Better red than dead
April 19, 2012 3:27 PM   Subscribe

Recently Starbuck's customers were upset to learn that their strawberry frappuchinos were being coloured red with insect extract - cochineal. What they probably don't know is that cochineal was once as valuable as gold and silver and is the colour of Catholic Cardinals' robes and the red in the British redcoats of the Revolutionary War.
posted by GuyZero (136 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite

 
The best way to introduce the topic of cochineal is to open with "hey, did you know that red Fruitopia is not vegan?"
posted by sixohsix at 3:32 PM on April 19, 2012 [6 favorites]


And why the colour purple became associated with royalty. Thanks for this post, GuyZero.
posted by infini at 3:33 PM on April 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Whoops, forgot one. "Today, the demand for Cochineal is rebounding to a degree, ironically because of the fact that many of its synthetic substitutes have proven to be carcinogenic."
posted by GuyZero at 3:34 PM on April 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


I just assume that everything is made out of bugs these days and go on my merry way.
posted by Faint of Butt at 3:36 PM on April 19, 2012 [23 favorites]


My reaction was - cochineal, "tomato extract called lycopene", whatever; why aren't people upset that they're being "dyed" with anything other than actual fruit? Or is that a hopelessly old-fashioned idea?
posted by Greg_Ace at 3:36 PM on April 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


I wonder how many of the people who freaked out about this drink milkshakes from McDonalds?
posted by The Card Cheat at 3:37 PM on April 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Today I was surprised to learn that a bunch of people didn't know about cochineal - i thought it was basic playground lore?
posted by Artw at 3:37 PM on April 19, 2012 [33 favorites]


Mmm, bugs!
posted by carsonb at 3:37 PM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


This reminded me of the vegan who was concerned about going to a university that used red in its letterhead.
posted by desjardins at 3:37 PM on April 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


why aren't people upset that they're being "dyed" with anything other than actual fruit? Or is that a hopelessly old-fashioned idea?

The problem is that strawberries just aren't that red once you blend 'em up with coffee. And yeah, the idea that industrial food would not be dyed is somewhere between old-fashioned and naive. Processing makes everything the same grey shade as the undyed wool of the continental armies' uniforms.
posted by GuyZero at 3:40 PM on April 19, 2012 [11 favorites]


What the hell is a frappuchino? I want a pair.
posted by phaedon at 3:41 PM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Five years ago a few Campari aficionados were disappointed at the new recipe and the lack of cochineal.
posted by Revort at 3:44 PM on April 19, 2012 [7 favorites]


Other things which will, I'm sure, surprise somebody:
posted by hattifattener at 3:44 PM on April 19, 2012 [30 favorites]


You should see the unnatural glowing orange the goop they use to make the pumpkin lattes is.

A pity. Those used to be a fun autumn treat before the thought of them made me ill.
posted by Artw at 3:45 PM on April 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


why aren't people upset that they're being "dyed" with anything other than actual fruit?

Because strawberries just aren't very red, as a matter of fact. If you make a strawberry milkshake or ice cream without any additional colorant, you'll notice that you'll get a very pale pink at most. But people have got used to vivid colours in foodstuffs, thanks to dyes...
posted by Skeptic at 3:46 PM on April 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


My favourite unintuitively non-vegetarian food: Marks & Spencer's "Percy Pig" gummy candy. Contains pork gelatin. Yes, those cartoon-pig-shaped gummy sweets are made of real pig!
posted by EndsOfInvention at 3:46 PM on April 19, 2012 [10 favorites]


Yeah, I was disappointed when Campari stopped using cochineal. Emotionally, I though maybe I could taste a difference; intellectually, I knew that was unlikely, so I didn't even bother to annoy someone into giving me a blind test. I just enjoyed the history of the drink and dye itself.

I was just never sure what the big deal was. I mean, practically any food product has a non-negligible amount of insect in it, whether it's actually in the ingredients, like cochineal, or not.
posted by gilrain at 3:47 PM on April 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


Recently Starbuck's customers were I was upset to learn that Starbucks serves strawberry frappucinos. Because what the fuck is that.
posted by tractorfeed at 3:47 PM on April 19, 2012 [29 favorites]


Because what the fuck is that.

Basically a milkshake, nice on sunny days, bit overpriced.
posted by Artw at 3:48 PM on April 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


I was upset to learn that Starbucks serves strawberry frappucinos. Because what the fuck is that.

Whatever you do, don't read the rest of the menu.
posted by The World Famous at 3:49 PM on April 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


This reminded me of the vegan who was concerned about going to a university that used red in its letterhead.

Wow, just wow.
posted by entropicamericana at 3:54 PM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I knew about cochineal thanks to my increasingly-passionate vegan roomie in college. (Girl I will make veggie chili with you whenever you want, just don't make me eat quorn.) But I had no idea about its history. I love knowing about basically everything related to the spice trade; how did I not know about this already? Thanks for the post!
posted by Mizu at 3:58 PM on April 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


This reminded me of the vegan who was concerned about going to a university that used red in its letterhead.

I am so glad I missed the opportunity to comment assholishly on that question. Jesus wept.
posted by elizardbits at 4:00 PM on April 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


Basically a milkshake, nice on sunny days, bit overpriced.

Actually, aren't we all talking about the pre-packaged frappucinos? The milkshakes are actually blended strawberries and bananas. You stand there and watch them pour ...strawberries and bananas into the blender.
posted by thanotopsis at 4:03 PM on April 19, 2012


I may have a way out of this.

I once made a tiny contribution to a cochineal project in central Mexico. It was a program by native women for native women to own an operate their own business. They were doing pretty well, the project allowed women in some communities to get their first taste of economic independence in centuries. Some men got angry at this and started abusing the women, so the women set up a shelter, followed by a clinic and a school.

By making a stink about cochineal in your drink you are condemning hundreds of native women to lifes of abuse and deprivation. How does that make you feel?

