Butter – Getting the best quality you can afford

butter margarine aisle

Butter butter everywhere and not a drop that’s real! Ever feel that way staring at the refrigerated section at the supermarket? Diana at Eat More Butter definitely has. Foodie at Kitchen Drawer Online took a series of pictures showing that only about 10% of the butter-like food items in the refrigerated section is actually butter! The remainder is margarine.

Butter quality matters! Beyond the basics of simply avoiding margarine which contains hydrogenated fats, it’s important to find the most vitamin rich – least likely to be adulterated butter you can get your hands on. We’re going to talk about the determining different levels of quality in order to make the best possible quality decision each time we reach for butter.

The available choices are:( $$’s indicate relative cost)

  • Excellent ($$$) – Homemade butter from known good quality raw grassfed cream.
  • Excellent ($$$) – Commercial butter from known good quality raw grassfed cream.
  • Very Good ($$) – Homemade butter from good quality organic lightly pasteurized cream like Kolona organic whipping cream, for example. Make sure the cream isn’t ultra-pasteurized. You can learn more from Food Renegade about Ultra-Pasteurized milk and cream here.
  • Pretty Good ($$) – Commercial butter from lightly pasteurized grassfed cream, like KerryGold. Be aware that Kerry Gold makes at least one product that is marketed as low-fat. That one wouldn’t be the one to pick.
  • Allright ($) – Commercial butter – Take care that the ingredients indicate that it has nothing but butter and salt in it. Also, be aware that such assurances of contents depends on the quality of the inspection the production plant received. Near as I can tell virtually all the sold butter in the US is produced here. Seems likely that the cream didn’t travel far either, but in the wonderland of food transport technology just be aware that there is only so much you can know about food coming from commercial sources.
  • Absolutely Avoid – butter products that contain some percentage of butter mixed with vegetable oils which will be hydrogenated.
  • Absolutely Avoid – margarine

Navigating the Grocery Store Butter Section

When selecting butter from a store always but always read the fine print ingredient list on the container. You can pretty well ignore the large print labeling on the front of the carton that will say things like “All Natural” and “Pure”. While it sounds like you’re getting pure butter these words have no legal meaning in the food business. Lots of other stuff could be in that container.

When you find the words hydrogenated or vegetable oils you’ll know that you just found some margarine, whether the name of the product indicates it’s margarine or not. Just set the box back down and slowly back away ;-)

Making your own Butter

If you can get some good quality cream I highly recommend making all the butter for your family. Making butter in a modern mixer is unbelievably simple and satisfying. With a large mixer like the Bosch you can make a large batch in about 20 minutes flat. People make butter in food processors and blenders too, and it’s just as easy. It’s one of those things that people associate with lots of hard work that is in fact very very easy and simple to do. It’s pretty fail proof! If you don’t have any kind of equipment, don’t despair. You can still make butter by simply shaking a jar. I’ll be putting up the instructions in my next post, so see ya there :-)

Do you think the relative cost of these butters is the same in your neck of the woods? Would you rate things the way I did? I would love to hear your experiences in the comments below.

Links to More Info on Butter

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This post is linked at The Healthy Home Economist’s Monday Mania, Traditional Tuesday at Cooking Traditional Foods, Fat Tuesday at Real Food Forager , Real Food Wednesday at Kelly the Kitchen Kop, Gnowfglin’s Simple Thursday, Food Renegade’s Fight Back Friday and Fresh Bites Friday at Real Food Whole Health.

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lives just outside of Austin with her husband of 20 years Barry, youngest son Jake, three cats and about a dozen chickens. She has another older son and a beautiful daughter-in-law who live in Austin. While not a Grandma yet, with two grown kids she remains hopeful. Kathy wants a world where everyone has fresh wholesome food and feels that cookin' like a granny woman is the surest way to get there.


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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Meghan @ Whole Natural Life March 22, 2012 at 12:28 pm

Interesting post. Personally I’ve found that it is less expensive for me to buy Kerrygold butter than it is for me to make my own grass-fed butter. I can only find one variety of grass-fed cream here, though, so that may be part of it. I’d love to make raw butter but I don’t have access to raw cream and even if I did I’m sure it would be way too expensive. My raw milk is $12/gallon so I’m sure the price of the cream would be astronomical!

