I’ve often said that whenever I see “new” or “improved” on a food product, that’s a red flag that it’s processed and probably something I don’t want to eat. How can humans improve upon God’s creation, the food given to us in nature?
On the other hand, I myself released a second edition of Healthy Snacks to Go, for example, touting some of the “new and improved” recipes that I’d tweaked, made more tasty, or figured out an easier way to create. Is there anything wrong with improving a recipe or streamlining a traditional foods process, as long as it doesn’t adulterate the food?
There really are very few “rules” in eating that can’t be broken, that shouldn’t be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
Kerrygold’s New “Naturally Softer” Butter
My first interaction with Kerrygold brand’s new butter was through a blog post at the Healthy Home Economist titled alarmingly “Beware the New Kerrygold Butter.”
I hesitate to even include a link to the article, because I hate to send traffic to what I feel strongly was an unfair post verging on slander, particularly after the author would not update her post when she heard directly from the company that she was dead wrong in her assessment, mostly because of a labeling snafu at their factory. I believe in forgiveness here at Kitchen Stewardship, and I see no reason to automatically distrust the people behind a brand simply because a large company is involved.
The author’s tub of “naturally softer” butter inadvertently had the wrong inner label, so she assumed sneakery. I might have, as well, but I would rescind the post and update it at the beginning once the mistake was explained to me.
Here’s what the real inner label on Kerrygold’s “new” butter says:
The Healthy Home Economist’s tub had their “reduced fat” butter label on it, which was understandably surprising.
She thought that since the nutrition facts matched regular butter, but the inner label said “reduced fat,” that she had been hoodwinked by a bait and switch, and she vowed never to buy Kerrygold again and advised her many readers to do the same.
Unfair, I say.
Here’s the bottom of the container:
The nutrition facts match the other butter in my fridge.
I, too, am a little wary about butter in a tub. In fact, when my daughter saw it on the table, she wouldn’t let me put it on her bread. I kid you not.
I thought, “Wow, this girl has been trained well. She doesn’t trust “new” butter!”
And usually, anything in a tub is bad news.
However, I’m not one to go with assumptions, at least when I might be able to get to the bottom of the story.
I emailed the company:
I know from experience making my own butter, actually, that summer cream makes softer butter, so I surely believe your explanation. What I don’t understand is that on the website, it says that all Kerrygold butter is from summer milk. Can you detail out for this science geek the difference in process between the softer tub butter and the bricks? How does it work that the softer butter has fewer calories and less fat than the original butter (which looks like the same stats as the “less fat” butter)?
All Kerrygold Cheeses & Butters are produced from grass-fed cows’ milk. Irish cows benefit from the abundance of grass which grows on our farms. We practice traditional farming methods in Ireland. Cows in Ireland calve in the spring and are therefore outdoors, grazing on green grass when they are producing milk. Given the lush temperate climate, it is not only natural but more economical for Ireland to produce milk from grass feeding.
In answer to your question; Kerrygold full fat butter and Kerrygold Naturally Softer Butter have the same fat and calorie content.
Cream is the primary ingredient in the production of all Kerrygold butters. For our new Naturally Softer Butter, we use a patented method to churn this butter to make it even more soft. During the production of both this new Naturally Softer Butter and our Reduced Fat Butter, cream is churned so as to increase the total solids content to the required level.
Kerrygold full fat butter (80% fat) is produced when the cream is churned until it achieves a total solids content of 84%- 85%. Kerrygold Reduced Fat Butter (60% fat) is produced when the cream is churned until the product reaches a total solids content of 63% – 64%. This is to facilitate consumers who love the taste of Kerrygold but would like to reduce the fat in their diet. Unlike many dairy blends, margarines or spreads, Kerrygold Reduced Fat Irish Butter is 100% all-natural butter made without the addition of oils, preservatives or synthetic ingredients.
Here is some additional information on Kerrygold Irish Dairy products.
Kerrygold Key Benefits
- Kerrygold products are entirely hormone-free.
- Kerrygold uses natural farming methods and centuries-old processes to make butter and cheese.
- Cows are entirely grass fed and only summer milk is used, which is richest in Beta-Carotene.
- Beta-Carotene, nature’s own pigment, gives Kerrygold dairy products distinctive golden color and flavor definition.
- Ireland has the longest grass-growing season in the world, which means dairy herds enjoy fresh pastures
I still had some questions, and I was pleased to see some of the responses (although that “proprietary we-won’t-tell-you” stuff gets in my craw a bit):
- Are the cows dry in the winter months then? As per our note yesterday, farming in Ireland operates on traditional methods and follows seasonality.
- Do the farmers use pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, or fertilizers? The use of growth hormones in cows is prohibited under Irish law. All Kerrygold products are regularly tested to ensure compliance with national testing plans which confirms the safety of our foods and to ensure that there are no antibiotics or pesticides present in Kerrygold products.
- Is the cream used in the regular salted butter different or from a different time (later summer, etc) than the cream for the softer butter, or is the only difference the churning method? The inside wrapper makes it sound as if it’s the time of year that makes the difference. All of our products are made from summer milk, although for our Softer Butter milk is selected during a limited time at the peak of summer.