Btw, they picked cochineal because the land is so bad and dry that the only thing thtlat grows there are nopales too though to eat but good enough for the bugs.
posted by Ayn Rand and God at 4:03 PM on April 19, 2012 [26 favorites]


I think I've plugged this book before but it's still one of the most interesting books I've read: Colour: Travels Through the Paintbox (oddly out of print in the US?) has an extensive chapter on cochineal as well as the royal purple of murex and the other sources of pre-industrial dye and colours.
posted by GuyZero at 4:07 PM on April 19, 2012 [8 favorites]


And why the colour purple became associated with royalty.

No, that's completely different. One: It's purple. Two: It's made with sea snails.

This dye (which is properly referred to as "carmine") is red, and it's made from the cochineal, which is an insect, which snails are not.
posted by Sys Rq at 4:08 PM on April 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


As an official Bad Vegetarian (rennet, occasional marshmallows), I had known about cochineal in theory for a long time but had no idea it was so widespread. After thinking long and hard, I will have to consign this to the piles of things I just cannot be bothered to care about for my own sake -- though I'm upset on behalf of any vegan friends who thought that their soy frappuccinos were animal-cruelty-free.
posted by Jeanne at 4:14 PM on April 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


The milkshakes are actually blended strawberries and bananas. You stand there and watch them pour ...strawberries and bananas into the blender.

The banana is a banana. (Did you know that banana is pretty much standard pronunciation for that fruit in almost every language on the planet? Some Latin American Spanish speakers say 'platanos' but that's pretty much it.)

The Strawberry stuff...? Well, that's a lot like every other packaged strawberry stuff out there. Some strawberry hunks, a lot of sugar and a lot of gloop to make it hang together nice and look good. Like BUG GUTS!
posted by carsonb at 4:15 PM on April 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


animal-cruelty-free

It feels fear!
posted by Artw at 4:16 PM on April 19, 2012


Its probably due to my science background but being this much of a stickler over food in the age of industry (and going down to this level of scrutiny) seems overly dogmatic.
posted by Slackermagee at 4:17 PM on April 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


2-naphthalenesulfonic acid disodium salt is so much better for you.
posted by Artw at 4:19 PM on April 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


I guess this just really bugs some people.
posted by thecaddy at 4:26 PM on April 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


Cochineal was used in the treatment of gout IIRC. It's also not kosher( umm bugs)
It is a very permanent dye, with preservative qualities for fabric. Women in some parts of Mexico used to insist that the skirt used in their burial clothes be dyed with cochineal. It was so that if they mummified they would maintain modesty after death....
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 4:27 PM on April 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


desjardins: "This reminded me of the vegan who was concerned about going to a university that used red in its letterhead"

Reminds me of a discussion I overheard between two vegans about the appropriateness of eating honey.

Vegan #1: "Honey is a product of insects, it's not vegan and you shouldn't eat it. Think of the insects."

Vegan #2: "Dude, you drive a car and kill insects with your windshield all the time."
posted by mullingitover at 4:30 PM on April 19, 2012 [21 favorites]


My mother always used it in cake icing. Everyone did. Still do. Big deal. They're just bugs.
posted by Decani at 4:30 PM on April 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


shellac- made from lac beetles

Yeah, that's the first thing that came to mind.

Really, eating bugs is not a big deal and can be a decent source of protein, particularly when you compare to the energy required to raise animals for meat. I have a feeling we're going to have to get over it eventually. I mean I think people should be aware of what they're eating, very much so, but I'd rather eat cochineal or even chocolate covered ants anyday rather than ammoniated pink sli.. I mean, lean finely textured beef.
posted by krinklyfig at 4:33 PM on April 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


"This reminded me of the vegan who was concerned about going to a university that used red in its letterhead"

I wonder how many vegans bother to consider the bugs and small animals killed in the harvest of the grains they eat.

I wonder how many consider that growing fields of grain or pulses or vegetables is replacing habitat where animals once lived, and a wholesale genocide took place in order to establish the fields.

I wonder how many consider that even picking berries in a forest will be depriving a bird, bug or small mammal of sustenance.

Carry on.
posted by Jimbob at 4:34 PM on April 19, 2012 [18 favorites]


Prawns - actually just a big bug if you think about it.
posted by Artw at 4:34 PM on April 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


Prawns - actually just a big bug if you think about it.

I remind my son of this constantly.
posted by Jimbob at 4:35 PM on April 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


I wonder how many vegans bother to consider the bugs and small animals killed in the harvest of the grains they eat.

That's getting into Jainist territory.
posted by Artw at 4:35 PM on April 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


Well I was about to say, vegans who start getting worried about red ink should really consider Jainism.
posted by Jimbob at 4:37 PM on April 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm sure that if it's Inkjet it's actually just some kind of conflict mineral.
posted by Artw at 4:39 PM on April 19, 2012


Bugs and small insects? What about the xenocides inflicted on the Mycorrhizae during harvest season? Or all those single-cell wonders they ingest with every swallow?
posted by Slackermagee at 4:40 PM on April 19, 2012


Wow, I can't help but plug for this book "A Perfect Red" here. Its tag line? "Empire, Espionage, and the Quest for the Color of Desire"
posted by of strange foe at 4:41 PM on April 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


2-naphthalenesulfonic acid disodium salt is so much better for you.

For those too lazy to use the googles and who don't have a deep knowledge of food dye trivia, that's a formerly popular red food dye that was implicated in causing hyperactivity in children.
posted by GuyZero at 4:42 PM on April 19, 2012


This is a live issue among people who keep kosher. Cochineal, shellac, and gelatin are common ingredients in confectionery, but they're not kosher.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:43 PM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well, you could justlive off of Prana.
posted by Artw at 4:43 PM on April 19, 2012


"I wonder how many vegans bother to consider ..."

Most of us, because most vegans not complete morons, and we have resolved these concerns, to the extent that they are concerns, quite satisfactorily for ourselves without bothering you about it.

