Kerrygold Butter: To Buy or Not

Buy or Not Kerrygold

I guess I have developed a reputation.

A reputation for loving good high-quality, pastured butter.

Rich, yellow, creamy, delicious butter.

Last week several of my friends sent me, with great concern, a post titled, Why I Stopped Buying Kerrygold Butter” by hopecentric  It is a very well-written post and worth a read. Her two main reasons for no longer buying Kerrygold are:

It’s not 100% grass fed. It is almost 90% grass fed, and supplemented with feed that includes soy and corn.

It’s actually only 97% GM free.

After reading the post, my first reaction was “What?”

“What am I going to do with the pounds of Kerrygold Butter in my freezer? Not 100% grass-fed?”

The writer also suggests several alternatives, such Organic Valley and Natural by Nature as well as a few other brands I haven’t found to be locally available.

I decided to do some investigating!

I was curious!

I wanted to make sure I had my facts straight before calling it quits with my Kerrygold obsession.

If I were to make the switch to a different butter, as the writer suggests, I would be spending double even triple per pound vs. what I am paying for Kerrygold at Costco. I wanted to make sure the higher price of these butters really meant I was getting a better, grass-fed product, free of as many GMO’s as possible.

I realize buying straight from a local farm is always best! For some this may not be an option. For me it is.

butterfresh

I am able to purchase 1/2lb tubs of butter through my raw milk farmer. I make it a priority in our family’s food budget to purchase raw milk, raw cream, raw sour cream, and raw cottage cheese from this farm. I love supporting a local farm and feel good about how the farm cares for the cows and their pastured lifestyle.  There are many times the machine which the farm uses to churn butter simply isn’t working which means no butter. I know, people will write and say,

“Buy the cream and make your own!”

I have done this many times and often when cream is available I purchase it for this reason. But there are times when I just need the convenience of pre-made butter. At $5 for a 1/2lb of butter I can’t afford to purchase lots of this butter.

It’s a special treat!

That’s where Kerrygold comes to the rescue.

IMG_0022_2

At $6.50 for 3 sticks of butter at Costco, I can feed my family pastured butter without Dustin needing an extra job just to support our butter habit.

I’ll admit, I’ve lost some sleep over the issue of butter this week.

It’s probably not too healthy to loose sleep over butter!

Let’s consider a few things:

1. 90% Grass-Fed:  According to Kerrgold,

Approximately 2/3 of the land in Ireland is used for farming and agriculture and 80% of this land is used to grow grass. This grass gives the Irish countryside its green color and is the basis for the description of Ireland as the Emerald Isle. This abundant supply of natural fresh grass is also what makes the Irish dairy industry and Irish dairy products unique.

Irish dairy cows graze on fresh grass in pastures all day long for up to 312 days a year. In fact, Irish cows graze outdoors on grass for longer than almost every country in the world.

I’m not a math wiz, but from my simple calculations this means the cows are supplemented (not consuming grass) only 44 days a year.

I’d say that’s pretty awesome!

I know 365 days of pure pasture grazing would be pretty darn awesome, but let’s think about something…winter!

I’m a Floridian, however, I know enough about winter to know when snow falls grass is going to be scarce which means cows aren’t going to be grazing on grass. Hungry cows need to eat!

Regarding this issue Kerrygold states,

…like so much of what we do, our feeding pattern follows the cycle of nature. During the winter, when grasses stop growing, Irish cows are fed dried grass (known as silage). This grass is grown throughout the year, cut fresh and stored to be used when the winter comes. Cows in Ireland calve in the spring and are therefore outdoors, grazing on green grass when they are producing milk. After calving, cows are provided with supplementary feed to help restore protein and nurture them through this period.

After talking to several farmers here in the States, I am beginning to realize 100% grass-fed with zero supplementation is a nice idea, however, not realistic.

I’m not surprised or disappointed to learn Kerrygold cows are only 90% grass-fed.  I am pleased to find affordable, good quality butter that is pastured for 312 days a year on fresh grass!

