What's on the plate? You may have guessed “butter and margarine”, but what you're looking at is Organic Valley butter on the left (top) and “store brand” butter on the right (bottom). I'd love be able to afford to use OV butter exclusively, but it's pricey, so we generally reserve it to use as a spread or other “table” use where you eat it directly rather than in a recipe.
What's the difference between grassfed and standard butter?
I still remember my first taste of Organic Valley butter, spread on a slice of home baked bread. Rich, smooth and BUTTERY – I know it sounds strange, but the organic butter simply tastes more like butter.
Organic butter has other unique properties, too. I leave my “bread” butter out (unrefrigerated) so it stays soft and spreadable. I have a covered ceramic butter dish to keep the flies off, and we use it quickly enough that I have never had it go rancid. When it's really hot I only put out half a stick at a time. I have noticed that the organic butter is much firmer than regular butter, no matter what the temperature. In high summer the store brand butter will turn into a puddle if left out (we have AC, but I avoid using it unless it gets REALLY hot). The organic butter remains stable. It can't be a difference in density, as both blocks are the same size and the same weight. It has to be a difference in the fat content itself, and possibly the churning process.
Here's a blurb from a Mother Earth News article on OV Pasture Butter. What I had in the photo was regular OV Cultured Butter, but you can tell from the color that these cows were definitely getting fresh grass.
…grass-fed animal products are the richest natural source of CLA.
CLA is just one of the omega fatty acids that have been found to be richer in grass-fed animals. The potentially important ratio of Omega-3 to Omega-6 fatty acids has also been in the news a lot, and Pasture Butter has a naturally occurring, heart-healthy optimal ratio.
How is Pasture Butter different?
1. REAL FLAVOR. It’s rich, complex, a little nutty, a little grassy, and … well … buttery. Like it should be. Organic Valley produces Pasture Butter in small batches, and churns it longer than standard butter, which has the result of reducing moisture and increasing yummy butterfat. Regular butter is still butter, so it’s usually pretty good and improves the foods you pair it with. But this one can practically stand alone, and if you can resist the urge to snarf it down solo, it’ll make the foods you dress in it simply sing!
Part of the reason this butter is so dang good is that it’s cultured. That’s right, sophisticated. Well, it is a pretty sophisticated butter we’re talking about here, but no, that’s not what I mean. Before being churned, live cultures are added to the cream to ripen it, yielding sweeter and more complex flavors, not to mention making it easier to digest. Allowing cream to ripen — or ferment, or culture, however you want to put it — was once simply the status quo. If you know someone with an antique butter churn who can remember a time before refrigerators, ask them how long they would let fresh cream sit out before making butter with it.
2. AMAZING TEXTURE. It’s creamy, thick, dense, silky-smooth and super-duper-spreadable. Little-known fact: The spreadability of butter is determined by its ratio of saturated to unsaturated fat. If it’s relatively easy to spread, it has more unsaturated fat and less saturated fat. And a 2006 study found that the softer the butter, the more fresh pasture was in the cow’s diet. In fact, cows that eat nothing but grass have the softest butterfat of all.
3. GOOD AS GOLD. The pretty, pretty yellow of Pasture Butter is evidence of its high vitamin and beta-carotene content. Grasses eaten while they are alive are higher in vitamins E, A and beta-carotene than the standard commercial dairy diet, and those nutrients end up in the cream, and thus the butter. (More about that here.) But buyer beware: The pretty, pretty yellow of some nutritionally inferior butters is only evidence of its high food coloring and additive content. Would you like a side of annatto with your butter? Always check the label!
So until I get a cow in my backyard, I will keep enjoying organic butter.
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