Greek Yogurt: Thick And Luxurious, Or Just Full Of Milk Powder?

2222687732_6fa364aedd_mAmericans are crazy for Greek yogurt. Thicker than the yogurts we’re used to, the dairy treats come in pre-flavored and unflavored versions, and it seems like every dairy brand and grocery chain has their own version. Not all Greek yogurts are made in the same way, though. The normal method is to make yogurt, then strain the additional liquid whey, producing a denser product. This results in a product with about twice the protein of regular yogurt, but less calcium. That’s what most consumers probably picture when they pick up a container of Greek yogurt off the shelf. The huge demand for the products means that some manufacturers are finding other ways to get that thick texture and high protein content.

For example, some companies just add more milk protein concentrate to the mix instead of making and straining a batch of regular old yogurt. According to the Toronto Globe and Mail, Canadian brand Liberté uses this method to manufacture their Greek yogurt. They explain the product on the company web page as follows:

A yogurt strained according to the principles of old-time cheesecloth draining, which gives it an incredibly rich and creamy texture and one that’s absolutely free of fat.

So they use the “principles of old-time cheesecloth draining,” but don’t double-strain their yogurt. Gotcha. Liberté is now part of General Mills. Some annoyed yogurt-lovers filed a class-action suit against the company, alleging that the use of milk protein concentrate in its Yoplait brand Greek yogurts isn’t just misleading to consumers, but means that Greek yogurt products shouldn’t legally be permitted to call themselves “yogurt.”

The lawsuit claims that milk protein concentrate isn’t listed as one of the ingredients that the FDA allows in something that’s called “yogurt.” General Mills counters that it’s not specifically prohibited, and there are no FDA regulations for which yogurts can or can’t call themselves “Greek.”

The FDA regulations, written in 1981 and last revised in 1993, list permitted products in yogurt in unappetizing detail:

(d)Other optional ingredients. (1) Concentrated skim milk, nonfat dry milk, buttermilk, whey, lactose, lactalbumins, lactoglobulins, or whey modified by partial or complete removal of lactose and/or minerals, to increase the nonfat solids content of the food: Provided, That the ratio of protein to total nonfat solids of the food, and the protein efficiency ratio of all protein present shall not be decreased as a result of adding such ingredients.

General Mills has asked that the lawsuit be thrown out, but their new Greek yogurt offering in the Yoplait line doesn’t appear to include milk protein concentrate.

Sweet on Greek yogurt? Here’s the skinny [Globe and Mail]
General Mills sued over whether Yoplait Greek yogurt is yogurt [Star-Tribune]


Edit Your Comment

  1. chiieddy says:
  2. Cicadymn says:

    Where’s the list of the good brands vs bad brands? yoplait is good but not good?

    • crispyduck13 says:

      Read the ingredients. If there is anything in the actual yogurt (not the fruit on the bottom or whatever) besides liquid milk, flavoring and live/active cultures it’s not authentic Greek yogurt. If there are any gums or thickeners in there it will be obvious on the label, and then you know how they got the consistency. Same goes for sour cream, especially the reduced fat kind.

    • AtlantaCPA says:

      The only nationally available ones that I’ve seen that are made the right way are Fage and Chobani. I’m sure there are others out there but those are the big ones that are good. I prefer Fage – maybe partly because mixing the fruit in is fun.

  3. huadpe says:

    The Globe and Mail is not a Toronto newspaper; it’s a national paper, much like how USA Today is not a New York paper.

  4. StarKillerX says:

    “….That’s what most consumers probably picture when they pick up a container of Greek yogurt off the shelf.”

    Let’s get real, I’d be willing to bet that most consumers have no clue how Greek yogurt is made or what it contains.

  5. Shadowman615 says:

    I’m scratching my head about what you’re trying to say about Liberté.

    “A yogurt strained according to the principles of old-time cheesecloth draining…”

    But then you are saying they don’t strain it? Huh?

  6. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    So basically General Mills response to why they can do this because “Fuck you, that’s why.”

    They are completely skirting the meaning of the law for the letter of the law.

  7. baquwards says:

    I knew the minute that I tried Yoplait that it wasn’t the real thing, it didn’t compare to Chobani and other brands that I had been eating, heck even my store brand is the real thing.

    • Coleoptera Girl says:

      Fage is my favorite Greek yogurt brand. I don’t like Chobani because I don’t having the fruit already with the yogurt. It makes it all watery. Then again, the first time I tried Greek yogurt was in Greece, with honey… so I’m probably more picky than most.

