Why You’re Eating More Wood

By Pete Williams

Food shortage?

Those beavers are onto something. Food manufacturers increasingly are turning to cellulose, according to today’s Wall Street Journal, to “thicken or stabilize foods, replace fat and boost fiber content, and cut the need for ingredients like oil or flour, which are getting more expensive.”

Powdered cellulose comes from tiny pieces of wood pulp, which already is in high demand as Europe and Asia increasingly turn to the U.S. timber market for pulpwood, which is turned into fuel pellets. This is fueling, no pun intended, the market for pulpwood at a time when the demand for wood for building materials has never been lower because of the real estate collapse.

According to the current issue of Forest Landowner Magazine, there’s a shortage of pulpwood coming out of the south. Given the popularity of it by food manufacturers, we could call it a “food” shortage.

According to The WSJ, Kraft Foods uses cellulose from wood pulp (and cotton) in salad dressing. Organic Valley uses it in its shredded-cheese products, preferring it over synthetic ingredients. Meat maker Tyson Foods uses cellulose on some products to maintain glazes or breading, but not as a filler, a spokesman adds. Kellogg Co. uses cellulose to raise the food content of its foods.

This is not another instance of food manufacturers putting more sketchy stuff in what we’re eating. In fact, extra “wood” consumption is a good thing. Cellulose is a rich source of fiber, key to any healthy diet. Nutritionists quoted in The WSJ story say the cellulose we get from wood products is no different than the cellulose we get from celery.

So the next time you’re passing pine plantations as you drive along Florida highways, take a glance and your next healthy meal.

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