I’m tired of the so-called “Greek yogurt wars” on the social media. Any time the word “Chobani” is even mentioned— the ultra-nationalists come out, screaming, yelling, invoking the memory of a hundred thousand dead souls from Smyrna and cries of “Remember Cyprus!”.
“He’s a Turk” people scream and yell in ALL CAPS. “Chobani isn’t Greek yogurt!” others yell. It’s definitely a hot topic on Facebook news feeds and Twitter profiles.
Nationalism is not a reason to hate. Save that for the World Cup and the Olympics.
“The Turkish” Chobani vs. “The Greek” Fage
Hamdi Ulukaya— the founder of Chobani may have been from Turkey, but he certainly isn’t that Turkish. First of all, he’s a naturalized U.S. citizen making him as American as my immigrant parents. But more importantly, he’s Kurdish, not Turkish by ethnicity. Ironically, all the Greek hate towards Mr. Ulukaya should actually be Greek love because historically, we Greeks have always loved and supported the Kurds. Kurds don’t like Turks. Turks certainly don’t like the Kurds. So where is the love, people? We should be celebrating this guy— the same way the Greeks hid Abdullah Ocalan and hailed him a hero back in the 1990s. Abdullah who? Just Google it. You’ll see.
OK, so Mister Chobani doesn’t appear to be the nicest guy in the world. His ex-wife filed a lawsuit against him alleging some pretty shady things— including stealing/buying the secret recipe for his “Greek yogurt” from an ex-employee of Fage. But the reputation of the founder or head of a company isn’t even a good reason to hate a product, either.
The real reason you should hate Chobani is only one. Basically, because Chobani is shit yogurt.
The company claims it uses only “all natural” products but given that the United States government still doesn’t regulate the word “natural” on consumer products, you can call a Three Musketeers bar all-natural and get away with it.
First of all they don’t thicken their yogurt the old fashioned way that your yiayia used to thicken it— by straining. They use products called pectin and locust bean gum to thicken their yogurt. That’s cheating Mister Ulukaya. Real Greek-style yogurt is made through straining. And the woman straining must be wearing black… (ok, that was my ode to all the yiayia yogurt makers out there, but not necessarily true)
Second of all there’s a lot of sugar in their yogurt but they sneak it into their ingredients by calling it “evaporated cane juice” which is about as sugary as sugar gets. Also, just how does that cane juice become evaporated? Does it happen “all naturally”?
Also… let’s talk about the milk they use for a second— a huge bone of contention with a lot of people— including the folks at Whole Foods who recently dropped Chobani from their shelves. Chobani’s cows are fed with GMOs— those nasty genetically modified organisms that everyone is protesting about these days. And speaking about milk, and Chobani’s “all-natural” claim… Just how does fat free and reduced fat milk become fat-free and reduced fat? The minute you start pulling fat out of milk, it certainly involves some sort of chemistry and non-natural process, doesn’t it?
Finally, add their secondary products to the mix— blueberries, pineapples and other flavorful fruit and you have a whole bunch of problems here. None of the fruit Chobani uses is organic and the minute you start popping non-organic blueberries and other fruit into your stomach, you’re taking a lot of potential pesticides down along with it.
Now, to be fair— there are a lot of healthy aspects to Chobani too— the high levels of protein, the live cultures and other aspects of yogurt that make it a healthier alternative to a chocolate bar.
Also to be even more fair— This isn’t a plug for Fage either. They’re not exactly angels, as far as I’m concerned. But I do prefer Fage over Chobani— but not because of “the Greek thing” but because overall, it’s a better product— somewhat.
First of all, the Fage you eat from your grocery store is also not as “Greek” as you would expect. It’s not made in Greece with Greek cows producing wholesome Greek milk. In fact, it’s made by a US-based subsidiary of a Greek company that moved its corporate headquarters to Luxembourg in October 2012— the height of the Greek financial crisis (a psychological blow to a country on its knees).
Fage also makes its yogurt from the same New York cows, breathing the same New York air that Chobani’s cows are breathing and most startlingly— Fage feeds its cows those same nasty genetically modified organisms (GMOs) just like Chobani does. I’m not crazy about GMOs and you shouldn’t be either.
Fage doesn’t add the fillers that Chobani uses but there’s still a lot of sugar in some of their products— one lawsuit recently compared eating some varieties of Fage to eating cookies.
Yes. I’m a Greek yogurt fan… but to be honest, no one makes it like my mom. Sorry Chobani and Fage.