The first red flag was printed on the label, three words, tucked small in the bottom right: frozen dairy dessert. I was standing in the ice cream aisle at Loblaw’s, and I saw those three words, and I thought, “Huh, that must mean Halo Top doesn’t meet the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s legal definition of ‘ice cream.'” I saw those words. I had that thought. I bought three pints anyway: birthday cake, peanut butter swirl, and sea salt caramel. To hell with the CFIA. I was fucking game.
The second red flag was the first item in the list of ingredients: skim milk. I was standing in my kitchen, unpacking my groceries, and the skim caught my eye. And I immediately thought, “Oh, no.” And then I immediately reassured myself: how many times in the past year had I seen Halo Top raved about on social media? In fawning reviews, in pretty Instagram spreads? Surely, I reasoned, millions and millions of satisfied customers could not be wrong.
Let’s return, for just a moment, to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s standards for the labeling of ice cream. By Canadian law, to qualify as “ice cream,” a substance must contain at least 10 per cent milk fat. Should it fail to meet these thresholds, it is not ice cream at all. It’s not even ice milk, which must contain between three per cent and five per cent milk fat. It is a charlatan. It is a “frozen dairy dessert.”
Despite the fact that Halo Top does not legally qualify as ice cream, the first word that appears when you Google it is “creamy.”
Reader, Halo Top is not creamy. Halo Top is gritty — and not the adorable fuzzy orange googly-eyed kind of gritty. It’s crunchy, almost, with a consistency somewhere between a fresh-out-the-freezer Freezie and a beach in Vancouver in December. Which is what happens when you try to make ice cream — I’m sorry, frozen dairy dessert — with skim fucking milk. Skim milk is, arguably, not even milk at all. I have a dear friend who is a dairy farmer and a mere mention of skim milk makes her nigh-homicidal. Get her going, and she will tell you that skim milk is so disgusting it’s bankrupting the dairy industry, driving consumers into the arms of almond milk and soy milk and oat milk. She says the only way to revive the dairy industry is to bring back full-fat milk, and in so doing remind the public that milk is, in fact, fucking delicious.
Unfortunately, the iron grip of skim milk has yet to loosen, and much like Deb from Napoleon Dynamite, we are all drinking 1% because we think we’re fat. But we could be drinking 2% if we wanted to. We could be going all in on a pint of Ben & Jerry’s or Haagen Dazs if we wanted to. Instead, we’ve somehow arrived at the point where Halo Top is a best-selling product. When Engels used the term “false consciousness” to describe the subordinate class willfully embodying the ideology of the ruling class, he was talking about people who claim to enjoy Halo Top.
I realize this may be a controversial opinion, but in my view, food should taste good. That’s my ultimate priority, really. I like my food to be healthy, and I like it to be local, but at the end of the day, the most important thing that a food item can be is yummy. Ice cream is yummy, and it is yummy because, by law, it must consist of at least ten per cent milk fat. The fat is integral here. I suppose it’s possible to make a tasty frozen dessert with no fat at all, but like, I’m always going to prefer a Creamsicle over a popsicle, you know? And I’m always going to prefer real, full-fat ice cream over some watery-ass “frozen dairy dessert,” no matter how Millennial-bait-y the packaging is.
Ice cream isn’t a health food. And it doesn’t fucking have to be. I don’t want to live in a world where some stupid moral panic about obesity results in all of us pretending that Halo Top is better than ice cream and carob is better than chocolate. If you truly do want to combat heart disease and diabetes, there are better ways to do that than sapping delicious foods of the ingredients that make them delicious. Fuck a “frozen dairy dessert.”