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Butter Tasting – Kerrygold, Organic Valley, Lurpak and Smjor

April 27, 2011

butter-tasting-kerrygold-organic-valley-smjor-lurpak

I’ve always loved butter. So rich and creamy, it makes every meal taste better (what don’t I put butter on?), and it even tastes great on its own. I’ve also complained in the past about the lack of quality butter in Canada. So, while I still had a few different butters on hand from a prior trip to the US, I thought it’d be neat to do a butter tasting. The butters I was interested in were ones that I thought would have a good chance of being natural and pastured. I say good chance because 3 of the 4 butters are imported to the US, and their labels have much fewer marketing claims. By contrast, the US butter is plastered with promises. Since I’m used to products flaunting anything that could potentially increase sales, I actually find the US marketing claims comforting, whereas the lack of the same on the imported butters arouses suspicion.

The Butters

butter-tasting

A) Kerrygold: This is the most widely available of the 4 butters, and the one I eat most often.

Product of: Ireland
Package marketing: Pure Irish Butter
Ingredients: Cultured, pasteurized cream.
Website marketing (since the package doesn’t say much):
- Ireland’s dairy herds graze freely outdoors on green pastures for most of the year
- Grass-fed cows (not grain-fed)
- No preservatives, hormones, and unnatural additives

B) Organic Valley, Limited Edition: May – September Pasture Butter (Salted Cultured Butter): This is the shmanciest sounding of the lot. It was also the only salted one. Given the choice, I would buy this one most often due to the certainty of it being organic and pastured.

Product of: USA
Package marketing:
- Naturally occurring CLA and Omega 3
- USDA Organic
- 84% butterfat
- WIS Grade AA
- Exclusively from pampered cows on summer pastures
- Produced without antibiotics, synthetic hormones, or pesticides
Ingredients: Organic pasteurized sweet cream (milk), salt, microbial cultures

C) Lurpak: This butter doesn’t make any claims about being pastured, which I found out after the tasting. I’d consider this the additive-free control to the other 3 butters.

Product of: Denmark
Package Marketing: None
Website marketing:
- Made from fresh cream and nothing else
- Lower moisture content than most other butters
- Distinct continental taste
- A pale-coloured lactic butter
Ingredients: cream, culture.

D) Smjor: Because Iceland seems pretty pristine… Also found online that apparently the use of hormones and antibiotics is banned in Iceland and most cows are grass-fed. Didn’t find anything about pesticides, though.

Product of: Iceland
Package marketing:
- Better butter, naturally
- Manufactured from fresh cream, produced from fresh top quality Icelandic milk
- Pure Icelandic butter – no additives
Website marketing:
- All products made using 100% carbon-free electricity
- Research has shown that Iceland’s milk is some of the purest in the world
- Icelandic cows graze on lush pasture and hay
- Iceland is  renowned for being clean and unpolluted
Ingredients: Butter (cream).

The Tasting

There were 4 of us participating. The process was simple – rank each unlabeled butter on a scale of 1 to 5 for colour, texture, smell, and of course, taste.

1st Place: Smjor. It was the winner, both in terms of overall ranking and in taste alone. Smjor was easily the deepest yellow. Its texture was also very creamy and buttery. And it tasted the most like butter. Smjor was the butter that I preferred overall, as did almost everyone else (one person ranked it 2nd).

2nd Place: Kerrygold. For me, Kerrygold ranked 3rd because it seemed a little bit less creamy and fresh. But overall it was a clear favourite.

3rd Place: Organic Valley. This one ranked as #2 for me. Interesting, it seems like a butter that you either love or hate. It ranked 1st and 2nd for two of us, and actually 4th for the other two. I wonder if the saltiness affected the rankings. Also, someone commented that it tasted grassy, with a guess that this one was most likely pastured.

4th Place: Lurpak. Makes sense. This butter is really not all that special compared to the others, so the rankings in this regard are pretty accurate. One comment was that it didn’t really taste like butter.

