Butter Consumption at 40 Year High

December 6, 2013 — A headline in the November 25 issue of the Daily Dairy Report (DDR) caught my attention. “Margarine’s Demise Good for Butter.” I recalled how a few short years ago, butter was so maligned regarding health. 

The DDR’s Sara Dorland talked about it in Friday’s DairyLine, pointing out that while butter is heavy in saturated fats, it does not have the transfats that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is currently looking at.  

Transfats have been linked to an increased risk of coronary heart disease due to plaque buildup in the arteries, according to the FDA she said, and is the reason an outright ban is being considered.  

One of the largest groups that would be affected by such a ban would be margarine, according to Dorland, which leaves butter, soy butter, and almond butter as alternatives, or vegetable fats if not hydrogenated. “It’s primarily the soy oils that are hydrogenated that raised the transfat concern,” she said.

Consumers meanwhile are coming back to butter, she said, and U.S. butter consumption has risen gradually the past decade. Per capita butter consumption reached 5.6 pounds in 2012, up 2.6 percent from 2011 and the highest level since 1975, according to USDA data.

The FDA started to increase consumer awareness of trans fats in processed foods in 2001, according to Dorland, and in 2005, U.S. butter consumption began to rise at a faster pace. The following year, FDA trans-fat labeling requirements were mandated and manufacturers had to disclose the grams of trans-fats contained in a food product on its nutrition label. 

People cooking at home prefer the taste of butter as do chefs, according to Dorland who quickly added that the Food Network has “done a lot for butter.”

The DDR points out that U.S. per capita consumption of margarine in 2000 was 8.2 pounds, nearly double butter consumption at 4.6 pounds, according to USDA’s Agricultural Fact Book. Ten years later, per capita margarine consumption had dropped 56 percent to 3.6 pounds, while butter consumption climbed 10.5 percent to 5 pounds. USDA has not published margarine consumption since 2010 due to the limited number of companies reporting.

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