Thanks for asking!
posted by kyrademon at 4:46 PM on April 19, 2012 [20 favorites]


GuyZero: The problem is that strawberries just aren't that red once you blend 'em up with coffee.

Then why don't they just tell people that instead of catering to their ignorance?

And yeah, the idea that industrial food would not be dyed is somewhere between old-fashioned and naive. Processing makes everything the same grey shade as the undyed wool of the continental armies' uniforms.

If more people were brought into contact with that essential fact, maybe it would help to push back against how much processing is done to our foodstuffs.

hattifattener: Other things which will, I'm sure, surprise somebody:

I really need to make a macro for this.

By making a stink about cochineal in your drink you are condemning hundreds of native women to lifes of abuse and deprivation. How does that make you feel?

Sad. But not sad enough to make up for institutionalized casual bug juice in everything red and edible.

Actually, unlike the pink slime business, this doesn't really creep me out so much. But it does affect vegans, and as someone above mentioned, Jews. I think that anything that draws people's attention to how so much of our food is actually prepared is a good thing.

Slackermagee: Its probably due to my science background but being this much of a stickler over food in the age of industry (and going down to this level of scrutiny) seems overly dogmatic.

I can respect that. What I can't respect are those people who gleefully tell people who are trying to live with more consideration towards animals: "Hey you know what's in that Frappuchino you're drinking? It's BUG JUICE! Haw haw haw!"

mullingitover: Vegan #2: "Dude, you drive a car and kill insects with your windshield all the time."

There is substantial difference between accidental death and large-scale intentional death in order to serve industry. Those processes tend to ramp up alarmingly quickly.
posted by JHarris at 4:46 PM on April 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


The problem is that strawberries just aren't that red once you blend 'em up with coffee.

There's no coffee in that drink.
posted by eyeballkid at 4:48 PM on April 19, 2012


Really, eating bugs is not a big deal and can be a decent source of protein, particularly when you compare to the energy required to raise animals for meat. I have a feeling we're going to have to get over it eventually.


I have often thought that insects would be a good food source, really.

1. They are very populous, and would be a much more sustainable source of protein.

2. If sufficiently processed, you would never know the difference.

3. Why not. Someone already went there with the poop-burgers.
posted by louche mustachio at 4:48 PM on April 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


As someone who neither keeps kosher or is a vegan, cochineal is organic, sustainable, renewable, fair-trade and is produced on land that isn't good for producing anything else. It's pretty much the environmentalist's dream food additive.
posted by GuyZero at 4:50 PM on April 19, 2012 [21 favorites]


Someone already went there with the poop-burgers.

who went where now?
posted by GuyZero at 4:50 PM on April 19, 2012


meat- made from animal muscle tissue!

WHAT
posted by pecanpies at 4:50 PM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Lambs eyeballs - made of eyeball goo!
posted by Artw at 4:51 PM on April 19, 2012


This hate-on for vegans is really just neverending fun, isn't it? Seriously though, most vegans realize that they are not going through the world without harming any other animal, they just have decided that it's worth it to go to some significant effort to reduce the amount of animal harm and exploitation that they support through their consumption by as much as is practical.

We all try to get through the world without causing too much harm, unless we're sociopaths. We all draw the line somewhere. Vegans aren't crazy people, they're not irrational beings who are immune to logic and go through the world full of hilarious internal inconsistencies, they've just decided to draw the line in a little different spot than most people.

They are people who have decided that it's worth going to some extra trouble to make some somewhat inconvenient dietary and economic choices in order to reduce the amount of suffering that is caused by their actions. They realize that it's hard to say how much non-human animals suffer, but they've decided to err more on the side of caution. They realize that a certain amount of suffering is probably inevitable, but they want to reduce it where they can. They realize also that by choosing to eat and buy things which are made with less overt exploitation of animals, they are helping to encourage people to make more fewer foods and products that involve animal exploitation in their production.

I don't get why people like to point and laugh at vegans as if they were crazy people who had no idea that insects are killed in vegetable farming or that their cars smash bugs on the windscreen or whatever. They have just struck a different balance than most people, on moral grounds. What is so weird about that?
posted by Scientist at 4:55 PM on April 19, 2012 [46 favorites]


Jains might have found ways to deal with this. I know they serve Jain pizzas in India and there are entire tours of the world specially for Jains (so that dietary issues are taken care of in foreign countries)>
posted by infini at 5:03 PM on April 19, 2012


I don't get why people like to point and laugh at vegans as if they were crazy people who had no idea that insects are killed in vegetable farming or that their cars smash bugs on the windscreen or whatever. They have just struck a different balance than most people, on moral grounds. What is so weird about that?

Because for every subgroup of humanity, there's a small noticable minority who insist on ruining it for everyone else. Whenever any group is being picked on, chances are it's not all of them being mocked, just that ridiculously insufferable 20%.
posted by billyfleetwood at 5:05 PM on April 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


Jains draw the line in yet another place. It's a wide continuum, you know? A detailed treatment of the rules that Jains try to abide by and issues that they have to consider to get through their daily lives would be really interesting sometime, I think.
posted by Scientist at 5:06 PM on April 19, 2012


20% of vegans might be insufferable, but 100% of people who insist on pointing and laughing at vegans are insufferable. Good job.
posted by Scientist at 5:07 PM on April 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


I don't get why people like to point and laugh at vegans as if they were crazy people who had no idea that insects are killed in vegetable farming or that their cars smash bugs on the windscreen or whatever. They have just struck a different balance than most people, on moral grounds. What is so weird about that?

As a person who has had vegans preach to him about their ways while trying to enjoy my lunch, I find the entire idea of veganism to be as hypocritical as any other religion. Honestly, I've managed to have more people preach to me about eating meat in the last five years than to renounce my atheism and become a Christian. Living in Portland (make your own joke), I have acquaintances who are vegan. I've lived with vegans. Most of them play holier-than-thou over many of your life choices which includes one of the most basic human functions: eating. The same vegans then turn around and act completely innocent when you point out obvious fallacies. I've called out vegans eating honey, vegans wearing leather, vegans wearing feathers, even a vegan once wearing fur.