Thoughts

So now I’m even more intrigued by Smjor – I wish it was certified organic. I am also happy with my main butter, Kerrygold, although I will buy Organic Valley and Smjor when possible. I see no reason to purchase Lurpak again.

Overall, though, none of these butters compare to a butter I tried when on a farm in Europe several years ago. That butter was raw, from grass-fed cows, and basically churned that day. Words can’t describe how amazingly delicious that butter was. It was a deep, golden yellow, and smelled and tasted phenomenal. The biggest difference was probably that it was unpasteurized, and also so very fresh. I haven’t had raw butter since, and I’d really like to next time I’m in a state that allows it. I imagine the farm fresh butter would be hard to beat – I doubt any of the store-bought ones could ever really compare. But as the butter tasting showed, not all store-bought butters are created equal, and it’s definitely worth trying a few to decide which one you like best.

What’s your favorite butter?

Update: I have since done another round of butter tasting!

smjor-butter-tasting

Shared with Food Renegade and Real Food Wednesdays.

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{ 55 comments… read them below or add one }

pjnoir May 6, 2011 at 5:22 AM

I never buy products from OV. They are way to controlling of their day farmers even after contract commitments are fulfilled. Not someone I want to support, especially with many other options out there.

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admin@primalist May 6, 2011 at 8:07 AM

Any suggestions for better pastured butters? What I like about OV is that at least they say it’s organic and pastured. The other ones I kind of feel like I’m left hoping and guessing. Ideally I’d buy from a local farmer, but I haven’t been able to find one locally that’s sells organic pastured butter (not to even mention raw!)

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DR KELLY January 27, 2013 at 5:13 PM

http://www.realmilk.com that’s the place to start checking or trolling :) around for local farmers and ranchers that do cow & goat. plus farm finder a brand new service from Max Kane

Sarah Smith July 1, 2011 at 5:26 AM

Wow, what a great idea. I wonder how they would rank if you also tested them on toast or something similar. I agree with you on buying OV products; sometimes that is the best option available.

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admin@primalist July 1, 2011 at 7:28 AM

That’s a good point – as an additional taste test, you could pair the butter with something. I wouldn’t know what to pair it with though, since I don’t eat grains :P

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Sarah Smith July 1, 2011 at 2:05 PM

Yeah, I don’t eat grains either. Maybe on some coconut flour bread or broccoli or something.

WordVixen July 1, 2011 at 2:29 PM

I’ve been unable to try Smjor yet (no nearby Whole Foods), and I do love Kerrygold, but my hands down favorite brand is Trickling Springs Creamery. They’re based in Chambersburg, PA, but deliver to a few boutique type shops around much of the central East Coast. My mother feels the same way (she’ll take Kerrygold any day, but if offered the choice, it’s Trickling Springs all the way). Plus, it’s kind of neat to see the variation in yellow as the seasons change. :-)

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admin@primalist July 1, 2011 at 5:02 PM

I’ve heard of Trickling Springs, and would love to try it.. I wish there was some local organic pastured butter around here.. even more, local or not, I wish I had access to organic raw dairy!

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hann September 1, 2011 at 6:59 AM

Interesting article! While researching butter online I came across a site which claims that pale butter is probably grain fed and that Lurpak is also fed on GM feed… they recommend contacting the company and making your views known.

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admin@primalist September 1, 2011 at 6:01 PM

Yuck! Well, I definitely wouldn’t buy it again…

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Roxanne May 6, 2012 at 10:50 AM

I noticed that someone in the comments claimed that Lurpak cows were fed GMO corn. Wondering if that assertion is just based on hearsay, because on their faqs page it says that they are not fed GMO corn- http://lurpakusa.com/faq/
Personally though I really like the KerryGold, but now I will look out for the Smoj as well. Thanks for the info.

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admin@primalist May 8, 2012 at 10:32 PM

You’re right, the FAQ does say the corn isn’t GMO. But considering that a large proportion of corn is GMO, and that Lurpak doesn’t claim to be organic…. of course, the corn could be organic, and any other feed could be conventional, making the end product non-organic. I guess all we have to go on is the company’s FAQ. Thanks for leaving the link!