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Kathy March 23, 2012 at 6:48 am

I think the pricing here is pretty close to the same with homemade butter from raw milk coming in just a tad less than Kerrygold. The butter though from cream that is pasteurized at 155 degrees is cheaper. The Kolona brand is grassfed too. So I can use it to fill in when I don’t have enough raw cream.

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Jim February 5, 2013 at 2:30 pm

I live in the heart of rural Southwestern Virginia where you’d think a person would have no problem finding raw milk or butter (not counting the fact that’s illegal) but so far, the closest place I can find it is a farm 100+ miles away. Also, because I live out in the country, there is a severe lack of any stores that carry the good stuff. One Amish store but they’re limited. And expensive! When I say expensive, I’m saying I used to live in the D.C. suburbs in MD where the cost of living is at least 3-4 times higher than it is here and I would’ve thought that expensive back then. But, I digress.

I grew up milking the cow every day and helping Mom churn butter (it was men’s work too in our house…or at least boys work) and I miss the taste of REAL butter. I quit drinking milk entirely years ago because I didn’t like the store bought crap.

I guess I’m gonna have to buy a cow.

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Kathy February 5, 2013 at 6:38 pm

Hi Jim … that’s really frustrating! We have to drive about 50 miles, I think for ours. I did find this link to someone with Goat’s milk in West Virginia http://www.realmilk.com/real-milk-finder/west-virginia/#wv for milk. As far as butter goes you could mail order some of the grassfed brands like Kerrygold. I’m working on putting up some resource how-to-find-it pages for real food on the web. So stay tuned. Shouldn’t be too much longer :-).

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Erin February 5, 2013 at 3:09 pm

Do you know how the Trader Joes heavy cream compares? I saw that it isn’t ultra pasteurized but I don’t know if it’s grassfed or not. I have access to that to make my own, but I’ve just been buying organic store brand butter lately rather than skim my raw milk.

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Kathy February 5, 2013 at 6:33 pm

We don’t have a Trader Joes here, sorry to say. Maybe someone here has an idea of how it rates?

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G.Lindor February 24, 2013 at 10:22 pm

YES. Making my own butter from now on!

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Tiffany October 21, 2013 at 12:25 pm

I can’t get raw dairy where I live (illegal), and so it’s not possible for me to get raw grass fed cream & butter, not even pasteurized 100% grass fed cream & butter. The best I can get is certified organic butter that is mostly grass fed but also supplemented with certified organic grains including corn and soy. I could however cross the border to the States and stock up with Kerrygold butter from Trader Joe’s. Will Kerrygold butter be better than the one I have now? I’ve heard that Kerrygold cannot guarantee that their grain feed doesn’t contain GMOs so i’m actually quite worried about it since I avoid all GMOs.

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Kathy October 21, 2013 at 5:30 pm

Really tough call Tiffany … is the trip a big deal or do you have to go for other things too? Kerrygold isn’t organic, it’s true … they do feed grains a small part of the year and can’t be completely sure they are non-gmo. However they are eating a grains a very small portion of the year and it’s important to note that virtually all dairy cows eat some grain for at least a small part of the year. So unless you can find a source that can assure you that they not only grassfeed but also only supplement with organic grains you’re not likely to do better.

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Tiffany November 4, 2013 at 3:13 pm

I did find one local farm here where they specialize in making cheese, which is grass fed and organic but supplemented with some organic grains in the winter. However, I eat lots of butter everyday but just 200g of this butter costs 10.99 plus tax. There’s no way I can afford that much for just butter since I have lots of other foods I buy that are on the more expensive side like $7 for a dozen of pastured eggs. So should I still stick with Kerrygold or the store bought (health food stores like Whole Foods) organic butter? May I ask what brand of butter you use?

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Kathy November 4, 2013 at 4:41 pm

I make butter when I have enough cream which recently has been never ;). So right now I’ve been buying Kolana which is both organic and grassfed. Sometimes I buy Kerrygold. As far as which of your choices is best, it’s really personal … Depends on your budget, shopping etc. I wouldn’t sweat it too hard though. They are all good choices.

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