More often than not when stories like this come up it becomes a bash the vegan fest because everyone knows who was campaigning for this. Having to use lycopene means having more tomatoes grown somewhere. Probably Florida. In sandy soils that were once part of the Everglades but are now toxic stews of herbicide employing illegal labor to get the job done.

I don't mind vegans fighting the good fight, but damn, you gotta pick your battles. On the grand scheme of things, this seems like a petty battle to fight.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 5:08 PM on April 19, 2012 [14 favorites]


They have just struck a different balance than most people, on moral grounds. What is so weird about that?

Nothing, I guess. At least not weird in a negative way.

But just like any other group of people with a certain set of morals, the level-headed thoughtful ones are not the most visible ones. The preachy, attention-starved stirrer-uppers are. This colors the vision of others.

And there's a little sticky bit of feeling that is unfortunately sometimes difficult to ignore that asks something like, "If this person doesn't eat animal products for moral reasons, does that mean they think I'm immoral?" Which, when processed too quickly by a human brain, becomes "This guy thinks I'm an asshole! What a fucking hippie!" And then you buy a Hummer out of spite and run down a bunch of deer with a machine gun, to prove you really don't give a fuck.
posted by TheRedArmy at 5:09 PM on April 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


I don't have any beef with vegans per se, but on this particular issue I think most of the alternatives are worse. People want strawberry drinks to be red. Red 40 comes from petroleum and allegedly causes hyperactivity. Starbuck's replacement dye comes from tomatoes which are mostly harvested with borderline slave labour.

The only actual alternative here is for "strawberry" foods to simply not be very red. Which I'm personally OK with, but for whatever reason, people like their drinks to look a certain way.
posted by GuyZero at 5:11 PM on April 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Scientist: We all try to get through the world without causing too much harm, unless we're sociopaths. We all draw the line somewhere. Vegans aren't crazy people, they're not irrational beings who are immune to logic and go through the world full of hilarious internal inconsistencies, they've just decided to draw the line in a little different spot than most people.

I agree that vegetarians and vegans get too much snark, in general. However, it's largely this point that inspires it, I think.

The snarkers perceive the place where vegans draw the line to be at a point which necessitates inconsistency with their own values. Add to that the (exaggerated) minority of vegans who loudly proclaim those values, and the snarkers feel justified in pointing out the perceived inconsistencies.
posted by gilrain at 5:11 PM on April 19, 2012


They have just struck a different balance than most people, on moral grounds. What is so weird about that?

Well, like anything, there's two types of vegans. The ones that just go along their merry way in their vegan lifestyle. And the other ones that wear their vegan-ness like a badge of superiority and demand special treatment in social situations. "Like, OMG, you're exploiting the poor baby animals. Where's the tofu, you fuckwit?" You can't deny that the second type doesn't exist, or deny that it's annoying as fuck.

On the other hand, there are two types of non-vegans. The ones that happily plow into a steak and couldn't give a rat's ass about your diet (/me waves). And the other type that reacts angrily to vegans that wear their vegan-ness like a badge and feel put-upon in social situations. "Like, OMG, stop telling me how to live my life. If you want tofu, get it yourself, you fuckwit."

Neither of the second types are terribly pleasant to deal with.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:12 PM on April 19, 2012 [6 favorites]


I don't get why people like to point and laugh at vegans as if they were crazy people who had no idea that insects are killed in vegetable farming or that their cars smash bugs on the windscreen or whatever. They have just struck a different balance than most people, on moral grounds. What is so weird about that?

That's a fair point, and I apologise. I would hope, then, that the answer to my questions "How many vegans have considered..." would be "most!". What I struggle with is the smell of hypocrisy... people who consider honey "rape" (or is it milk? I forget...) turning a blind eye to the deaths of hundreds of mice when crops that feed them are harvested. Some people give the impression their "line" is defined by convenience.
posted by Jimbob at 5:12 PM on April 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


The colour Vermilion is made from Cinnabar (mercury ore) pigments, but the name is extracted from "vermin": The name 'vermilion' is derived from the French vermeil (indicating any red dye), from Latin vermiculum, the ancient insect dye from Kermes vermilio...

(Speaking of worms, the average number of earthworms in reasonably healthy topsoil is approximately 1,000,000 worms per acre. Your mileage may vary.)
posted by ovvl at 5:14 PM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don’t know why people freak out about the bug parts, but I wish they wouldn’t because the replacement usually turns out to be some cancer causing chemical. I’m pro bug eating.
posted by bongo_x at 5:14 PM on April 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


Should my girlfriend be able to limit my frappuccino intake?
posted by desjardins at 5:15 PM on April 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


You know, I'm not a vegan (though I'm trying, not too successfully, to be a vegetarian) but I've known plenty over the years (growing up Unitarian Universalist will do that for you) and amazingly enough I've managed to get through my life without running into any of the preachy, foolish, hypocritical caricatures that everyone seems to insist make up the public face of veganism. Just maybe some of the folks who seem to be bumping into these people left and right are putting themselves out there in a way that might tend to encourage this kind of conflict? I've found that a little bit of empathy tends to go a long way toward smooth relations with people who are making different moral choices than me -- especially moral choices that aren't harming me in any way.

I will now leave you all to the debate. I just wanted to raise the point that vegans as a whole are a diverse group of people who have generally put more thought into their consumptive choices than most other people and who, like any other large group of people, probably should not be generalized as being idiots or assholes. That kind of thing is not great for the overall health of society, brotherly love, PLUR, all that hippie shit. But then, neither is endlessly debating it on the internet, so I'm going to go take a figurative walk.
posted by Scientist at 5:17 PM on April 19, 2012 [6 favorites]


People want strawberry drinks to be red.

I think this is the premise that is screwing everything up. Do we really? Do we really want all of our foods colored a way that it shouldn't naturally be? Maybe. Maybe we should consider just steering away from it, though.

