- Issue: Summer 2016
It isn’t something many people think about, but the ice cream in our freezers affects the wildlife on our planet. Of course, this tasty treat starts with milk from domesticated cows, but sugar, vanilla, chocolate, and other ingredients come from places that are home to thousands of wild and endangered species. One relatively unknown but widely used ingredient—palm oil—threatens tropical rain forests and the rich biodiversity of plants and animals struggling to survive in them.
About 10% of all milk produced by US dairy farmers is used to make ice cream. That’s 23 million gallons of milk going into 872 million gallons of ice cream.
The average American eats almost 22 pints of ice cream each year. Surveys show that vanilla is consistently the most popular flavor, followed by chocolate, cookies and cream, and mint chocolate chip.
Lots of ingredients go into all those scoops and swirls, but it is palm oil that gives hundreds of ice cream products their smooth and creamy texture.
About 85% of the world’s palm oil is produced in Indonesia and Malaysia. The rain forests in these nations store greenhouse gases in the soil. They’re also home to magnificent—and endangered—species, including orangutans, rhinos, tigers, and elephants. Destroying forests to produce palm oil drives climate change and threatens valuable ecosystems.