That’s a lot of grass eating!

2. Supplementing: When the cows are not grazing on fresh grass supplementation is needed. Kerrygold explains what this supplementation is comprised of,

Supplementary feed makes up about 10% of a cow’s diet. The supplementary feed is used to give the cows a healthy and balanced blend of nutrients, providing them with protein, energy and fiber. The majority of the cow’s supplementary feed is from locally grown Irish crops, such as wheat and barley. The balance of this feed can be composed of distillers grain (rapeseed, soy and citrus pulp – a blend of dried peel, pulp and seeds of oranges, grapefruit and other citrus fruit).

3. The GMO Issue: The biggest alarm from the post is the issue of GMO’s. I went straight to Kerrygold:

Our ongoing discussions with the grain and dairy industry have established that of this approximately 10% grain/supplements, approximately 20 to 25% may be from GM sources. This means that approximately 3% of a cow’s total typical annual diet may be from GM sources

At present, the Irish Dairy Board cannot guarantee that grain supplements used by farmers will all be GM free…

We can confirm that Kerrygold butter and cheese do not contain GM ingredients.

Some have raised concern that even though Kerrygold’s butter may not contain GMO ingredients, the feed may.

I feel comfortable with Kerrygold disclosing that 3% of the annual feed their cows eat may contain GMO’s. Considering the fact that GMO’s are fairly new to Europe and most of the supplementation is coming from local sources of wheat and barely along with possibly corn and soy, I feel confident in this very small percentage.

Our family just recently adopted two laying hens, because of this I also have a great appreciation for how difficult it is to find guaranteed GMO-free feed and the great cost involved in using such feed is amazingly high.

I congratulate Kerrygold for being able to keep this percentage so low.

Bravo!

4. Kerrygold butter comes from fresh Spring cream/milk:

Cows in Ireland calve in the spring and are therefore outdoors, grazing on green grass when they are producing milk.

The cream/milk produced to make butter comes from cows that are grazing on pasture. Cream is not produced and churned into butter during the winter when the cows are being supplemented.

IMG_0023_2

5. Consider the Alternatives: I personally choose not to purchase butter (or meat) based on the organic label alone.

Organic does not equal grass-fed.

Many organic brands of butter, cheese, milk, and meats are nothing more than glorified corn-fed cows, simply free of antibiotics and hormones.  Although these products may be GMO-free (organic), the diets of such animals are far from normal or healthy.

I decided to look into a couple other sources for butter.

Pastured, grass-fed sources.

The first, Organic Valley. I spoke to Organic Valley over the phone. I was told the milk/cream used for their line of Pastured Butter is not 100% grass-fed. Just like Kerrygold, Organic Valley supplements with grains including corn and soy. Although they didn’t disclose how much supplementation occurs, they do use GMO-free corn and soy. The representative also confirmed that 100% grass-fed was far from reality for the majority of farmers.

The second source was my local raw dairy farm. Again, I found supplementation to be a small part of the cows diet when needed.  The farm also recently switched over to a new organic and GMO-free feed which also drove the cost of the dairy much higher.

Dustin may need to start looking for that extra job now.

butter NFP

To Buy or Not:

After a week of pondering and researching (and loosing sleep) I have decided I will continue to buy Kerrygold.

I feel it’s important to continue to support a company that strives to feed their cows grass, a practice which is not widely practiced today.

While I will pick up a 1/2lb tub of butter from my local farm and stock up on Organic Valley Pastured Butter when on sale, I will continue to confidently buy pounds of the creamy, yellow grass-fed Irish Butter I love so much.

Kerrygold.

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Sources:
http://hopecentric.com/why-i-stopped-buying-kerrygold-butter/
http://kerrygoldusa.com/faq/
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70 Comments

  • Mary Ann McLachlan says:

    Great information, thanks for all the time consuming research.

  • Thanks for doing this research!