And, jesus, desjardins, you're like the "Yeah? There's an Askme for that!" lady today (which is very cool).
posted by jabberjaw at 5:19 PM on April 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


Scientist: vegans as a whole are a diverse group of people who have generally put more thought into their consumptive choices than most other people

Incidentally, this is the kind of thing that can sometimes get people's hackles up a bit. Just because I eat meat does not mean I haven't thought about my consumptive choices. You put a truthful "generally" in there, so I can read it charitably... but it could easily be felt to have an accusatory undertone.
posted by gilrain at 5:27 PM on April 19, 2012 [12 favorites]


Do we really want all of our foods colored a way that it shouldn't naturally be?

If you make a strawberry smoothie at home with fairly ripe strawberries it's actually a little pink.

The trouble is that the strawberries used in these processes aren't very ripe and thus have hardly any colour in first place. Plus they're probably one of the newer breeds which transport great but are very white even when ripe. But they're actually trying to make the damn thing the colour it should rightfully be had they not started by breeding frankenberries that grow year-round in the lovely costal climate of the Salinas valley.

If we had to rely on "normal" varieties of strawberries, Starbucks would offer this drink less often than Mcdonalds offers the Shamrock Shake.
posted by GuyZero at 5:31 PM on April 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


I just wanted to raise the point that vegans as a whole are a diverse group of people who have generally put more thought into their consumptive choices than most other people and who, like any other large group of people, probably should not be generalized as being idiots or assholes.

Yes, however its perhaps all this emphasis on morals that can stick in the craw sometimes. I come from a shakahari family myself and some of my favourite cousins are Jains however my own diet is varied. We all respect whosoever's restrictions are the strictest in family functions, careful not to offend any sensibilities but the other side of that coin of respect is that they don't try to convert me back into the family fold nor point out that I've eaten beef (to survive in parts of the world where often there's little choice offered to those with restrictions on one type of meat source or another). The deal is simply we don't sully our kitchens with it and leave survival behaviours outside of the home.

Yet and ironically its the new converts to a meatless life that tend to go on about it so much with all the zeal of the born again. Being vegetarian is simply a way of life, one can live it without any drama.
posted by infini at 5:34 PM on April 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


OK, I lied about the walk. Gilrain, you are totally right and I will own that. I should have said that vegans have generally put a lot of thought into their choices, not "more than most people." Plenty of meat-eaters, including many right here in this thread, have also considered their food choices extensively, though their choice in the end was different. My apologies.
posted by Scientist at 5:34 PM on April 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


Infini too. Totally valid point, intellectual laziness and hypocrisy on my part, mea culpa. I will now bow out as gracefully as possible, for real this time. I just hope people in general can try to be empathetic towards those who have made different life choices, and be neither sanctimonious nor mocking towards each other.
posted by Scientist at 5:37 PM on April 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


Not a problem, Scientist, and I know from experience that you're a thoughtful person who didn't mean it the way I illustrated. Just wanted to point out one of the patterns that can cause the unpleasant backlash you were rightfully upset over.
posted by gilrain at 5:38 PM on April 19, 2012


The trouble is that the strawberries used in these processes aren't very ripe and thus have hardly any colour in first place.

Now we're getting to the real problem! It's not that we want our food colored an unnatural color, it's that Starbucks is trying to feed us subpar foods by using a color additive to make it seem like a fresher food!

That is really shitty, and I hope they get burned for this. Instead they are getting away with using a different food coloring agent not made of bugs, and nobody's asking the bigger question about why the hell they need to fake the color of what they're consuming.
posted by jabberjaw at 5:43 PM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


So everyone is above is acting like bugs and bug products aren't 'vegan'. My understanding is that it's actually more complicated than that.

"There is disagreement among groups about the extent to which all animal products, particularly products from insects, must be avoided. Neither the Vegan Society nor the American Vegan Society considers the use of honey, silk, or other insect products to be suitable for vegans, while Vegan Action and Vegan Outreach regard that as a matter of personal choice." via wikipedia
posted by garlic at 5:56 PM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Reminds me of a discussion I overheard between two vegans about the appropriateness of eating honey.

Vegan #1: "Honey is a product of insects, it's not vegan and you shouldn't eat it. Think of the insects."

Vegan #2: "Dude, you drive a car and kill insects with your windshield all the time."


LOL there is a parable in my buddhist sect about a group of priests that carried brooms to sweep the ground in front of them, lest they step on an ant or something. But that's a long story.

So I'll tell you a different story about food dyes. I used to eat a brand of blue corn chips, but they were really expensive so I started buying a generic brand. After a few months, I noticed the chips suddenly were no longer a natural color of blue, they were much darker. Too much food coloring. I wondered why they would make such a change, it certainly didn't make the food more appealing, now they were ugly and unappealing.

So I tracked down the manufacturer of the chips. I phoned them to complain of the reformulated chip recipe with too much blue dye. I tried to phrase it euphemistically, I told them the human body was not intended to metabolize such a large amount of dye, and that I had personally observed the end results. A very patient person listened to my complaint, and said she would relay the information.

Miraculously, a month or so later, that brand of blue corn chips appeared on the store shelf with less blue dye, like their original recipe. At first the chips looked almost natural. But over time, each batch of chips seemed to become fainter in color, until they were almost baby blue. Somebody was fucking around with the recipe.

A few months later, suddenly the low-dye chips were gone, replaced by chips with more dye than ever. These chips had so much blue food coloring, they were positively black. I can just imagine what happened at the plant. Some guy on the factory floor who was in control of adding the color got an executive order to go back to the original recipe and cut back on the food coloring. But he thought he would show them, he'd gradually back it off, until people started complaining there wasn't *enough* food coloring. Then he put it back to *his* preferred over coloration, and then some. I decided this was a very poor product, and I stopped buying corn chips entirely, blue or otherwise.
posted by charlie don't surf at 5:58 PM on April 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


It feels fear!

