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UK Grass Fed Butter


Posted on March 29th, by Ellie Conway in Food. 54 comments

UK Grass Fed Butter

It seems to be increasingly hard to figure out food marketing and labelling. We wanted to get some clarification as to which butters are 100% grass-fed so we emailed three companies that produce either grass-fed or organic butters: Kerrygold, Yeo Valley and Rachel’s Organic. Here are the responses we received:

Kerrygold

The vast majority of an Irish cow’s diet is from rich, natural grass which grows abundantly in Ireland and we endeavour to work in harmony with nature in the care and feeding of our cows.

Ireland’s location on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean gives it a temperate climate, not too hot and not too cold and with regular rainfall which is the perfect weather for growing grass.

Approximately 2/3 of the land in Ireland is used for farming and agriculture and 80% of this land is used to grow grass. This grass gives the Irish countryside its green colour and is the basis for the description of Ireland as the Emerald Isle. This abundant supply of fresh grass is also what makes the Irish dairy industry and Irish dairy products unique.

Irish dairy cows graze fresh grass in pastures all day long for up to 312 days a year. In fact, Irish cows graze outdoors on grass for longer than almost every country in the world.

During the winter, when grasses stop growing, Irish cows are fed dried grass (known as silage). This grass is grown throughout the year, cut fresh and stored to be used when the winter comes. To maintain the good health and wellbeing of any dairy cow it is necessary to supplement their predominantly grass fed diet with a relatively small percentage of grain/supplements. This feed mix provides the cows with a balanced blend of nutrients providing them with protein, energy and fiber. Post calving, cows are also provided with supplementary feed post calving to help restore protein and nurture them through this period. Cows in Ireland calve (give birth) in the spring and are therefore outdoors, grazing on green grass when they are producing milk.

The majority of our cows’ supplementary feed are locally grown crops such as wheat and barley. As a small island, Ireland does not have enough land available to grow certain crops locally; therefore a number of crops are imported.

These imported crops comply fully with strict European and Irish legislative requirements on labelling and traceability.

 


Yeo Valley  Organic Butter

Being an independent, family owned British business, we value our reputation and the loyalty of every one of our customers who buy our products. We have built our reputation on a combination of quality and word of mouth and would never knowingly do anything to jeopardise this. We don’t use any drugs to boost productivity (hormones), this is strictly forbidden by The Soil Association.

All of our delicious organic milk comes from a cooperative of South West dairy farmers (OMSCo), whose cows are all able to graze on the lush pastures of South West corner of England. All their animals are raised in accordance with organic standards. Each farm will work to the organic standards, but implement things slightly differently to our own farm but at no detriment to the animal. We are working with OMSCo and The Soil Association to provide further education to improve welfare on these farms also. The benefit of OMSCo is that all farmers are paid a fair price for their milk so then can develop sustainability within farming. A fair price means a farmer can plan and invest and it is our aim to see farmers succeed in the UK as too many farmers historically have given up farming because this has been un-economical for them.

A recent study has found that organic milk nutritional difference is linked to the fact that organic cows spend much of the year grazing in lush, rich meadows and are fed a diet high (min 60%) in forage such as fresh grass, clover, silage and hay.

Our cows are fed a mixed diet which is always broken down into Dry Matter on this basis the Soil Association Standards state:

100% Organic Feed

60% of the daily diet to consist of Grass (fresh, dried, silage)

60% of the total diet is to have come from our own holding

Organic cereal(wheat) is an important part of the diet and the rules above apply. In our particular situation, we aim to grow much more than 60% of our requirements on our farms, our British Friesian cows are fed on an organic grass-based diet which produces a slightly lower but a more natural yield of milk. Cows fed on concentrated feed may produce more milk, but it can be stressful for the cow to do so and put a strain on the animals’ health.

Organics standards strictly admonish zero grazing techniques; cows cannot be permanently housed, but must spend the majority of their lives outdoors. The cows must have appropriate bedding and adequate space when they are brought indoors during bad weather. The taste of the milk does sometimes vary for instance when they are first turned out to grass in the Spring, which you may or may not notice.

We do a soil analysis on our farms twice a year and also samples of grass go off for analysis during the grazing season. Our grazing fields with a diverse range of grasses, including meadow fescue and timothy and also leguminous red and white clovers.

