American Butter


From the 19th century onwards, particularly powerful US dairy lobbies in states like New Hampshire have demanded that margarine should not be coloured creamy yellow and, in some places, even managed to insist it should be coloured bright red to put people off from buying it and purchase real butter instead. This, to protect local dairy farmers from a decline in demand of their milk.

In fact, by the start of the 20th century, eight out of ten Americans could not buy regular yellow margarine, and those who could had to pay a hefty tax on it. The regulations and taxes had a significant effect: the 1902 restrictions on margarine colour, for example, cut annual US consumption by almost two-thirds.

As iffy as this sounds, it turns out capitalism got it right. Even though a number of shameless profit-obsessed lobbyists were only seeking to protect their businesses in the political arena regardless of effects to public health, animal welfare and conservation of the environment; they were, nevertheless, (albeit accidentally) promoting the healthy alternative: real butter.

“I shouldn’t think even millionaires could eat anything nicer than new bread and real butter and honey for tea.”
― Dodie Smith, I Capture the Castle

Not only does butter taste incomparably better, it’s a natural product that human beings have been eating and cooking with for centuries without ­damaging their health. Why swap it for margarine, a highly synthetic and unpleasant-tasting concoction laced with additives and cheap, low-grade oils refined on an industrial scale?

There has been a growing body of scientific research that not only indicates that there is absolutely no reason to stop eating ­butter, but also leads to one inescapable conclusion: that decades of health advice, particularly in regard to heart disease, cholesterol levels and the consumption of fats and oils, have been plain wrong.

The scientific evidence is compelling and totally at odds with decades of official advice that we should all be cutting down on our consumption of animal fats. The exact opposite turns out to be true. People who eat more of the safflower-derived products are almost twice as likely to die from all causes, including heart disease.

And consider this: there is, and never was, any good evidence linking intake of dietary saturated fats with blocked coronary arteries and heart disease.

“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.”
― Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own

For so much of what we were told was gospel truth turns out to be plain wrong. Butter is not bad for you; in fact, it’s healthy, being high in vitamins, saturated fats which are beneficial to the kidneys for instance; it has the sort of cholesterol that is vital for brain and nervous system development and various natural compounds with anti-fungal, anti-oxidant and – therefore – anti-cancer properties.

1 thought on “American Butter

  1. Fascinating article!

    To be honest, I haven’t had real butter since I was a child, and I no longer have even a memory of what it tasted like – I thought it had gone the way of the dinosaur and women who know how to darn socks.

    This study seems to confirm your opinion:

    A study published in the BMJ reported an analysis of data recovered from a randomized controlled trial performed in 1966-73 where safflower oil replaced animal fats in the diets of people who had had a heart attack. The group receiving extra safflower oil in place of animal fats had a significantly higher risk of death from all causes, cardiovascular disease and coronary heart disease. As expected, increasing omega-6 linoleic acid from safflower oil in the Sydney Diet Heart Study significantly reduced total cholesterol; however, these reductions were not associated with [reduced] mortality outcomes. Moreover, the increased risk of death in the intervention group presented fairly rapidly and persisted throughout the trial.

    Maybe the dairy people need a new slogan: “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Margarine!

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