lot of that. I am one of those weird vegan hippie types who really DOES want to know what happened to food before I decide to put it in my body.

[identity profile] 2009-07-29 03:08 pm (UTC)(link)
Oh, food politics! The unfortunate thing about how this works, of course, is that it's nearly impossible to actually get the straight story about what goes on, because everyone is extremely biased about food production. Being involved in the business of food production is inescapable, because everyone is going to eat at some point. (Except, perhaps, breatharians (

I am always amused by labeling products "natural" or "organic". If it's unnatural and inorganic, it probably isn't edible!

[identity profile] 2009-07-29 07:43 pm (UTC)(link)
That website is run by Marion Nestle, who's pretty cool. You might enjoy her books.

"Organic" got given a definition; regardless of whether it made sense for that to be the word, we have our hippie ancestors to thank for it. "Natural", on the other hand, has two meanings: for flavours it means, "produced in archaic fashion", while for anything else, well, actually it has no meaning at all.

[identity profile] 2009-07-29 07:02 pm (UTC)(link)
You may be interested in the Illinois prisoner soy diet that's currently getting a lot of links.

I bought a machine to make soy and nut milks at home this winter. There are strong differences between homemade and commercial products, most notably for me in terms of texture: the commercial beverages have a thicker, heavier mouthfeel.

[identity profile] 2009-07-29 07:40 pm (UTC)(link)
I am quite troubled by that article. Then again, I am also quite troubled by other things I saw on that site that were not supposed to have been troubling.

[identity profile] 2009-07-29 08:05 pm (UTC)(link)
I am similarly troubled by that article. I've been vegan for nearly 7 years, and the idea of eating a diet so reliant on soy is...well, that's disgusting, I'd be dead in a year if I did that, maybe sooner. But it also gives the idea that soy = bad, and soy is not inherently bad for you. I do eat a fair bit of it...I just don't base my whole diet around it. If I had been accustomed to eating meat 2-3 meals a day, and suddenly started just replacing it with soy...I mean, that's horrifying, no way, ugh! I eat soy several times a week, sure. I also eat a lot of vegetables, nuts, whole grains, beans, fruit...and very little processed food at all.

I'm interested to hear what else on that site you found troubling.

[identity profile] 2009-07-29 08:06 pm (UTC)(link)
Wow, homemade soy and nut milks sounds amazing! How is that going for you? What kind of machine did you get?

[identity profile] 2009-07-29 09:50 pm (UTC)(link)
After reading several reviews, I settled on the top of the line SoyQuick. It comes with a recipe book. I was disappointed in the promises made of mung bean milk but generally pleased.

Once I adjusted to the flavour and texture, it's working well for soy and almond milk as well as tofu. It is a few minutes of work to make a batch of milk, closer to half an hour for tofu. By not buying commercial soy and almond milk or tofu, I've probably saved the cost of the machine over the past half year.