 

Rachel’s Organic

The milk used in our Organic Butter is from farms that are certified by the Soil Association.  The welfare of animals is of utmost importance to organic farmers, and organic regulations in this country must be followed to ensure their well-being   All organic animals are further benefited by the farming methods than those that are solely free range.  The stock density levels are lower than that of non-organic animals and they must have access to the outdoors (weather permitting) and appropriate diet which must consist mainly of home grown-grass or forage (a minimum of 60%).  The resulting diet (which also restricts the amount of cereals that can be fed to the cows) means the cows produce less milk and as a consequence, is less stressful to the cow.

 

The takeaway: None of the butters are 100% bona fide grass-fed. Kerrygold wins in terms of the amount of time an animal is fed on a grass diet (312 days). Yeo Valley and Rachel’s Organic both feed their animals a 60% minimum grass-fed diet. We’ll be sticking to our Kerrygold for now, it’s good value and available in most supermarkets. It’s just nice to be aware of what’s in the food you’re eating.





54 thoughts on “UK Grass Fed Butter

  1. The thing about grass fed in this country is that because of our climate most cows on most farms have to spend at least part of the year living indoors to preventing them from completely poaching their grazing and making it unusable. Ireland does somehow manage to graze theirs outdoors for longer, and I suspect its due to a better biodiversity of their grazing or that their grazing is more extensive rather than intensive. Or a combination of both.

    Also, having met a worker for Yeo Valley and heard how they treat their staff – I refuse to buy from them anymore. I do miss being able to easily buy organic cream, but I just have to divert a little and I can get locally produced clotted cream (which with a little stewed fruit is even better than normal cream anyway). I would buy locally produced butter but it always has salt in it and I prefer kerry gold’s unsalted.

  2. I’ve copied this in from my post at http://www.marksdailyapple.com/forum/thread55928.html

    Organic in UK is grass fed? – a minimum of 60% daily

    I’ve been looking at The soil Association PDF “Organic Beef and Dairy Production: An introductory guide” findable by searching at http://www.soilassociation.org/

    It gives a guide to some of the organic standards in the UK. From what I understand of USA practices, organic beef means the cows were fed organic feed, even if that feed is less than bio-ideal organic grain. The UK organic standard means much more and covers many aspects of husbandry beyond simply feeding of organic food.

    In particular “For all ruminants, a minimum of 60% of the daily dry matter intake (DMI) must either be fresh green food or unmilled forage grown to organic standard and produced from the holding or linked holdings. This means that systems reliant on high levels of concentrate, such as barley-beef or high-concentrate feed regimes for finishing, are not suitable.”

    It seems to me that even this minimum DAILY amount is an absolute minimum, and generally feeding on grass and silage as much as possible is advised and recommended as the way to meet organic standards.

    So would it be reasonable to say that all organic beef in the UK is ‘pretty much’ grass fed? Seems to me that it would be many times superior in this regard to non-organics.

    I don’t have money to burn, but I’ve been considering organic beef to be “very close to” grass fed. I accept than guaranteed 100% grass is likely a superior option – But it seems to me that this is an easier way for us Brits to be getting our “almost grass fed” beef from the supermarket rather than specialist suppliers who tend to be £££ here.

    Ps. It’s a similar picture with the ‘organic’ standard across UK food production, it means a lot more than you might imagine. Check out the website linked for details.

    • Good post Tricky. I think we’re lucky in the UK that our organic and sometimes even regular meat can be fed a majority grass-fed diet – I don’t think it’s always the case in other countries.

  3. Hey, by all accounts, anchor butter is mostly grass fed from New Zealand cows as is President Butter from France.

    President is interesting as you can’t get Kerrigold unsalted around my way (midlands, UK) so if you want something for bulletproof coffee then President is your man.

    As it happens, I think Kerrigold is the best of the bunch and we use that mostly with President as a backup.

    Hmmmmm, lovely butter. :)

    • Haha I love a good butter too. I don’t think we’ve ever tried President so will give that a go. I wonder where unsalted Kerrygold is sold now as most people can’t find it? I’ve never seen it in any Hampshire stores.

    • Anchor butter is since autumn 2012 only made from milk of British cows. I’ve approached President regarding their butter and the claim I see from you and seen from others that it’s suppose to be from 100% grass-fed cows, but so far no answer. Please let me know if you do have some proof regarding President or is it a hear saying. :)

  4. Waitrose near where I live actually sell an unpasteurised French butter. I can’t remember the name (buerre d’isigny maybe? ) but I now try to get that as much as possible.

