Thursday, January 19, 2012

Butter from Grass?

As a family, we have largely shifted away from dairy in favor of spreads, milks and "cheese" from plant sources for largely health reasons (and a few environmental).

When I was shopping at Costco the other day I noticed tubs of Kerry Gold brand butter.  I have always heard about the legendary taste of this imported butter from Ireland and was pleasantly surprised to read "from grass-fed cows" on the package.

The price is about double that of traditional butter but I thought it was worth a try.  A 17.60 ounce package was $5.99 and I opened it today to sample on a slice of homemade banana bread.  My first impression was how deep yellow the butter appeared.  Some butters and spreads in the US have colorants added to give it the missing yellow color, but here it comes naturally because the beta-carotene and other nutrients from the cows' diet shines through.

Why does grass-fed matter?

  • Cows are created to eat grass, this typically happens on small family farms and in most other countries around the world.  It is the American CAFO's (Concentrated Animal Feeding Systems) that force cattle to consume corn and other grain their digestive system can't handle, causing poor health and forcing their premature aging, disease and early death.
  • Dairy cows from the CAFO system produce cheap milk and meat, but to the detriment of our health.  Butter from CAFO cows (almost all of what you find on our grocery store shelves) has reduced Omega 3's (the healthy fat), has 3-5 times fewer CLA's (conjugated linoleic acid) known to have anti-cancer properties and help maintain a healthy body weight.  CAFO dairy also offers fewer antioxidants, selenium, vitamins E and A and beta carotene.

Compare this to the treatment cows get in Ireland where they munch on some of the world's greenest grass -- of which the nutrients get passed to us through the dairy products produced.  See a brief video on Kerrygold farmers below.

Butter from grass-fed cows is simply better for the animal, better for our planet and better for our health.

Sadly, there are few butter grass-fed butter options in the United States.  The few options I have found include Grass Point Farms (Wisconsin), Pastureland (Minnesota), and Organic Valley Pasture Butter.  However, Pastureland is temporarily unavailable because of distribution issues and no buyers of their organic skim milk.

There are a few imports that are more readily available -- mostly because they never altered their systems from the traditions of butter-making and have a solid distribution network for butter from animals fed on grass.

The price is a bit steep, but compared to what?  I find myself occasionally falling into this mental trap of wanting to choose food based on lowest price but knowing I should buy the better food option.

Most of us would value health, quality of life and more time (longevity of life) as being a top priority.   Yet many of us gladly fork over extra cash for the next step-up in our "stuff".   Things like cars, cell phone plans, television plans, video game systems and electronics.  Many talk of not being able to afford to eat healthy even though they know what the best choice is, myself included.  Isn't it really a matter of priorities?  We tend to skimp on spending extra on the very thing that will truly bring us more value?  It's a skewed values system.  What "stuff" would you be willing to trade for a healthier and longer life?

Health and environmental benefits considered, $5.99 starts to not look like such a bad deal after all.  Just a thought.  Enjoy your better butter.

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