  • I couldn’t agree with you more. I read the same post last week and while it was well written, I thought she jumped the gun a bit too soon. It really is difficult for any farmer to truly achieve 100% grass-fed. They can’t control the weather, sickness, injury or even the possibility of malnutrition. 90% grass-fed is FAR better than what any butter on my local store shelves can provide, and I don’t have the availability of locally sourced butter. I firmly believe that 90% grass-fed provides WAY more nutrients that 100% organic feed ever will. A 3% chance of GMO feed per year is so small when we consider the quantity of butter they produce vs. the quantity of butter we consume (well, some of us do eat more than others ;) ). That same percentage could apply to just about anything we eat. We can try, try, try all we want, but sometimes there are factors beyond our control.

    Sorry for the long comment, lol. Thanks for breaking it down so well for everyone. :) I’ll be sharing this one with my readers for sure.

  • JMR says:

    Thank you for researching this and sharing. I already spend $8 for 1/2 gallon of grassfed raw milk. My farmer charges $20 for 1/2 lb of grassfed raw butter. I’ll stick with the Kerrygold as the best I can afford…and it tastes really good.

  • Thank you! I love the balance. I buy kerrygold and organic pastures. I have made my own butter but I don’t always have a source for cream.

  • Becky says:

    Thank you for all your research! Awesome!

  • Wendy says:

    You’ve written a truly wonderful and informative article on the subject matter. THANK YOU for doing the research and providing us with your findings. I, too, will continue using Kerry Gold, with my decision being based solely on your awesome research! :)

    Now… I read an article about white vinegar.. that apparently it’s VERY difficult to get organic white vinegar for some reason.. Which makes me scared to try to make pickles this year using regular white vinegar. Do you have any thoughts on the matter?

    THanks again!!
    ~Wendy

    • Wendy, I’m sure Kristin can provide a more insightful answer, but I happened to come back to her post and saw you question so I’ll toss out my 2 cents. ;) White distilled vinegar is made from corn and 88% of corn is GMO. To be certified organic, ingredients cannot be GM… see the rabbit trail unfolding? :)

    • Kristin says:

      Thank you Wendy. I truthfully, don’t use much white vinegar so I’m not much of an expert on the vinegar matter. Sounds like Tiffany knows a bit more on the subject :)

  • Michele says:

    Well written! I missed the controversy! When DH first requested that we buy Kerrygold, I didn’t really want to. I was kind of blinded by the organic label and thought the expense was high enough! But then I tried the butter and it was like comparing local free range eggs to regular eggs. There really is no comparison.

  • Rachelle says:

    This is great information, Kristin, Thank you for the careful and thoughtful research.

  • Janknitz says:

    Trader Joe’s carries organic butter even cheaper than their Kerry Gold. It doesn’t claim to be grass fed, but it looks (and rumor has it that it is) Organic Valley butter. Organic Valley gets it’s milk regionally, and in my Northern California region the dairies listed with OV all have pastured herds. So I feel pretty confident that I’m buying grass fed butter (and, it seems to be a deeper yellow, in the spring–that makes sense!).

    Our family did a side-by-side taste test between TJ’s Kerry Gold and TJ’s Organic butter and we liked the TJ’s brand better. It tasted fresher. Kerry Gold has to travel a long way. I like KG, but budget-wise we are buying the TJ’s brand instead with no regrets.

    It only stands to reason that there has to be some grain in the feed–in places like Minnesota, there’s no grass all winter. Here in California they can pasture year round, but the grass is dry and brown all summer and I’m sure some supplementation is required.

  • It’s like the 80/20 rule for cows, or 90/10 or 97/3! I love this article!! Thank you, thank you,

  • Thanks for the well-thought out post! I admire your effort to research so thoroughly to make informed decisions for your family.

    Thanks for sharing on Natural Living Monday!

