This is why “flavor” scares me. If beef stock is meant to taste like beef stock it would be made with enough beef to make it beefy. And yet, there it is, all the time, staring out from the ingredient list, sheltered from scorn by its qualifier – “NATURAL FLAVORING”.
Four brands later (even the organic ones weren’t exempt*), I found beef stock without flavoring.
It’s rampant. I began researching, and consulted Wikipedia. The search term “natural flavoring” dumped me onto the “Flavor” page, where flavor is defined as, “the sensory IMPRESSION of a food”. Aha! So flavor (even the natural kind) is basically a trick to make you THINK you’re experiencing something you’re not. It’s the steroid of the food world. A drug enhanced performance by beef stock.
Flavoring is administered to foods who are looking to boost their ability. Plain and simple. If the “buttery” pie crust had enough butter, there would be no need for natural butter flavor. It also gets added because it’s cheap and it’s more shelf-stable than the truly naturally occurring flavor from the food itself. So as a food loses its flavor-strength over time, natural flavors allow it to extend its career.
But natural flavor is an oxymoron. This kind of “flavor” does not occur naturally. It’s made in a lab and is highly processed to extract the flavor from the food and reproduce it in massive volume. Will it harm you? It may not. But it certainly won’t nourish you, and more problematically, it takes you away from knowing what the real flavor of real food is.
Make Your Own Soup Stock
* Organic foods are allowed to contain non-organic “natural flavoring”. Scroll down to the end of this highly ambiguous (to the point of almost comical!) PDF on flavor regulation (here). The document states that for organic foods, “natural flavor must be from natural sources that have not been chemically modified in a way that makes them different from their natural state.” Um, the natural state of blueberry “flavor” is in a blueberry, or its juice, not in a factory-extracted, highly manipulated blueberry derivative. So I guess what I’m saying is, I’m not convinced…
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