31 - 2009

Organic Butter – Brand Name Difference

This week, we switched from one package of butter to another and found a great contrast in the color of the two sticks of butter:

Both are organic butter, nothing fancy; the one at right is Kirkland brand from Costco, the one at left is King Soopers/Kroger’s organic store brand.

Why is one yellow — the color we might call “butter yellow” — while the other is nearly white?

Apparently, it has to do somewhat with the breed of cow, and more directly with the content of the cow’s feed. More fresh feed — in particular green grass or hay, which contains more beta carotene — turns butter more yellow. Beta carotene is a Vitamin A, the same thing that makes carrots yellow-gold to orange.

If butter is made from the milk of a cow that grazes naturally, on fresh grass in spring and summer, and drier grass or hay during the winter, the color of the butter will vary. Rich spring cream makes a nice yellow butter. That’s why margarine makers dye their products yellow.

We were happy to find that nice yellow butter for some fresh baguettes for dinner last week.

What is European butter?

The topic of butter also came up a few weeks ago when I had dinner at the wonderful Restaurant Six89 in Carbondale, Colo., for my mother’s birthday.

six89’s cow sign … and flourishing herbs

We pretty much raved about everything, and our pleasure in the meal was only enhanced by my before-dinner peek at their backyard chicken coop — and sight of a couple of the cooks heading out to the garden to snip herbs for the meal.

We got into conversation about butter, though, because Six89’s butter was especially delicious (even shot by camera phone in the dim lighting).

I speculated that maybe it was just good butter, soft, or maybe they use European-style butter. My mother and sister asked just what European-style butter was. I thought it was butter with a higher percentage of butterfat, and according to Wikipedia, I was correct:


European butter typically contains 82% to 84% butterfat and comes in salted and unsalted varieties. The greater portion of butterfat makes European butter taste richer than American butter.

United States

Butter sold in United States markets is typically 80% to 82% butterfat and salted, unless marked otherwise. Flavorings, colorings, and preservatives may also be added. European style butter, at 82% or greater fat content, is refered to as “dry butter”, and is available in specialty shops. Salted butter is generally sold in sticks wrapped in wax paper, while unsalted butter is sometimes wrapped in aluminum foil.

Whatever continent it comes from, it’s delicious. Six89 gives the option of olive oil or butter for bread, but I’m a butter girl myself.

What about nutrition?

If you are hungering for some butter and wondering about its nutritional value, check out this interesting article that argues that butter isn’t really too bad … for a fat. (But margarine, it says, is bad.)

And if you’d like to go the other direction completely, a Google search revealed that Wilton makes something special for cakes — no-color artificial butter flavoring. Don’t drink the whole bottle in one sitting!

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