Jennifer September 2, 2011 at 12:22 PM

I’ve been on a quest for great pastured butter and the OV is the only one I’ve had thus far. I do have a WF within reasonable distance so I’ll be calling them to see if they carry the Smjor (fingers crossed). If not, I’ll venture next to try Kerrygold as I believe that is available readily here.
There is one other butter that I’ve seen around in the “butter community” and that is Anchor. Any experience with this one? It’s a New Zealand butter. Claims are: Pasture fed – 365 days of the year; No grain supplemented; No hormones (didn’t see any mention of antibiotics). http://www.anchorbutter.com/AnchorButter.html
It sounds good and I think I’ve seen it locally, but the memory is very vague.
Thanks for the review. Maybe there could be a chart with texture, color, taste, creaminess, saltiness, etc. Or perhaps not. :)

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admin@primalist September 2, 2011 at 7:09 PM

I have heard of Anchor, and wanted to try it, but I haven’t seen it anywhere.. if you track it down, let me know where! As for the chart, I considered it, but thought I might be the only one who appreciated its geekiness ;)

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yomi October 10, 2011 at 2:38 PM

Do you know the Grade of the Kerrygold butter?

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munira November 10, 2011 at 1:49 PM

Lurpak butter is the best and Creme De La Creme, but unfortunatry I cant find it here in canada .
could any one tell me from where can I buy it? I’ll be thankful.

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admin@primalist January 5, 2012 at 8:51 PM

I’m surprised you like Lurpak so much! I had the opposite experience with it.. I do agree with you though on wishing Canada had more butter options!

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semi December 10, 2011 at 2:36 PM

Salted lurpak was good. but unsalted? i’m not sure.
I tried anchor. I lived in Korea. and it’s very common among home bakers.
I really love that. and i was satisfied.

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admin@primalist January 5, 2012 at 9:08 PM

I have yet to try Anchor, but I keep an eye out for it whenever I’m in the States..

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Danny February 23, 2012 at 9:32 AM

Are there any unpasteurized raw butter from this selection? I believe Smjor is a raw butter plus since the the climate is very cold in Iceland this means the grass is higher in Omega 3 fatty acids compared to OV butter. Anyways does it matter if they pasteurized butter would I still get the same benefits?

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admin@primalist February 23, 2012 at 6:19 PM

Sadly, none of those butters are raw. I wish they were – pasteurization kills off a lot of the good stuff. Raw dairy products are difficult to find, as they are “illegal” in most places. But pasteurized butter is better than no butter. At least go for grassfed when you can.

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Sophie April 22, 2012 at 6:17 AM

This is hilarious- I’ve tasted every type of butter other than raw and Lurpak is my favorite!! I could eat it by the spoonful! I know what you mean when you say it doesn’t taste like butter though- it is slightly reminiscent of Brie cheese.

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Sophie April 22, 2012 at 6:18 AM

I haven’t tried unsalted though!!

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admin@primalist April 22, 2012 at 6:08 PM

Haha that’s too funny :) Maybe the salt is makes a difference, as I only tasted the unsalted. I could (and sometimes do) eat Kerrygold by the spoonful. Couldn’t see myself doing that with Lurpak though :P

Dima May 29, 2012 at 12:42 PM

Unfortunately, Canada has heavy regulations when it comes to importing dairy products (even from the USA!). The tariffs for dairy products are so high that economically it does not make sense for foreign companies to export butter/cheese and other dairy products to Canada.

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admin@primalist June 8, 2012 at 3:55 PM

It’s really unfortunate. And it’s not like you’re allowed to bring that much across the border yourself either.

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InterestedinFood June 22, 2012 at 1:02 PM

Awesome, thanks for the reviews.

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JJ July 22, 2012 at 9:15 AM

Ålandsmejeriet (ÅCA) makes the best tasting butter I’ve came across so far.

The Åland Islands (Swedish pronunciation: [ˈoːland]) form an archipelago in the Baltic Sea. Most inhabitants speak Swedish, they belong to Finland but are autonomous to a large extent.