    • elangomatt says:

      Yeah that was pretty much my reaction too when I first tried the Yoplait “greek” yogurt, just their regular yogurt ever so slightly thicker. That was also the last time I bought that type. My personal favorite is the Fage 2% with honey, but I don’t mind the Chobani at all.

  8. lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

    I have Chobani yogurt in the fridge now, as referenced in the article…plus some Weis store brand Greek yogurt. The store brand doesn’t list milk protein concentrate, but it does have pectin and locust bean gum in it, along with cultured pasteurized skim milk, sugar, vanilla extract, and some bacteria.

  9. YJP says:

    Why are people buying this stuff? Make it at home. Call it Greek Yogurt or Labneh, either way it is well drained good yogurt. So buy or make a quart of yogurt; Place a thin towel or cheese cloth in a sieve, pour in yogurt. Let stand in the fridge overnight or place a weight on it and keep on the counter for several hours. The longer it drains, the better and thicker.

  10. steve says:

    The Trader Joes “Greek” yogurt appears to get the thicker consistency by adding starch, which is worse. The first time I tried it, it was an adequate facsimile, but the second time, there were undissolved starch chunks– and that made for a pretty terrible imitation.

  11. Oh_No84 says:

    Greek yogurt is nasty tasting.
    Anyone that likes normal organic yogurt is not going to like greek yogurt.
    I knows its just supposed to be thicker yogurt, but they found a way to destroy the flavor.

    • PeriMedic says:

      Thanks for saying that. I couldn’t stomach it when I tried it, but was too chicken to say anything because it seemed EVERYONE loves it. :)

    • BorkBorkBork says:

      I tried it once and I thought it was rancid.

      It gave me that same gross sensation in the mouth. It wasn’t a top brand though, so maybe I just got a crappy off-brand…

      • Chuft-Captain says:

        Or maybe just a bad pack. I’ve had a couple Chobani over the last couple years that were turned a little early. It just happens, be it from an invisibly small punture in the seal or whatever.

    • AtlantaCPA says:

      Considering that the majority of what you find the store is not made the right way, I can imagine why you’d say that. My bet is that you got dannon or one of those other ones that are disgusting (because they use cornstarch or other cheap fixes to thicken it).

  12. Pete & Repeat says:

    I make my own yogurt at home!

    Ahhhh, I have been waiting a long time to be able to use that meme.

  13. beachmouse says:

    Libertie used to be quite good until it got bought out by the multinationals, who have suddenly switched up formulas in the past few months in order to cut costs, and the whole brand has gone to hell. They’re apprently getting a metric ton of complaints about the new formulas and may be forced to back track to their original (ie. more expensive to produce) formula if they want to salvage their purchase of the brand.

  14. Thnaggle Tooph says:

    Oikos is a good brand too if y’all are looking for one to try.

  15. Cacao says:

    I first tasted Greek yogurt in London in ’89. I was told what made it so good was not just that it was strained to be thicker, but that cream was added. Cream added to milk!! How decadent.

    My friend Richard and I would stop at the outdoor market in Soho after work and pick up fresh strawberries. We’d eat strawberries and Greek yog before dinner. Cuz that’s how we rolled.

  16. quail20 says:

    When the Greek Yogurt fad started I began to see ways that you could make your own on the nets. Basically you get a gob of regular yogurt (hopefully a good one) and just squish it into cheese cloth and hang the whole thing over a bowl inside the fridge. In a day or two you’ve got Greek Yogurt. If you keep it in there too long, however, you’ll start to make cheese.

    Never cared for the Greek Yogurt. And it too shall die like all of those other healthy/lose weight/food as medicine fads usually do. I can see Julia Child rolling over in her grave now. This one would be up there with her hatred of boneless and skinless chicken breasts.

    • AtlantaCPA says:

      While it may die down a little, this is no fad that will disappear. It’s actually a better product to a lot of people (it’s just about the only yogurt we buy and we eat a lot between my family of four). I never heard anything about it being healthier or medicinal, those sound like crazy claims.

  17. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot says:

    While I don’t eat greek yogurt on its own, I do strain yogurt at home to make it, and use it instead of sour cream as a base for dips. Its quite fantastic.

    It also is great to add to a pan of sauteed chicken/pork/beef and then eaten over noodles.