NOTE: This post was one of the first posts shared on Live Simply, making this blogpost over 5 years-old. I still love and purchase Kerrygold butter for my family. That said, I still stand behind the words shared in this post. I welcome comments on this post; however, comments that are rude (a direct insult to me, name calling, or written in a nasty way) will not be approved. Differing opinions are always welcome, rude and insulting comments are not welcome.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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I come from a line of farmers in Germany: my grandfather was a dairy farmer. The info you posted about Kerrygold butter mentions that they use silage. It’s incorrect that silage is equivalent to dried grass, and I think this is intentional misslip by Kerrygold, which makes me question the whole company. The key part of the definition of silage is that it is fermented (the “it” can be grasses like alfafa, clover or entire corn plants). The silo and pit-silo fermentation processes release corrosive effluent into water sources. Kerrygold may have a better mouthful or richness than most USA butters because the European Union requires most butters to have a minimum of 82% butterfat, whereas the USDA only requires 80%. So I don’t want to dissuade you from purchasing, but it’s a compromise. There are many reasons why your local farmer’s raw-milk butter is more expensive than imported Kerrygold butter whose costs include refrigerated (energy inefficient) transport across the Atlantic and US dairy tariffs.
Another thing: Farmers selling to Kerrygold very likely spray grasses with pesticides to remove unwanted plants like thistle and rushes. It is telling that there is no organic butter for Kerrygold. GMO is not so concerning to me, but I think from an ecological perspective, it may have deleterious effects on a system level (think soil quality and such), rather than health effects on individual organisms. If GMO reduces uses of pesticides, you’re probably better off with GMO on the individual level.
In Germany and Austria, where food protection laws are quite precise, there is a classification called “Heumilch” or “hay milk”. There is also the “organic” classification on top of that, which regulates use of pesticides and the amount of physical space the cows have (lowers cortisol produced), and forbids the use of rBGT growth hormones.
Heumilch is, in my opinion, superior, in that the cows are fed exclusively on grass, legumes, hay, some grains but NO silage. Why is no silage important? Because studies find that the silage-free milk produced has little to no harmful bacteria, which makes it particularly suitable for production of raw-milk cheeses and eating.
Kerrygold is a lot of slick marketing in my opinion. When you see things like “cows graze up to 312 days a year”, that means in marketing speak that they can legally claim that the cows are grazing grass even when they’re out only for 100 days whenever corn prices are low on the futures market.
I would choose any European food over US any day of the week. Are standards here are subpar. Often, Publix has frozen bread from France in the freezer, and paired with Kerrygold is amazing! I source my fish from reputable places and buy my meat by splitting a local steer with friends from a small time rancher. Chicken is harder to get, but not impossible. I just take my chances with organic fruits and veg, as that’s the best I can do bc I live in the US. The key for most people who start this new way of eating who may be overwhelmed is just to get rid of all processed foods which are not food. Ick.
Thanks for this info! Do we know if there are any good A2 butters out there in Publix or Aldi or Traders ? Asking for a friend 😂
Hey Lynn, Maybe Truly Grass-Fed brand?
if you want good butter, buy french butter or butter from jersey or cornish butter from marks and spencers
Ah, thanks for sharing.
all irish butter you buy now in ireland are rubbish and kerrygold is one of the worst. you rearly see cows in the fields any more, because they are fed cow nuts, dried grass, some are fed some fresh cut grass. this is why the butters are oily rubbish and far to soft like spreads. a good butter is one that when you scrape it with a knife, you should see little beads of water, you don’t get that with any irish butter now, even english. it just gives farmers an easier life.
What’s your favorite butter, Robert? Any recommendations?
french butter, cornish butter, jersey butter £2.50 to £2,65 per half lb from marks and spencer.
Thank you, Robert.
Thank you for this article and your research.
I face a similar question.
I used to buy Maple Hill Organic Grass Fed butter, but now it seems Whole Foods is no longer carrying them.
I looked up the web page of Vital Farms, but they also do not give any percentages for their feed. Only “pasture raised” and organic.
It is nice you found the information from Kerry Gold.
I wonder why we can go in almost any supermarket and find 100% grass fed grass finished organic beef, but 100% grass fed organic butter (or even 90% grass fed fully organic butter is non-existent. We can also get grass fed organic ghee, but I only find it at about triple the cost of butter.
I guess your article convinced me that Kerry Gold might just be as close to ideal as is obtainable apart from local farmers.
Hey Sam, Great point about the beef-that is interesting. Glad this was helpful!
Since Kerrygold is Irish, I am assuming the butter is A2. Would you know if that is true?
Do you muscle test? In 36+ years of Applied Kinesiology testing, Kerrygold has tested very badly since the 90s!
IME- ‘Best Choice’ brand butter tests much better and cleaner than Kerrygold butter!
Hi! Wow! Such a great post…I know it’s outdated but I’m losing sleep over butter too! Trying to make the best decision for my kiddos and myself of course. As of now, do you still opt for organic valley pasture raised butter when available, or is Kerrygold your top choice? I have also been experimenting with ghee butter 4th and heart and also just purchased the organic valley ghee. But their labels are so misleading. 4th and heart is not organic but is grass fed, while organic valley is organic but only states “butter from pasture raised cows” . Is this grass fed?
Organic Valley also seems to have reformulated their unsalted butter which is getting a lot of negative reviews which also makes me wonder. Thoughts?
We eat clean, always organic and my recent labs were very alarming. We’ve been cooking with avocado oil, but seems like something is wrong here. Therefore now trying to incorporate more healthy fats and CLA (butter etc) thank you!
I think people get confused between non-GMO & organic. Organic is non-GMO automatically, but non-GMO isn’t automatically organic. Organic is much more than no steroids or antibiotics. It also means no pesticides, herbicides, or other disease causing chemicals like known carcinogen carrageenan. So a non or low GMO product can still have cancer causing things in it like glyphosate, for example. What needs to be researched is if the country of origin has strict organic laws for their foods without labeling it organic. Even in the USA, our government, both parties, allow the known carcinogen Carrageenan into organic foods.
Omg i don’t believe this exists in paris! It seems like eating in the US unless you grow your own food in your garden. Nothing is healthy.
Hey Lisa, Yes, unfortunately the US standards for food aren’t anywhere near the European Union’s standards. It definitely takes more searching for good quality food over here.