Let me tell you something: I'm from Buenos Aires and I say kill 'em all!
posted by ersatz at 5:59 PM on April 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


Are insects Vegan?
posted by garlic at 6:02 PM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I decided this was a very poor product

So my sister works in the food chemicals industry. Her company got a contract to take over production of the stuff that goes in those "k-cups". Not coffee, just the non-coffee stuff like apple cider. They analyzed the current producer's cups and found that the differences in the amount of stuff in the cups was about a 200% variance. Like it had somewhere between 1 and 3 "units" per k-cup.

So apparently some processed food companies lack the ability to do stuff like measure ingredients.
posted by GuyZero at 6:12 PM on April 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


Living in Portland

Well there's your problem...
posted by Aquaman at 6:22 PM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


> Well there's your problem...

Dude are you kidding? The same places that sell vegan donuts also sell donuts with bacon on them.

Yes, there are crazy vegans here (read the comments on the 23 stolen rabbits that were taken from the meat collective, where it has devolved to vegan groups who aren't even from Portland claiming the whole thing was staged to attack vegans because meat eaters have an agenda against them), but mostly there are people who passionately care about food, and those people come in all stripes.
posted by mrzarquon at 6:31 PM on April 19, 2012


From the Vegan Outreach link posted by garlic: [W]e should simply try to avoid products that cause suffering and harm to nonhuman organisms by figuring out as best we can which feel pain.

From the comment by Jimbob: I wonder how many vegans bother to consider the bugs and small animals killed in the harvest of the grains they eat.

Reading these two items reminded me of the mouse pain scale developed a couple of years ago at McGill University. Mice certainly feel pain, and I'd be very surprised if no mice were harmed in the farming of grains, fruits, or vegetables consumed by vegans (and non-vegans, for that matter). It's something that I (as a non-vegan) have never really considered before.

I'm honestly curious, given this definition (?) of veganism, whether or not concern over the harm or death of field mice should be a valid consideration. If so, are there any grain or produce farms that could be considered field-mouse-friendly?

And now I'm thinking about The Secret of NIMH.
posted by youngergirl44 at 6:35 PM on April 19, 2012


Nearly 100 comments, and no mention of Compari? I am disappoint.
posted by Chekhovian at 6:47 PM on April 19, 2012


Campari. Argh.
posted by Chekhovian at 6:48 PM on April 19, 2012


12 oz of puréed strawberries with 2 cups of cream and 2/3 cup sugar is Very Pink when frozen.

I just thought you should know.
posted by seanmpuckett at 6:51 PM on April 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


Chekhovian: Nearly 100 comments, and no mention of Compari? I am disappoint.

Fix yourself a Negroni or Americano and look again, my friend.
posted by gilrain at 6:53 PM on April 19, 2012


Fix yourself a Negroni or Americano

Can do! And my misspelling is to blame. I guess I don't frequently write down my order for the bartender.

Maybe the solution is more insects in our diet. I always wanted to try the Locusts fried in honey recipe mentioned in that old short story (by Clarke maybe?).
posted by Chekhovian at 6:59 PM on April 19, 2012


I'm totally down with bug-eating being a more popular thing in the US. Fried grasshoppers taste kinda like peanuts!

I have an innate revulsion for most insects and other buggy things, but my reaction to stuff I don't like is less "get that away from me!" and much more "I want to kill it and DEVOUR IT." I guess this is probably part of why I'm definitely never going to be vegan. At least if bugs were a bigger part of our diet there would be a viable source of protein for the lazy unthinking variety of "I won't eat anything that's cute" vegetarian.
posted by Mizu at 7:18 PM on April 19, 2012


Hahah, that's funny. People want "All Natural" food colorings, don't they realize insects are natural?

There was a big push in the UK recently to get rid of some artificial colors based on the claim that they caused hyperactivity. Some candy companies ended up getting rid of the colors, eventually replacing them with a "natural" substitute they got from squid or something.

Rather irritatingly, Google is turning up basically nothing from the UK about this when I search. It's all either articles about the FDA looking into it, or random "natural foods" or whatever sites talking about how these food colorings were changed in the U.K. But nothing from actual UK sources, which you would think talked a lot about it (in fact, when i heard about it it was usually from links to UK sources)

I assume this is due to Google's geolocation stuff, which is really irritating. Anyway, I remember hearing they eventually figured out a way to get blue coloring from squid or something like that, along with the red from insects. I can't seem to find any links now, though.
posted by delmoi at 7:19 PM on April 19, 2012


12 oz of puréed strawberries with 2 cups of cream and 2/3 cup sugar is Very Pink when frozen.

Marge! We're out of frozen Starbucks® Chocolate, Vanilla, and Strawberry Frappucino®s!
posted by Sys Rq at 7:19 PM on April 19, 2012


delmoi: Here you go. (Be sure and check the sources.)
posted by Sys Rq at 7:23 PM on April 19, 2012


No, that's completely different. One: It's purple. Two: It's made with sea snails.

So which is the colour made from puppy dog's tails?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 7:30 PM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm from Buenos Aires and I say kill 'em all!

And let the butcher sort them out into tasty, tasty cuts...
posted by PeterMcDermott at 7:31 PM on April 19, 2012


I don't have any beef with vegans per se, but on this particular issue I think most of the alternatives are worse. People want strawberry drinks to be red. Red 40 comes from petroleum and allegedly causes hyperactivity. Starbuck's replacement dye comes from tomatoes which are mostly harvested with borderline slave labour.
From the article:
The pay is miserable. When two growers offered to pay workers a penny a pound more, the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange told them they couldn’t do it; if they did, they would be fined $100,000. The workers live in squalid trailers with faulty plumbing. Child labor and other abuses are rampant.
How is that even remotely legal?
posted by delmoi at 7:33 PM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


hattifattener writes "Other things which will, I'm sure, surprise somebody:
  • shellac- made from lac beetles!"

