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Rice industry says cauliflower "rice" is misleading consumers

Cauliflower "rice" misleading?
Rice industry complains cauliflower "rice" is misleading 03:21

This piece originally aired on August 10, 2017

In the rich farmland of California's Salinas Valley, an often underrated vegetable is having its moment in the sun.

"Cauliflower is one of the hottest vegetables we sell today," said Jordan Greenberg, vice president of Green Giant. "You can use it as a main dish, you can use it as a side dish."

It can be barbecued, baked, stir-fried, and now Green Giant is shredding cauliflower into tiny bits. The minced cauliflower is growing in popularity as a substitute for rice with just a fraction of the carbs, reports CBS News correspondent John Blackstone.   

"It's definitely making vegetables more popular. At the end of the day, consumers want to eat healthier," Greenberg said.

But cauliflower is now the center of a controversy, in a tale of rice and men. Green Giant describes the minced veggies as "riced," and in one of its ads, seems to challenge the rice industry to get out of its way.

Rice farmer Matthew Sligar has no intention of "moving over."

Green Giant advertisement

"Riced cauliflower – I mean, why even call it riced cauliflower? Could call it bits of cauliflower, or cauliflower crumbles. Secondly, when did riced become a verb?" Sligar said.

For three generations, Sligar's family has been growing rice in wet and muddy fields north of Sacramento.

Convinced that Americans should know more about where their food comes from, Sligar launched "Rice Farming TV."

Sligar worries "riced cauliflower" is confusing consumers.

These days even rice farmers have Washington lobbyists, and they are asking the Food and Drug Administration to define "rice" so not everyone can use the name.

"Cauliflower crumbles, whatever you want to call it. Let's put it in the vegetable section, the produce section, and keep it out of the rice aisle," said Michael Kline of USA Rice. 

Matthew Sligar Rice Farming TV

"We feel we're being very clear with what we're offering, which is riced vegetables," Greenberg said.

The popularity is spreading. At Erewhon Natural Foods in Los Angeles they make their own cauliflower rice, and consumer demand has made it a best-seller.

"Instead of rice and chicken, they're doing cauliflower and chicken," said Victor Grenner, vice president of Erewhon Natural Foods.

Even a rice farmer admits he can't live by rice alone.

"Hey, I'll be open with you. There's a cauliflower in our refrigerator. It's just a head of cauliflower," Sligar said. "I'll eat that. I'm not too excited about it, but I'll eat it."

What he won't do is call it rice. For this farmer, that simply goes against the grain.

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