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.
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
– 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
– 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
– Better butter, naturally
– Manufactured from fresh cream, produced from fresh top quality Icelandic milk
– Pure Icelandic butter – no additives
– 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).
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.
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!