  • It’s so funny you wrote about this as I have wondered many times before if I should buy Kerrygold or not! Thanks for the very thorough research :)

  • I agree we have to chose the lesser of evils in our complicated food system. My own personal choice when it comes to dairy and meat products is that I aim to avoid GMOs 100%, especially after watching the documentary The World According To Monsanto: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N6_DbVdVo-k which I highly recommend watching – it’s not just for health reasons but for the environmental impacts: GMO corn production uses neonicotinoid pesticides which are killing off our bees, and superweeds are now resistant to Round-Up herbicide which means biotech companies are now bringing more toxic lines of pesticide-resistant GMOs: dicamba-resistant soybeans and Agent Orange-resistant corn, I wrote about this here: http://kitchenvignettes.blogspot.com/2012/07/sweet-corn-chowder.html
    It would be nice if Kerrygold would agree to go GMO-free. I think with enough consumer pressure, this could happen. In fact I’m sending them an email right now! :-)

    • Kristin says:

      Thanks I will check it out. I agree the environmental impact is not a good thing. I also wrote them thanking them for keeping the percentage so low and also asking them to consider sourcing non-GMO corn. I know it’s hard. I only have 4 chickens and find it hard, if not impossible, to source feed like this. For now, other than my local farm (which just stopped using a GMO feed for supplementation and the prices skyrocketed which I am okay with but not everyone can afford the huge price tag now) Kerrygold is my best option. Btw, beautiful blog! Can’t wait to try a few of your recipes! :)

  • Miss Manners says:

    Sorry you lost sleep over it! I read that blog and decided instantly that nothing is perfect, and 90% perfect was about as perfect as it was going to get! Local is great, but the local raw dairy farms supplement lots more than Kerrygold does, and charge a lot more than Costco does.

  • Sara says:

    I contacted the Natural by Nature a few years ago inquiring about their grass-fed cow milk products and was given the reply: “The cows are allowed to graze all year long, but in the winter since the grass in not as plentiful their diets must be supplemented so that they maintain a healthy body weight. In the winter their diets are supplemented with organic hay, haylage and a small amount of organic grain.”

  • Feel free not to publish this comment. I love the article and you will be featured on natural living Monday IF you link back! I know you linked back to a bunch of other blogs, and am sure it was just an oversight. It happens to me too. Please link back so I can feature your great post! Thanks for doing this great research.

  • deborah345 says:

    where does one purchase Kerrygold. I got the understanding that Costco carries it???

  • trixiejo302 says:

    This may be a really dumb question, but why does your raw butter label state, “Not for human consumption?”

  • Lynn says:

    Thank you for taking the time to get some answers! I’m not near any farms and I will definitely be sticking with Kerry Gold! (Can’t get Organic Valley butter here either!) I’ve subscribed to your blog!

  • Natasha says:

    Hurrah! Thank you for saying this, I have looked into it as well and decided to be confident in my Kerrygold habit as well ;)

  • DeAnna says:

    Very nicely put!. I buy my Kerrygold from Costco as well, and will continue to do so. I can’t do everything that every article or blog suggests. I have to do what is best for my family No matter how you slice it, Kerrygold is still better than margarine.

  • Mikki says:

    Oddly enough I found this site via a woman in Dublin who does the Facebook page for the WAPF chapter there. She has your Kerrygold post on their site. We began corresponding when I traveled to Ireland this past spring. I contacted the chapter to find out about some good real food restaurants in Dublin. When I returned to the States we wrote a bit about things here and there and naturally butter came up, grassfed butter and Kerrygold in particular since I had been buying it here recommended by other WAPF people. Well, according to Katrina, from Dublin, just about all of the grass there is not natural but planted. She claims the pastures are plowed and planted with rye grass for the cattle and that it is not organic and it is heavily sprayed with things to keep it healthy. Apparently the really wet weather causes a lot of grasses to rot, mold, etc., and the cows and cattle cannot consume it. This past spring was so wet and cold, crops failed and there was a “fodder crisis.” Ireland actually had to import hay from you guessed it….the US! Other countries shipped hay in also and Katrina claims once again, NOT organic, so probably GMO and sprayed with pesticides. This really bummed me out after seeing all this “lush” pasture with cows and sheep munching away. It makes a pretty picture but it appears to have a dark side. Katrina said the the Kerrygold operation is so very huge, it can’t be that great and she doesn’t trust them. This Dublin lady buys her organic butter from France and England! So, the verdict is not out about Kerrygold just yet.