  5. This info is very much needed. Its nice to know whats going into our British butter!

    British animal welfare has defiantly got a head start on the USA so we cave-poeple in Britain are lucky there. America really have to be careful with this sort of thing.

    Getting grass fed can be cheap if you know where to go. If you have a local farm shop near by they are usually cheaper than a big commercial chain, and you can talk to people who are directly linked to your food source!

    • That’s the great thing about smaller farms – you can actually talk to the person who raised and fed the animals. We don’t have a huge range of local places near us but many farms have websites now and you can do a bit of research before you buy.

      • Even better, if they do their own slaughtering, you could probably get the cuts etc you want and using cheap cuts (will still be delicious) could save you some money.

  6. I notice the Kerrygold piece says their cows graze outdoors for “up to 312 days a year”, which is a bit like the Tesco beef hung for “up to 14 days” (most of it is hung for 3 days).
    It is remarkably difficult to keep cows on just grass in the UK. The further south you are, the easier it would be.
    We have 2 cattle and they are housed indoors for about 5 months of the year (We’re on the Isle of Lewis). While they’re inside they are fed mostly Hay or Silage (grass) but do need a concentrate supplement of some sort. We use mostly beet pulp (sugar beet) but they get some grain derivatives.
    A milking cow’s feed is worked out by the formula that grass or hay/silage will give maintenance (of the cow) plus one gallon of milk. If you want more that a gallon of milk you need to feed concentrate of some sort. Milking a cow at one gallon a day will send dairy farms bust even quicker that they are going now!

    Sorry for the rant, but there is so much dis-information in Paleo/Primal discussion. Like the folk who ask, “where can I get grass fed Pork”! You can’t, the pig is not a ruminant and cannot live off grass, it’s an omnivore like us.

    So when Bonnie, our cow, calves in May she’ll get grass or hay plus some beet pulp and enough good quality grain to give a respectable yield of milk. From our own point of view, and it’s only us that will be allowed to use it, that’s 100 times better than pasteurised homogenised and hormone/antibiotic laden supermarket milk.

    (Scotland has the same archaic laws as some US states and it’s illegal to sell raw milk here.)

    • Thanks for the really informative comments Dave. One of the brilliant things about the paleo / primal community is you get to chat to people who are involved with food production on varying scales.

      So many people (me included) have lived many years not understanding where food comes from, how it is raised, confused by poor dietary advice and label misinformation. When people discover paleo they want to improve the quality of their food, like some 100% grass-fed pork :-) but you have take some time to learn how that food should be raised (and how some companies don’t raise animals the way they should.)

      Never realised Scotland was the same as the US – shame

  7. Thank you so much for sharing this! This goes to show how easily people can be led to products just because a company says that they do what they say they do (grass feed cows). Your article makes a great example of this. Companies may market their products to be grass fed, but who knew that it would be only at those percentages?!!? Even though its a minimum 60% grass fed, what is the other thing they are feeding the cows with? GMO corn possibly? Sigh….

    Let me know if you find 100% grass fed butter too! :)

    Thanks,
    TSilvia

    • Glad you enjoyed it Tatum. It goes to show how food labelling / education still needs improving. Companies should be open and honest about how the food is produced so we can make our own judgements.

  8. Have you thought about trying Goats butter? I use that all the time – it is more expensive than most other butters (and consequently I spread it a lot thinner) but I love it. The brand I use is by Delamere – I have to be honest and say I don’t know whether they are any more grass fed than cows but you might want to try it and if you like it, you can enquire?

    • Sounds interesting – I’ve never seen that before but wouldn’t mind trying it. Found this about how goats are raised & kept.

      “The goats on Delamere-supplying farms are not farmed organically but there is no routine use of anti-biotics and the farms operate low-input systems for fertilisers – the goats’ manure is spread back on the land. The goats live in large, airy, straw-bedded yards as free ranging more than 100 goats (the minimum number for a viable goat farm) is very difficult. Because goats have a strong social structure they are kept in groups according to when they kid. They are fed on grass or maize silage, hay, straw and a concentrate and are able to eat and browse at will. Each goat will produce around 1,000 litres of milk a year.

