Photo is courtesy of aMichiganMom's photostream
Wow! I'm learning new things everyday, and some are visual treats as well as taste treats. Butter is one of them...
I know the yolks of free-range hens are much more yellow (even to almost orange) compared to factory eggs, and of course that is reflected in taste and nutrition. What I didn't know is that the same is true of butter!
I had the opportunity to buy some butter (on sale!) from grass-fed cows recently, and when I opened it to add more butter to the last bit of conventional butter in the butter bell, I was surprised by the richer yellow color long before I got to the delicious taste. There really IS no comparison to conventional butter! This particular butter was also what is called 'spring butter', made when the cows are munching on new grass.
New grass produces higher amounts of Vitamin K1, which the cows turn into the Vitamin K2 our bodies need to interact with Vitamins A and D (and also calcium) for tooth and bone strength and development. You can read more about Vitamins K1 and K2 here. Cows pastured on spring grass have milk (thus cream and butter) that also has higher levels of anti-oxidants, CLA (conjugated linoleic acid), plus higher Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids.
The spring butter I bought is a US product called 'Pasture Butter' made by Organic Valley, and it is also a 'cultured butter'. That means the pasteurized cream has a bacterial culture added (like yogurt) which allows the bacteria to change some of the solids into lactic acid (improving flavor) before it is churned into butter. When making butter from raw milk cream, the addition of a bacterial culture is not necessary, as it will 'sour' (or clabber) on its own from the bacteria in the cream if left in a warm spot, although some folks prefer to use a culture anyway.
Since most butter made in the US has less butterfat content (min. 80% by law) than European butters which can be 86% or more, I also bought 2 different imported brands to try: Lurpak from Denmark, and Kerrygold from Ireland. They are both quite wonderful, but outside my budget for ordinary use (although I'd buy them in a heartbeat if I could afford them.)
The Kerrygold is grass-fed and the Lurpak doesn't say; the Lurpak must be cultured because they advertise it 'has a delicate subtle lactic taste' and the Kerrygold doesn't say whether it's cultured. Either way, both stand head and shoulders above standard American Dairy butters, as does the Organic Valley Limited Edition Pasture Butter.
There are a couple more grass-fed butters I want to try the next time I have a few extra bucks. One is Anchor, from New Zealand, and one is Pastureland, made in Minnesota; both are available online. I just found another one today, a cultured butter with 86% butterfat from Vermont Butter and Cheese Creamery.
Of course, at the very top of my list would be local butter made from raw milk from grass-fed A2 cows!
Note: toxic compounds like pesticides, mercury and dioxin in plant soils and water accumulate in the fats of non-organic meats and dairy, so please avoid them wherever possible.