Shellac is not made from shellac beetles. It is a resin produced by shellac beetles and deposited on trees where humans scrape it off. Raw shellac will contain bug parts but that is accidental in the same way that honey contains bee parts.
posted by Mitheral at 8:01 PM on April 19, 2012


12 oz of puréed strawberries with 2 cups of cream and 2/3 cup sugar is Very Pink when frozen.

I'd say that these ingredients cost more than the commercial frappuchino but then I remembered Starbucks' ridiculous prices. But I'll go out on a limb and say that 'bucks uses a lot less than 12 oz of strawberries per drink.
posted by GuyZero at 8:09 PM on April 19, 2012


How is that even remotely legal?

Who gives a shit? Tomatoes are cheap!
posted by GuyZero at 8:10 PM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


12 oz of puréed strawberries with 2 cups of cream and 2/3 cup sugar is Very Pink when frozen.

Not to mention delicious!
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:43 PM on April 19, 2012


"Where's the tofu, you fuckwit?" You can't deny that...type doesn't exist

I deny that phrase has ever been spoken, yes.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 8:52 PM on April 19, 2012


I don't point and laugh at vegans, but I do point and laugh at people who drink strawberry frappachinos.

Well, not really, because that would be rude. BUT INSIDE I AM LAUGHING
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:49 PM on April 19, 2012


Who gives a shit? Tomatoes are cheap!

Here's a weird thing that has been making me crazy (er) for a while now. For no reason that I have been able to uncover, the price of tomatoes here in Korea doubled (and a bit more) about 8 months back or so. Just suddenly -- boom! TOMATOES NOW COST AS MUCH AS PORK SUCKA!

There are always seasonal price fluctuations on produce here, but they always come and they go. Not tomatoes. Those fuckers are still the equivalent of like $7 a kilo. And I love tomatoes.

Don't get me started about tuna.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:53 PM on April 19, 2012


I have a reciprocity agreement with insects: I won't eat them if they promise not to eat me. Too bad for cochineal that mosquitoes and flesh maggots refused to sign on.
posted by Skeptic at 11:15 PM on April 19, 2012


Artw: "Prawns - actually just a big bug if you think about it."

Bugs are not the same as prawns.
posted by dg at 11:31 PM on April 19, 2012


There's no coffee in that drink.

What does the "-uccino" suffix mean if not "this has coffee in it"?
posted by Challahtronix at 2:20 AM on April 20, 2012


There is substantial difference between accidental death and large-scale intentional death in order to serve industry. Those processes tend to ramp up alarmingly quickly.

You don't think a billion cars on the road cause the "process" of bug death by windshield to ramp up quickly?

On the subject of the origin of the colors of dyes before the advent of petroleum-based synthetics in the late 19th century, I heartily recommend the book Color: A Natural History of the Palette by Victoria Finlay. Cochineal, lapis lazuli, indigo, saffron, celadon, lead white -- fascinating stuff.

What does the "-uccino" suffix mean if not "this has coffee in it"?

Technically it means "small", but in practice in the US it means "mostly milk" (there is nothing remotely "small" about a frappuccino, or anything on Starbucks' menu for that matter). Coffeehouses go through ten times as much milk as they do coffee. Even your "lattes" and cappuccinos are mostly milk.

Note that if you are foolish enough to order a "latte" in Italy the barista will smirk and serve you up a nice pint glass of hot milk, and everyone in the place will smirk while they watch to see if you drink it. If you want coffee in it, you need to mention that: caffe latte. They'll still smirk; no one in Italy would dream of drinking anything with milk in it after 10 AM or so.
posted by Fnarf at 3:28 AM on April 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


This here was the definitive word on cohineal for me a couple of years ago or so.
posted by Boggins at 4:15 AM on April 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Note that if you are foolish enough to order a "latte" in Italy the barista will smirk and serve you up a nice pint glass of hot milk, and everyone in the place will smirk while they watch to see if you drink it. If you want coffee in it, you need to mention that: caffe latte. They'll still smirk; no one in Italy would dream of drinking anything with milk in it after 10 AM or so.

Can attest to this. Have been smirked at... but just once, never again did I allow that to happen
posted by infini at 5:10 AM on April 20, 2012


Now we're getting to the real problem! It's not that we want our food colored an unnatural color, it's that Starbucks is trying to feed us subpar foods by using a color additive to make it seem like a fresher food!

Not sure if this has come up, but I worked at starbucks several years ago and the strawberry frappucinos use strawberry syrup that comes out of a box (that is blended with a milk-based powder mixture, milk and ice to make the drink) The people at starbucks don't put any strawberries into it. I'm not even sure what percentage of this syrup is actual strawberry but I would guess its not very high.

I only mention this because starbucks later came out with smoothies or protein shakes or something that have actual fruit in them.
posted by fromageball at 5:36 AM on April 20, 2012


Mmmmh, purple …
posted by quoquo at 6:11 AM on April 20, 2012


What does the "-uccino" suffix mean if not "this has coffee in it"?

"-uccino" is not a suffix, even if Starbucks, in its crusade against the Italian language, would like to make you think so. "Cappuccino" actually refers to the Capuchin friars, an offshoot of the Franciscans, named so because of the small hoods of their habits. "Cappuccio" means "hood" in Italian, and "-ino" is a suffix meaning small.

There are different theories as to why a coffee drink was named after a bunch of monks, but my favourite one is that the brown ring of coffee showing around the milk foam in a cappucino reminded some of a monk's tonsure.

And a "frappuccino" is an abomination.
posted by Skeptic at 7:24 AM on April 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


And a "frappuccino" is an abomination.

Starbucks coffee is also fucking terrible if you've been bought up on the Italian model. Pay a premium to put an extra shot of espresso in it if you want. (I have. It probably needed two at least. I'm not even sure that would have fixed it.) There is no there there. Categorically the worst and most expensive coffee I have ever had twice.

