raspberry ice cream

Frozen Dairy Desserts: Decoded

by Tracy Enslen

The freezer aisle in your local grocery store is full of frozen dessert options – there are ice creams, frozen yogurts, sherbets and everything in between. There’s a flavor, size and variety for everyone, but how do you know which one you should choose? Use this cheat sheet to learn about your favorite dairy desserts!

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration sets standards of identity for many foods so consumers get a consistent product, no matter what brand they buy.

Ice Cream
In order for ice cream to be labeled “ice cream,” it must meet a federal standard of identity. True ice cream can be made with no less than 10% milkfat (which is what gives it a creamy taste) and no more than 50% percent air can be churned into the product. So, any other non-dairy or dairy dessert that contains less than 10% milkfat would be labeled a frozen dessert or dairy dessert, not ice cream.

This Italian dessert is traditionally made from whole milk, 3.8% milkfat, no added cream and has very little air churned into the product. This will create a dense, softer style dessert. Gelato does not have a federal standard of identity, so retail products may differ slightly, including things like lowfat milk, gums and other stabilizers.

Frozen Yogurt
Frozen yogurt doesn’t have a federal standard of identity, but is generally defined as a frozen dessert that is tart and contains yogurt cultures. These cultures may or may not be active and alive. Frozen yogurt has become quite popular in DIY dessert stores across the United States and in retail cases.

Frozen Custard
This thick and creamy soft serve dessert contains at least 10% milkfat and 1.4% egg yolk solids by weight, as defined in its federal standard of identity. It is made in a similar way as ice cream, but the pasteurized egg yolk creates the thick consistency.

Do you like fruit flavor? Then this dessert is a “sure bet!” Sherbet’s federal standard of identity mandates that it contains 1-2% milkfat. Did you know that orange is the most popular flavor?

The difference between sorbet and sherbet is that sorbet contains no dairy. However, sorbet can contain egg whites. This frozen dessert is usually very fruity and made with juice and/or real fruit.

Frozen Dessert
Read your ingredient statement because anything goes!

Tracy Enslen

Tracy is the Vice President of Marketing for the American Dairy Association Mideast. Being married to a Chef and having experience in all aspects of food service, Tracy has a passion for food and where it comes from. She enjoys ATV riding, kayaking and spending time on her hobby farm.

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