The butter, “Ålands Smör”, is available, outside Åland, in parts of Sweden and Finland, as far as I know.

Here’s a clip about how their butter is made. http://vetamix.net/video/traditionellt-mejeri_5008

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admin@primalist July 28, 2012 at 2:07 PM

Interesting – wish I could understand what they’re saying.. but the butter’s a very nice, rich yellow colour.

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Livy August 6, 2012 at 1:23 AM

Where can i buy unpasturised butter in Australia, please ?

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admin@primalist August 15, 2012 at 1:54 PM

Anyone from Australia have some advice?

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Helen November 10, 2012 at 2:07 AM

Check your nearest organic farmers market (which might be very, very far away) to see if they’re selling raw cream and make your own. You have to ask for bath milk/cream. It’s illegal to sell raw dairy products and they’re pretty strict. If you can find any organic dairy farmers closer to you, you can ask to buy their cream raw. It’s very expensive though. I buy the raw milk for $6 for 2litres and but I balk at the cream. I’m not entirely sure of the price for about 250mls of cream cause I think I just blanked it from my brain in shock.

Sbmargo August 22, 2012 at 6:37 AM

It would be nice to compare the same butters in the winter months. I just bought two pounds of Organic Valley Pature Butter, and if I had more room in the freezer, I’d have cleared ou the store’s supply. I’m a regular Kerrygold buyer, and I buy Organic Valley raw whole milk at our farmers’ market. I didn’t notice a difference in color seasonally in Kerrygold, but I will be paying more attention this year. Thanks for your good reviews.

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admin@primalist August 22, 2012 at 9:19 AM

Hey thanks for the comment. When I bought Organic Valley last year, it was the special limited edition pastured one – I would expect that one to have the best color and it’d be a good one to stock up on. And yes, good point about comparing the color of the same butter throughout the year – I would definitely expect some variability.

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J September 14, 2012 at 6:35 AM

I find it funny that you say that lurpak doesn’t taste like butter, when its infact by FAR the oldest of the 3 companies so actually it is the others that doesn’t taste like butter. That said, the saltet version of lurpak does taste much better

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admin@primalist September 15, 2012 at 8:19 AM

Just because it’s the oldest of the 3 companies doesn’t mean it makes the best or most butter-like butter.

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TS December 2, 2012 at 2:47 PM

I definitely agree with this rating. Kerrygold is the “good butter” you can get anywhere, even at low-end supermarkets, so it was my go to. It’s pretty good, but didn’t really rock my world. Didn’t see Smjor until I went to a local Whole Foods, and it is definitely my favorite so far (the other two I’ve also tried and are readily available; I tried some higher end French butter on the same day as the Smjor, and my gf and I both agreed the French butter was watery and lighter; it was solid cream, but not really butter). It was especially great when using it with just a nice fresh sourdough bread. Glad to see my taste buds aren’t off the norm or anything.

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Meghan February 12, 2013 at 6:30 PM

What about Kate’s? To me it’s by far and away the best–and I’ve tried all the kinds in both tests. It’s consistently fresh and delicious. My daughter (20 months) likes to eat it like a ice cream bar. I don’t encourage it, but I don’t blame her.

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admin@primalist February 14, 2013 at 5:49 PM

I haven’t tried Kate’s. I’ll keep an eye out for it, thanks!

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lp August 4, 2013 at 6:46 PM

I don’t see how the taste test can be accurate when one butter is salted and the rest not. In my opinion butter taste so much better with salt, it really brings out the flavor. I have never tasted the Sjmor but I have tasted the Kerrygold and Organic Valley, and though they taste fine, to me they do not measure up to the Danish Lurpak. It is a shame you give the Lurpak such bad comments and possibly keep others from even trying it. You are pretty much saying, don’t even bother it doesn’t even taste like real butter. Lurpak is exported to 80 countries, surely it can’t be as bad as you make it out to be!

