Fans of Breyers ice cream may notice something different about their favorite ice cream packages soon.
Earlier this year, Uniliver, the parent company of Breyers, promised that Breyers would start using milk and cream entirely from cows that haven’t been treated with artificial growth hormones. U.S. stores began receiving the hormone-free Breyers ice cream this summer.
The company will also use sustainably sourced vanilla, farmed according to standards set by the Sustainable Agriculture Network or the Forest Stewardship Council. Unilver is one of the world’s largest buyers of vanilla.
According to Breyers, dairy producers need to sign an affidavit swearing that they do not treat their animals with artificial growth hormones. While the FDA still considers bovine growth hormones safe, consumer concerns have pushed many grocery store chains and food manufacturers to begin offering hormone-free milk and dairy products.
For many years, non-organic dairy farmers have used artificial growth hormones in cows to increase milk production. Dozens of countries, including Canada, Australia, Japan and all 27 of the European Union countries, have already banned some forms of artificial growth hormone in cows.
Countries don’t just ban artificial growth hormones in cows due to their direct effect on human health. The hormones cause problems for cows.
Cows given growth hormones produce more milk, so they contract more infections in their udders, known as mastitis. This requires use of antibiotics, which many believe adds to the growing problem of antibiotic resistance.
Unilever says its other brands, including Fruttare, Good Humor, Klondike, Magnum and Popsicle, will take steps toward use hormone-free dairy and sustainable vanilla in the coming years. This will make Unilever the largest ice cream maker in the world to undertake such action.
William A. Breyer of Philadelphia opened his first ice cream shop in 1882. He and his family opened four more shops in short order, with Breyer continuing to crank all of the ice cream by hand and deliver it using his horse-drawn wagon.
His family set up its first wholesale manufacturing plant in 1896, and Breyer’s son, Henry, incorporated the business in 1908. Unilever bought the Breyers ice cream brand from Kraft in 1993.
Classic Breyers ads from the 1990s emphasized the short ingredients list on its ice cream – milk, cream, sugar and vanilla. Now, Breyers has made their ingredients list even less complicated by eliminating the questions of dairy growth hormones and sustainable vanilla. Alessandra Bellini, vice president of brand development for Unilever, says, “People want to know that what they eat is very simple.”