    Mikki

    • Kristin says:

      Thank you for sharing. Very interesting. I think that’s the reality of farming. Crops get washed out, grass doesn’t grow, and supplementation often occurs. I’ve seen it often here in Florida with local farms I buy from. I know from several Irish friends that Kerrygold is not considered anything special in Ireland, just normal table butter, but for me, with a desire to eat butter from cows raised as close to natural God-given conditions as possible, this often is the best I can provide, and far superior to the other choices I have. Right now grass (hay) and barley are not on the top of the GMO’s being produced, so that is a relief. I know it’s impossible to find “organic” hay for our chickens which they sometimes consume. I too have questioned the size of Kerrygold, but I have no problem with a company such as Organic Valley which is much larger, along with a few other large scale organic companies. I truly believe good farming practices can be practiced whether you are a large scale company with hundreds to thousands of farms or a small local farm. Would you mind sharing her site where this post is being shared? I’d love to check it out. Thank you :)

      • Mikki says:

        Did you get the links you wanted about this I sent to your e-mail? Didn’t hear back.

      • Ann says:

        I wonder if Kerrygold is a very large company or whether it is a consortium of many farmers who join together to package and market the products.

        The climate in Ireland is very similar to that of western Washington state. The cows here are out at pasture year around although there are a few months when grass is not growing much and they are fed grass which has been made into silage.

  • Cindy Vandegrift says:

    I totally agree with you =)

  • Liz says:

    Thank you for doing all that research, I absolutely loved your article! And I agree — I’m going to keep buying Kerry Gold Butter :)

  • cheeseslave says:

    Fantastic post. I came to the same conclusion.

  • Bonnie says:

    Agree completely. Thank you for jumping in and doing the research.

  • Awesome post!! I love all the research and I love my Kerrygold. I’m keeping my delicious yellow creamy butter :)

  • Katie says:

    Thanks! We buy Kerry gold from Costco, occasionally organic valley pasture on sale. We do get raw milk but the butter is $24/lb and I simply can’t do that.

  • Lori says:

    UMMM why does the container of Raw butter say “not for human consumption”? Am I just duh or what? lol

  • Lorees Guess says:

    You mentioned that Kerrygold was cheaper. I for one, would rather pay the farmer and not the doctor, the nurse, the radiologist, etc. Just my reason for buying from the farmer.

    • Kristin says:

      I would as well. This is why we purchase most of our food locally and about 97% organic and make everything at home. Kerrygold is paying farmers too :) I am able to support both my local farms, including purchasing most of my raw dairy, and purchase from Kerrygold farmers as well :). I would love to purchase 100% local, but for me that isn’t always possible due to various factors. If this is possible for you, that is fantastic!

  • I came to the same conclusion as you! :)

  • Summer says:

    I’m interested in the post that talked about that lady from Dublin who knew the grass was planted and then sprayed. I think you should get to the bottom of that. Today, after having eaten Kerrygold exclusively for the last 6 months, I tried OV Pasture butter again. It was refreshingly a lot less salty than KG, and had a sweetness from its cultures that KG does not have. I want to like KG best because they are the cheapest. But I wish they would salt a bit less, and use sea salt (which it doesn’t say), and I wish we knew more about the way the cows were really and truly raised.

    • Kristin says:

      Kerrygold also makes and sells an unsalted butter (no salt). It is sold in a silver package. I can email you the links the lady from Ireland sent me. Is the email listed here a good email to send those to? Unless we buy exclusively from local farms we visit regularly we never know 100% about the conditions and feed and such. We have the information provided for us by these companies to base our decisions on, such as Organic Valley and Kerrygold or any non-local company or farm your purchase from.