      There are no subsidies available for goat farmers in the UK (the Suttons would much prefer it remained that way) so if you wish to farm goats, you have to make it pay. To do so, Liz reckons, you need a herd of around 600 goats and a milking parlour – an investment of around £250,000 – although you do not need much land. And of course you could run your goats in tandem with a herd of cows.”

  9. I wonder lately, if Anchor butter is still grass fed and still from New Zealand, as there is no mention of it on the packet like there used to be! I usually only try and buy the grass fed butters like Kerrygold etc when they are on offer, as £1.60 is a lot to pay, especially when you do like to spread your butter thick. But lately, all that’s been on offer locally is Anchor. So at the moment I am alternating between Anchor (because it’s on offer) Yeo Valley, Kerrygold and Tesco Finest Normandy butter, which is actually the nicest (and most ‘real’ looking) butter I have had, but this never goes on offer and it costs £1.70! So, I don’t buy this as often as I would like to!!

  10. Hi,

    I e-mailed the question to the people at Calon Wen, who are based in Wales, and they responded:

    It really is dependant on the weather. In order to keep our animals happy and healthy no less than 75% is grass and here in sunny Pembrokeshire we average 80%. And ofcourse any other feed we give them is always organic.

  11. I suggest Jersey organic unsalted butter – due to the milder climate, Jersey cows are outdoors much longer than any other UK cows.

    • Unfortunately the cows are still fed grains in the winter : (

      From the website:

      “The cows graze all these fields once the ground is dry enough ‘to turn them out’ in the spring, until the ground becomes too wet in the autumn. The cows are then housed indoors for the winter. They are fed grass silage in the winter that has been made from lush spring grass and clover. An organic pea bean and WHEAT mix is also fed to the cows to supplement their grass diet.”

  12. St Isigny (the French raw butter that Waitrose sell) isn’t very ethical. They told me that the calves are taken from their mothers the day after they’re born. This is totally unnecessary. For instance the organic dairy farm near us in Clitheroe leaves the calves with their mothers for a few weeks or until the cow has had enough apparently if that’s a shorter period.

  13. Hi, I recently asked Anchor about its produce and here’s the answer

    Good Morning

    Anchor butter is now produced in the UK and due to the farming systems and climate here they do not eat grass 365 days a year. When the weather is colder they are given shelter and comfort and feed animal fed. Therefore they eat more grass in the summer than in the winter. This also is the case for the milk used in the cheese.

    Best Regards
    Michelle Mcilroy
    Consumer Relations Department

  14. I use Kerrygold and/or Yeo valley in coffee along with coconut oil – they both taste fine despite being salted. The coconutty.co.uk website is worth a look they normally have an offer on their coconut oil, which is cold processed.

  15. Hi. So just a question about the milk. I know that cows here are not given the growth hormone like over in the US, but are they given anti biotics? I know that raw milk is best but I’ve only seen it on one website and it was really expensive! So what’s the next best thing? Should I be buying organic milk?

    Thanks!

  16. I’ve used Kerrrygold, Smjor, heumilch, various french butters and am a fanatic. I have at least 10 different grassfed and semi-grass fed butters in my refrigerator now. By far the best is Sjmor but it’s hard to get. You can get grassfed raw milk cheese from GrassFed Europe. I believe they ship cheese to all of the UE- but the grass-fed meat for now only in Italy. They are supposed to have butter very soon. Also grass-fed whey.

  17. Wow! So glad I came across this! I tried Kerrygold butter and coconut oil in my bulletproof coffee this morning and could really taste the salt, whereas a poster above found they coudn’t taste it so I guess it’s just a preference. I couldn’t find an unsalted version of Kerrygold either (up in Scotland) so I have gone with the French president butter. I’d love to support the British farmers though so I will keep looking for an unsalted British butter…Thanks for all the info and great discussion!

  18. `Apparently it is very easy to make your own butter at home, from fresh double cream, put it in a food processor or blender and just “churn” it until the liquid and solid split. See jamie oliver or james martin recipes

  19. Anchor Butter used to be from New Zealand where I believe their cows are pastured all year round. The Anchor brand is now part of Arla foods, and no longer uses NZ butter.
    Unsalted Kerrygold is still not common here. Does anyone know if Normandy butter is from 100% grass fed cow’s milk?
    How about if people got together and imported direct from NZ?

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