Why did I do it again, then? I was hoping for some free wifi access on Hong Kong harbour. 2 weeks ago. Spent HK$32 on a coffee after a brisk walk along the harbour promenade because I thought I could check my email if I spent a zillion bucks on a shit cuppa.

Nope.

The deal that came up on the iPad screen was that I could enjoy the "Starbucks experience" of (like wow!) actual wifi for 20 minutes free if I gave them my mobile number, real name, and real mobile.

I'm cheap, but I'm not that cheap.
posted by Wolof at 7:50 AM on April 20, 2012


Oops, real email. Or some real email address. I'm probably lucky they didn't demand a Facebook page.
posted by Wolof at 7:53 AM on April 20, 2012


I thought it was named after the distinctive headwear of the Frappuchin order of friars.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 8:09 AM on April 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


Ever notice how no one talks about environmentalism the way they talk about veganism? No one says: "Well, you use paper, which is harmful to the environment, so you shouldn't care at all about environmental conservation!" No, when the environment is the topic, everyone understands that making some positive change is better than making none; the perfect is the enemy of the good. But somehow, when the topic is animals, everyone's all "How can you be a vegan when you crush bugs?!"
posted by John Cohen at 8:24 AM on April 20, 2012


Because ultimately the actions of one (the food you ingest) benefit only one (your own body) whereas the other's implications are so vast that they encompass the future of those bugs you wish to protect.
posted by infini at 8:28 AM on April 20, 2012


Actually you see that all the time John Cohen. See for example the ragging on Gore about the size of his house.
posted by Mitheral at 8:40 AM on April 20, 2012


TBH I find freaking out about cochineal if you're NOT vegan far sillier than if you are.
posted by Artw at 8:48 AM on April 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Bugs are not the same as prawns.

Yeah, but if my house suffers an infestation of either of them you best believe I am getting out the Rolled-Up Newspaper of Doom and going to town on their chitinous exoskeletal asses.
posted by elizardbits at 8:52 AM on April 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Man, I'd kill for a strawberry frappuchino right now.
posted by ODiV at 8:53 AM on April 20, 2012


Yeah, but if my house suffers an infestation of either of them you best believe I am getting out the Rolled-Up Newspaper of Doom and going to town on their chitinous exoskeletal asses.

What are we gonna do, take them to the movies?
posted by ersatz at 10:25 AM on April 20, 2012


Man, I'd kill a bunch of bugs for a strawberry frappuchino right now.
posted by jabberjaw at 10:28 AM on April 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


"-uccino" is not a suffix, even if Starbucks, in its crusade against the Italian language, would like to make you think so. "Cappuccino" actually refers to the Capuchin friars, an offshoot of the Franciscans, named so because of the small hoods of their habits. "Cappuccio" means "hood" in Italian, and "-ino" is a suffix meaning small.

-uccio is an Italian suffix indicating smallness or affection ("cute little").

-ino is also an Italian suffix indicating smallness.

Cappuccino is a cute, little cap, combining both the -uccio suffix and the -ino suffix to indicate extra super fantastic cute, affectionate smallness. So -uccino is, in fact, an Italian suffix, albeit a compound one.

The -etto suffix can also be used together with the -uccio suffix, resulting in, for example, Cappuccetto Rosso, also known as Little Red Riding Hood.
posted by The World Famous at 10:30 AM on April 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


And a "frappuccino" is an abomination.

I agree, but not from a linguistic perspective. The term "frappuccino" reads, to me, like it's a frappé with the added -uccio and -ino, so it's a cute little frappé. Frappuccino.
posted by The World Famous at 10:32 AM on April 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


"-uccino" is not a suffix blah blah blah

They're not using it as a suffix. They're using it as the second half of a portmanteau.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:33 PM on April 20, 2012


The World Famous, "cappuccio" is actually derived directly from the Latin "caputium", which itself derived either from "capa", a Roman head cover, or from "caput", that is, head...
posted by Skeptic at 2:32 PM on April 20, 2012


Nevertheless, -uccio is, in fact, an Italian suffix.
posted by The World Famous at 2:37 PM on April 20, 2012


Man, I'd kill a bunch of bugs for a strawberry frappuchino right now.

Oh man. Then you could use them to dye the drink. Like in the article!
posted by ODiV at 3:33 PM on April 20, 2012


I only find vegan and vegetarian hypocrisy annoying when it affects me. For some people, as long as you're deciding what kind of pizza to order or what to put in the soup you're making, their dietary choices are a thing they can't make exceptions to, as if they had a dangerous allergy or a prohibition from god. Then you see them with a new leather bag and it's like... ah, ok. It's not a friendship dealbreaker, but people can be thoughtless hypocrites sometimes. Vegans too.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 2:44 AM on April 21, 2012


So my sister works in the food chemicals industry. Her company got a contract to take over production of the stuff that goes in those "k-cups". Not coffee, just the non-coffee stuff like apple cider. They analyzed the current producer's cups and found that the differences in the amount of stuff in the cups was about a 200% variance. Like it had somewhere between 1 and 3 "units" per k-cup.

So apparently some processed food companies lack the ability to do stuff like measure ingredients.


My grandfather worked for a food canner back in the day, and tells the story of how they solved the variance problem. They were trying to figure out how to get beef stew in the cans. If they just (mechanically) ladled it in, every can would be different. And they'd get calls. So they decided to build a process that thunked each ingredient into the cans first, and then put the gravy in last. But then they couldn't get the gravy put in there cleanly. Squirt it in fast and it splashed all over the place. Go slow and the line slows down. Have a probe go to the bottom of the can and it would smush the potatoes. Finally someone decided that the best way would be to put a suction cup on the top of the can, pull a partial vacuum and then the can would suck the gravy in. And that's how cans of beef stew can have the exact same number of potatoes every time.
posted by gjc at 8:06 PM on April 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


THERE IS NO H IN FRAPPUCCINO!
posted by IndigoRain at 5:20 AM on April 22, 2012


There is if you go to the right Starbucks and know how to ask for it.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:44 AM on April 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


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