Crisco: The Story Behind the Label

Countless foods on today’s grocery shelf would be unidentifiable by our great great grandparents. Our country has taken the meaning of “processed food” to a whole new level; so much so that we are turning industrial waste into food and getting people to eat it. Don’t believe me? Keep reading.

Way back in 1897, William Proctor and James Gamble began to search for a cheaper alternative to the tallow and lard needed to keep their soap and candle-making business alive. Proctor and Gamble invested in cottonseed mills. Why? Well before being made into things like t-shirts and Q-tips, the seeds of the cotton plant get discarded as industrial waste. Proctor and Gamble discovered that they could use these seeds and extract the oil from them. In 1907, with the help of German chemist E.C. Kayser, Proctor and Gamble developed the process of hydrogenation. In other words, they would add hydrogen molecules and heat to the cottonseed oil and it would create a solid that was similar to lard – otherwise known as shortening.

Because this new “lard” product worked great for making candles and soap, Proctor and Gamble thought they had hit the jackpot. However, as we all know, with the invention of the light bulb, the demand for candles soon declined. So they had to come up with an alternative use for their shortening. They packaged it in a can and lo and behold Crisco (short for crystallized cotton seed oil) was born.

Crisco hit the market in 1911. Without the use of research or evidence to back up their claims, Proctor and Gamble marketed their product as “more economical than butter and healthier than animal fat:”. They later published a cookbook containing 615 recipes calling for Crisco to teach housewives how to use it in their cooking. Not only was Crisco supposedly “cleaner and more easily digestible” it also had a 2 year shelf life and soon became a household staple. Thus, Crisco became the first truly fake food – its development had nothing to do with health or science, but everything to do with money.

Next time you come across a fake food in the supermarket, think about what the story behind the label might be and rethink tossing it into your grocery cart.

Sources: picture 1, picture, 2, picture 3, picture 4, The Liberation Diet

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