  • Rachel R. says:

    Wish I could afford organic/Kerrygold/anything along these lines on a regular basis. Judging from that shelf label, it is FOUR TIMES as expensive as the “regular” butter I buy. (I know the grass-fed is way healthier, but starving isn’t healthy, either! ;) )

    A while back I was looking into the possibility of getting a cow, and came across a “heritage” breed of cattle called the “Dexter.” These are small cattle (about half the size of “regular” cows) that originated in Ireland, and they apparently can browse some (like goats), so they don’t require as much grass. So it’s probably true that Ireland has less grass, and that if they are trying to raise the same kind of cattle we use here for dairy production it may not be the best. However, Ireland has been producing dairy for centuries – even before they could spray heavily to prevent grass rot (or whatever) – so it really probably depends on how traditional they attempt to remain.

  • Joni Knox says:

    Thank you for your research and report. I started wondering about this, too. Sorry you lost sleep!

  • chad says:

    My father in law has cattle in Ireland. If all farmers are like him, they
    Are mostly grass fed, except in winter when he does have to feed them
    Some grain…to me, that’s close enough. Kerrygold is so good, I will
    Continue to eat it. With a smile.

  • chad says:

    The land is so wet and cold in winter, if they didn’t rotate the cattle
    And house them some in winter, the grass would die and not come back in
    Spring…then we would have no grass fed Irish beef or butter. (According
    To my in laws.)

  • Julie Quan says:

    We buy from a farmer that is exclusively grass fed. In the winter, that means no bags of grain but plenty of dried grasses, which will contain seed heads/grain but plenty of the rest of the plant as well so it is in balance. It is perfectly possible to feed the cattle without supplementing grain. We live in a climate with winter. What makes it unrealistic is that most people don’t v. can’t. For all of the grain there are the rest of plants that could have been made into hay v. bags of grain. Cost is a factor and we look for the best possible price without sacrificing quality and our health goals. GMO is not something we want to compromise. We live in a little apartment on the lesser side of town, trim our budget in every imaginable way so that we can eat our priorities and homeschool. It is worth once a year hair cuts, old cars, eat simply to eat high quality, no cable/satellite, buy clothes used, etc. Anyway, if one doesn’t have to compromise a good deal is always welcome but GMOs are never acceptable. And grain free dairy is much more healthy than cows that are given any grain, even grain at milking. There are farmers doing this, but one does have to search. Best of luck.

  • Julie Quan says:

    Other good fats to help supplement butter are lard (one can render for one’s self), tallow (again, render for one’s self from beef raised without grain, hormones, etc.) and coconut oil.

  • Pam says:

    Not to buy. People rave about this stuff but I don’t get it. I am completely aghast at these exorbitant prices!! “Just $6.50 for 3 sticks” and that is the CHEAP one? Wow. I’ll stay with the butter that is $2 per pound. Even the cheap stuff is better than margarine and fake spreads.

  • Coni says:

    Thank you very much! I had seen the article but had decided to stick with Kerrygold anyway. To me, it tastes like butter should…aka food from my youth :)

  • Elizabeth says:

    FYI I found Kerrygold 8oz at Target for $2.33. They had both salted and unsalted. (We do not have a Cost-co here and this is a lot cheaper than Publix! (@ 2/$7.00))

  • MK says:

    Thank you for the info!

  • The problem with Soy is that 90% of the worlds soy is GM the bigger question is what percentage of that is left behind in the milk – a very tough question to answer. I’m hoping one day enough people will buy organic in an effort to lower the prices because the demand will eventually justify it. Thanks for this post!!

  • Teresa says:

    Well done job of investigation. I too will continue to eat the rich gold butter.

  • I absolutely LOVE and appreciate your post about this. I am also on a quest to change my entire diet to organic, it is SO important. Where I reside in the Caribbean, it is a bit difficult to obtain these options off the shelf; however, there are a few places offering the option, it certainly comes at a cost, but, as we become a lot more aware, I know the opportunity of purchasing ALL my items organically will exist. I am also educating myself about nutrition and preventing/reversing diseases. Thank you for this So Much!

  • Sara says:

    Honestly, I’m a little more worried about the fact that they use antibiotics and vaccines on their cows. :/

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