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admin@primalist August 6, 2013 at 11:14 AM

And how many countries is Coca Cola exported to? I agree with you that salted and unsalted butters taste differently, and my original goal was to get unsalted only, but then some salted snuck in – I don’t have much butter availability up here in Canada, and I can only bring so much back from the US (and I’m not there often enough). In the future, I would like to keep the two separate. But I can tell you with certainty that the salt issue had absolutely nothing to do with my dislike for Lurpak. I tend to prefer unsalted butter, and that’s what I typically eat – Lurpak simply did not measure up, in our opinion.

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Casper August 4, 2013 at 10:32 PM

Nothing beats fresh raw butter! When I lived in SA I got some from an organic farm. No commercial butter can beat the taste and health benefits. I also had raw plain yogurt from the same grass fed cows. That was amazing and one can’t even start to compare it to store bought yogurt. I reside in China now and the best I can find here is Kerrygold (very pricey). Pity it’s pasteurized.

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admin@primalist August 6, 2013 at 11:08 AM

Pity it’s pasteurized, yes. But pity also that, as I recently found out, they allow GMOs.. Out of curiosity, how much does Kerrygold cost in China?

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butterrrr September 4, 2013 at 1:08 PM

I am surprised at the low rating of Lurpak. I agree that Kerrygold is much better than anything we find in Canada. But the taste of Lurpak is just sublime. It’s so intense, Kerrygold seemed kinda flat in comparison.

In Canada Gay Lea is the “least worst” IMHO

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admin@primalist September 9, 2013 at 7:44 PM

We’ll have to agree to disagree :) I’d recommend giving Kerrygold another shot though, as it’s one of the most flavorful butters I’ve tasted.

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butterrr September 10, 2013 at 6:13 PM

I guess so :)

Will for sure give Kerrygold another shot. Well it’s not that I didn’t like it, it was definitely an excellent butter. Infact I might be using Kerrygold more often as I found it to be more widely available in the US (especially in northern NY state where I do most of my cross-border shopping).
Its a pity that we are stuck with the low flavour stuff in Canada.

I noticed that you give (some) importance to the colour of the butter. I didn’t quite understand that part. Besides taste, being the single most important factor, texture could be given some importance. But colour….

I am also looking forward to trying out the STIRLING EUROPEAN STYLE BUTTER: CHURN 84™ RESERVE

Btw, your blog is excellent, keep up the good work!

Julius Ceasar September 17, 2013 at 4:15 PM

Lurpak is the far and away winner for me of the butters you’ve tested – all a matter of taste, of course. Lurpak is available as “Lightly Salted” and unsalted. There is significant difference in taste between Lightly Salted and unsalted Lurpak. Highly recommend Lightly Salted Lurpak for table butter, unsalted for cooking ( but I don’t use Lurpak for my cookies, it doesn’t soften easily making it hard to meld the butter into the sugar ); I use CABOT butter for cookie baking.

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admin@primalist September 18, 2013 at 8:07 PM

Interesting, I’ve never heard of CABOT

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Zen October 25, 2013 at 8:19 AM

Sadly, the one from OV is not 100% grassfed. You can read their response online.

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Rachel R. July 2, 2014 at 6:59 AM

I find it interesting that NONE Of these butters look especially yellow.

I’m curious whether the OV-haters would have liked it better at another time of year. I’ve noticed with milk that you can taste changes in the milk throughout the season as the pasturage changes.

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j lewis September 19, 2014 at 5:20 PM

Where can I buy it? The USA…………..Thanks JOHN

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j lewis September 19, 2014 at 5:25 PM

Where can I buy smjor? Thanks, JOHN

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admin@primalist January 28, 2013 at 9:44 PM

Thanks for the tip!

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admin@primalist September 10, 2013 at 6:15 PM

It’s a pity indeed. It’s surprising how backwards Canada can be. As for the colour, typically the more deep the yellow, the more likely it’s from pastured cows. The pale stuff usually comes from cows that have never eaten any grass. Pastured butter is both healthier and more flavorful.

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admin@primalist September 10, 2013 at 6:16 PM

Oh, and I meant to say thanks! :)

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