- What “solids” – solid fat, casein, cream? I’d love a butter-making terminology lesson; it’s just the kind of thing my readers enjoy understanding as well! The following site may be of help to you for more technical information on butter: http://www.realcaliforniamilk.com/products/dairy/butter/
- I see on the website that the softer butter has 80 cal/Tbs and the salted butter has 100 cal/Tbs, but you said they’re nutritionally the same. What am I missing? This was an error on our site. Note from Katie: You’ll see, above, that the softer butter has 100 cal/Tbs, and Kerrygold would get into big trouble if they were dishonest on the packaging. I believe them about the website, but what a silly place to make an error!
Is the Butter Better?
Kerrygold butter may not be organic, but it’s a much better option for many people who can find it in stores than the conventionally grown store butter. You can see the difference:
That’s Meijer butter on top, Kerrygold’s softer stuff on the bottom.
Once I served it to my discerning 3-year-old without showing her the tub, she began calling it “the good butter.” It really does taste marvelous, and the yellow coloring that signifies the grass that the cows are eating makes me so happy.
The softness of the butter is quite nice, able to be spread right out of the fridge and actually super soft if left out until it reaches room temperature.
You’ll get grassfed nutrition out of the regular Kerrygold brick butter, so the real question is how does this product compare to the original?
Is it “new and improved,” the same with a twist, or a “real-washed” product that’s too good to be true?
Readers from Ireland Weigh In
Here are two interesting comments from The Healthy Home Economist’s page:
Typing from those lush green pastures in the emerald isle…what can I say?? Kerrygold is sold all over the world and marketed as the wonderful wholesome product all Irish images conjure up. In comparison to Commercial feedlot farms yes the cows do feed on lush grass here. However the grass is not necessarily as lush as I would like… The use of artificial fertilizers and monoculture rye grasses that are easy to grow are commonplace. Its a compromise though i buy it myself and use it. Just don’t assume we all milk contented cows by hand here as we frolik through the herb scented meadows in our spare time! The Kerry group is a very successful one. Respect to them for what they have achieved but its no harm to keep a very open mind as a consumer and educate yourself to the reality of compromises that must be made to facilitate massive food distribution (and profit margins..!) Now I’ll have some butter for my grainfree Irish brown bread…!
Another reader from the emerald isle Just wanted to shed some light on where kerrygold gets it’s butter. In Ireland, the milk from dairy farms is collected in the tanker truck & it goes to the local creamery. The local creamery then pasturise the milk & make the dairy products.
Kerrygold is the commercial side of the government department, An Bord Bainne (the Milk board) so you are buying your butter off the Irish government. They have first choice of the butter made in the creameries & as far as I understand, they get all the “summer” butter. Then whatever kerrygold don’t buy is bought by supermarkets for “own brand” butter.
So Kerrygold butter is made from milk from literally every dairy farm in the country. Irish cows are grassfed cows. We have plenty of grass & it’s free so farmers would be mad to pay for grain over the free grass. We don’t really have weather in Ireland, just lots of rain (lol) so there is very little time that cows would not be able to pasture. There was snow here yesterday, just a little sprinkle (which is the most we ever get) & the neighbours cows were still out in the field behind my house. When the cows are in sheds, they are generally fed hay or silage which is fermented hay (even better). There is a certain amount of farmers who give their cows grain on occasion but from what I understand from the farmer down the road, not many do it so there would not be very much grain fed cow milk in the system and I would doubt there is any at all in the “summer” milk that Kerrygold use.
All that said, very few Irish farmers farm naturally. There is fertilisers on the grass & the cows are injected with anti-bs when needed. The cows do need far less anti-bs then a factory farmed animal though.
I must admit I buy the cheapest butter I can get when I am buying. Since it is all grassfed Irish butter, I don’t need to buy kerrygold only. And I honestly do not see a difference between the “summer” only kerrygold butter & the other Irish butters. They all look & taste the same so I wonder if their summer butter thing is only a marketing thing. I also wonder at the colour of kerrygold in the U.S that you all mention. I would consider butter to be a very pale yellow ( but not almost white like some U.K butters I have seen).
Hope this has been helpful.
As we’ve done with meat and cheese during the Sourcing Quality Animal Products series, let’s look at the pros and cons:
- from summer milk
It is not:
If the inner label says anything to me, it’s possible that the softer butter is even better than the bricks. Butter at the peak of the season, when the grass is growing quickly and sunshine is abundant, should be higher in Vitamins A&D, CLA fats, and even omega 3s.
And Sarah threw hers away, telling readers to do the same. Actually, she took it back to the store, which is the same as throwing it away.
Since I can’t understand the “proprietary” churning process, I can’t speak to whether anything is missing – or, like whipped butter, if you’re paying for air. The fat content is the same, however, so I don’t think this is a case of whipped butter or adding air or any other additive ingredients. My guess is that it’s partly what I learned when I made butter myself – springtime butter really is softer – and partly something else.
I’ll still buy Kerrygold butter, with a preference for the bricks because they’re easier for baking, but I do like having the softer butter on hand as well.
For my default butter, I have recently found a better one that fulfills more of my “consciously raised animals” requirements…more on that in today’s “How to find quality butter” post!
Would you buy the “new” Kerrygold?
Disclosure: Kerrygold did send a box of butter and cheese, but it wasn’t to pay me off. This is all my own opinion after purchasing Kerrygold’s products myself. See my full disclosure statement here.