During a lunchtime conversation with my wonderful coworkers, the topic of butter came up. There were tons of perspectives. One friend never keeps butter in the house, another didn’t really know the difference between conventional and grass-fed butter (and I realized that I struggled to articulate the benefits to her).
I have three separate storage situations for my (grass-fed) butter: room temperature, fridge, freezer. (One can never be too prepared.) It’s kind of a thing.
We realized that there was a lot of confusion about butter. Some see it as a superfood, while others think of butter as that thing Paula Deen uses to kill people.
Now, I won’t recommend Paula’s “start with one stick of butter” approach, but butter is good for you. Not just good for your soul, in the way the occasional croissant or glass(es) of wine are good for your soul, but also good for your body — in moderation, as with all things. I use butter (in moderation) everyday.
I’ve been on the butter train for a few years now. It’s one of those things that I don’t think about anymore — much like eating kale or drinking kombucha. My coworkers asked me to write a post about butter, and I welcomed the opportunity to refresh my memory on some of its magical powers.
Here’s the research that has guided my thinking about the benefits of grass-fed butter over conventional.
benefit: better fat profile
A study by the Journal of Dairy Science found a linear relationship between the amount of grass in a cow’s diet and the type of fat in the milk — basically, the more grass a cow eats, the higher percentage of its milk fat is unsaturated fatty acid, replacing the saturated fatty acids at a linear rate. They also found that that the grass-fed cows produced a greater volume of milk! In science terms:
“Milk yield linearly increased with the proportion of fresh grass in the diet (+0.21 kg/d per 10% of grass). Fat yield remained unchanged. Thus, by effect of dilution, increasing the proportion of fresh grass in the diet induced a linear decrease in fat content. Milk fat globule size decreased by 0.29 μm when the proportion of grass reached 30% in the diet. Increasing the proportion of fresh grass in the diet induced a linear increase in unsaturated fatty acids percentages at the expense of saturated fatty acids.”
Fats can be confusing. Here’s what you need to know, in regards to butter: Conventional butter is made of mostly saturated fats, which may or may not raise your bad cholesterol (the jury’s out). Grass-fed butter is high is unsaturated fats, particularly monounsaturated fats. Monounsaturated fats are the (known) good guys:
So, amazingly, schmearing your food with grass-fed butter could actually be good for your cholesterol. I know, right?
benefit: vitamin k2
Then there’s the added benefit of vitamin K2, which has been called the “missing link” of nutrition. Vitamin K2 fights against all the inflammation in our bodies — chronic inflammation is what causes things like cancer, obesity, and heart disease (see also: migraines, various skin conditions, sleep conditions…). According to this guy, the reason vitamin K2 is so necessary is that it shuttles calcium to where it’s needed most — like your bones and teeth.
This rare vitamin is essentially only found in organ meats and grass-fed butter (and certain cheeses and very specific fermented vegetables). Hardcore paleo people and Eastern Europeans get their K2 from livers and other organ meats, but for most people, grass-fed butter is an easier source for day-to-day.
It’s freaking delicious. If you’ve been avoiding butter your whole life because you’ve thought it was unhealthy, REJOICE! It’s not! If you’ve been avoiding butter because you generally avoid lactose, REJOICE! A lot of people say that they can tolerate (i.e. enjoy) grass-fed butter, even if they can’t have conventional butter. Buy some grass-fed butter and go to town. Your ❤ will thank you.
cooking with grass-fed butter
Butter has a fairly low smoke point, which means that the fats can be damaged past a certain level of heat. Use butter for lower-temperature cooking on the stovetop — for things like scrambled eggs, sauteed veggies or chicken, or fish. Use other, more stable fats (like coconut oil, avocado oil, or my personal favorite for high-temp, duck fat) for higher temperature cooking methods.
Learn more about cooking fats and smoke points from my favorite paleo lady, Diane Sanfillippo here. ❤
buying grass-fed butter
My go-to grass-fed butter is, luckily, available just about everywhere these days. Unsalted Kerrygold can be found at Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, and Kroger (and I’m sure other places as well). If Kerrygold is not available, look for any kind of European-style grass-fed butter (Plugra is another good brand).
Bonus tip!: Kerrygold is way cheaper at Trader Joe’s ($3.19 in Nashville) than it is at Kroger ($4.99). I don’t go to Trader Joe’s every week, so when I do, I like to stock up and freeze some of it (see below).
I mentioned above that I have three methods of butter storage. This is because I like to have room temperature, spreadable butter for things like toast; firmer butter for certain uses (like the occasional pie crust or brunch biscuits); and frozen butter because it never hurts to have a backup. To freeze Kerrygold, just stick the whole package in your freezer. If this makes you paranoid, you can put the package in a Ziploc bag, although I don’t find that necessary.
I store my room temperature butter in the butter crock that my sweet boyfriend got me for Hanukkah. ❤ A butter crock is a French tool for safely storing butter at room temperature. Butter Bell is a popular brand. Here’s a snazzy diagram that explains how it works:
Since you’re going to be eating butter all the time now, it might be worth the investment ($20-$25 – buy one here!). ❤ Happy schmearing!
All of these delicious recipes feature grass-fed butter as a star ingredient! Get your vitamin K2 in the form of:
- buttery lunchbox chicken
- jamie’s classic, not-too-buffalo wings
- teres major steak with cowboy butter
- herby bourbon bar nuts