Eating & Thinking: Butter, the good fat

Butter should be yellow. Naturally. Find some and indulge yourself.

Credit: Flickr / Chiot’s Run

Determine the quality of your butter by its colour

In the middle of the 20th century, butter, a culinary staple for thousands of years, was thought to be the cause of many of our health issues. This undeserved reputation led to a rise in the use of butter substitutes (like margarine) that are created by hydrogenating vegetable oils and offer far less nutritionally and are potentially detrimental.

Recent studies have shown that butter is a superb source of fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamins A, D, E and K. However, have you ever noticed that in the ingredients on your butter, alongside cream and salt, the manufacturers list “colouring”? Why add colouring to a natural product—a product synonymous for its yellowy tone?

Why is butter coloured?

The yellow colour of butter comes from the beta-carotene (the vegetable form of vitamin A) in the grass the cows eat. That’s why summer butter is yellower than winter butter (when the cows have been fed hay).

The industrialization of dairy farming is stripping butter of many of its redeeming features. Cream from grain-fed cattle, used to mass-produce American butters, is combined from various sources to create a consistent, indistinct flavour. It is poor in vitamins so manufacturers add colouring to mask its deficiencies.

When to use butter

I use butter for just about everything. I put a knob in my morning oatmeal, slabs of it on my fresh bread. I use it to give soups and sauces a good consistency. It’s a sauce on its own—with herbs on pasta as a noisette, or in eggs benny (Hollandaise is 90 percent butter). Then there’s frying, baking and drizzling on popcorn.

Good butter in Vancouver

So embrace this beautiful, natural food. But try to find a butter that is colouring-free. One that is locally available is Avalon Butter. Made from cows in Abbottsford, and on Barnston Island, and churned in Calgary, Avalon Dairy has been around for more than 100 years. You can get in stores around Vancouver. I get mine delivered to my door by Spud.

Good news for lactose-intolerant people

Butter doesn’t contain milk protein (casein) or milk sugar (lactose), two of the elements which cause the majority of reactions for intolerant eaters to dairy products.

I know that Farm House Cheese Co. in Agassiz also has great butter. Do you have any recommendations in Vancouver?