In mid-December a 40 pound block of butter was delivered to my home on the back of a motorcycle driven by a soft-spoken, burly man named Ren. This butter was no grocery store butter. It came from Petaluma Creamery and Spring Hill Jersey Cheese in Northern California where the cream is carefully crafted into cultured butter, made exclusively from Jersey cows raised on grassy pastures.
Now most folks can admit that butter makes everything taste better, but this butter is divine. It could easily pass for a mild cheese with its rich, yet simple flavor. My youngest can often be discovered sticking her finger in the butter dish and eating it straight. This butter is the bomb.
40 pounds in three months?
A few weeks ago, when I told my husband that we had made our way through 40 pounds of this delectable butter, he looked at me with shock and a touch of horror.
“Forty pounds of butter? Certainly that will clog our arteries, no?”
Despite sharing the same dietary principles, the sheer volume we consumed had him feeling doubtful.
So I did some math:
40 pounds of butter = 160 sticks of butter.
We got the butter in mid-December, and finished it by mid-March – approximately 90 days. My family consists of me, my husband, a five year old, and a one year old (both with healthy appetites).
So on average we ate 1 3/4 sticks of butter per day – slightly less than half a stick per person.
Cooking eggs and spreading on toast in the morning… Melted generously over our farm box veggies… In muffins, crackers, soups… Generally and liberally added at every meal. Yep. That sounded about right.
What about cholesterol?
Well, I'm glad you asked. I've been living in a bubble where my Real food friends celebrate butter, lard, coconut oil, and the like, so sometimes I forget. But out there in the rest of the world, there is still a war raging against cholesterol, and between Lipitor and low fat diets, the opposition is taking this very seriously.
If you are one of those folks still concerned about maintaining low levels of cholesterol, I would like to introduce to you this concept: You've been duped.
The problem with modern health is NOT saturated fat found in traditional foods like butter, eggs, and cream. This issue lies with the JUNK that we are buying and consuming: high fructose corn syrups, franken-oils such as canola (the ‘heart-healthy' darling) and soybean oils disguised in fake health foods such as Smart Balance and Earth Balance ‘spreads', and low fat dairy products which are far more damaging than their natural, full fat counterparts.
In a recent Norwegian study, it was concluded that the role of cholesterol in cardiovascular disease has been grossly overestimated, and, in fact, women with high cholesterol live longer and suffer from less heart disease.
So you may be thinking, what about all the studies that show that saturated fat is a direct line to clogged arteries and death. Here's the thing, lots of folks really like to hear about the studies. They tout the conclusions of such studies as facts. Personally, I think the dependence on studies to form our opinions is hogwash.
The FACT is that all studies (regardless of how scientifically based) contain the element of human opinion, and it is absolutely impossible to completely omit the human element from a study. So, as it stands you can find a study to prove just about any theory you would like to support.
Try this on for size instead: Humans have been consuming saturated fat in the form of animal products since the beginning of time. We need saturated fat to absorb the nutrients of our food – especially essential fat soluble vitamins A, D, K2, and E. That means saturated fat is essential for brain function, hormone production, immune health, strong bones and teeth, and – get this – cardiovascular health.
My family eats real food, and practically no packaged good or modern fake foods. We try to keep our lives simple and our stress low. So, no. I am not worried about my family's cholesterol or heart health – butter, bacon, cream, and all.
But is there such thing as too much butter?
Sure. Just like your body would tell you if you had too much citrus (loose stools) or too many potatoes (bloating and constipation). Your body is likely to let you know if you have reached a threshold with too much butter or fat – probably with an aversion to fatty foods or a craving for lighter foods.
Unlike cravings for sugar or alcohol (non-nutritive substances which create deficiencies and addiction cycles in the body), the human body is designed to self-regulate consumption of real food. Try it out. Grab a few sticks of butter and a spoon. Or sit down with a pound of raw carrots. Either way, I bet you won't get very far.
Won't all that butter make you fat?
I happily feed my family nearly two sticks of butter (not to mention coconut oil, lard, and pasture-raised eggs and meats) without the fear of obesity.
I don't believe fat makes you fat. Sure, genetics may play a role – my husband could sit on his bum eating Twinkies all day long and never develop chub, and my five year old has inherited his body type as well. But the tendency towards obesity runs in my family, and I have been able to gently bounce back from two pregnancies without dieting or going over the deep end with exercise.
Here's some things you should worry about making you fat: too much sugar, too much processed foods, not enough sleep, stress.
I also will point out that often times we pair fat with carbohydrates – butter on bread or potatoes, cream and sugar, cupcakes and cookies, fettucini alfredo, mac ‘n' cheese. So if you're concerned about fat making you fat, try reducing the amount of starchy (calorie-dense) foods that you're pairing with your healthy fats.
Why should we care that the cows that made the cream ate grass?
Butter, milk and cream from grass fed cows are far superior products to those made from milk of conventional (or organic!) grain-fed cows.
Many people say they would rather not know about where there food comes from, but I urge you to vote with your dollar by avoiding products from CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) – which are horrific for the environment, inhumane to the animals, and produce dairy, meat, poultry, and eggs that are nutritionally inferior and toxic. The best way to do this is to get out of the grocery store and find your local farmers!
Butter and other products from grass-fed, pasture-raised animals promotes health for the human, the animal, and the planet. Both nutrients and toxins are stored in fat, so the cream of healthy cows will be both free of toxins and rich in nutrients. You can read all about the differences between grass-fed and conventional beef and dairy in this article.
Is cultured butter better?
When it comes to butter, the best choice would be local, raw, butter made from cream of pasture-raised cows. That said, raw butter – especially to the tune of nearly two sticks per day – can be prohibitively expensive. We buy cultured butter because it has the added benefits of beneficial bacteria through the culturing process, without the added price tag. To be honest, since we often cook with this butter or freeze it, I'm not sure how much beneficial bacteria makes it to our guts. But I still sleep soundly and satiated knowing my forty pounds has come from local cows happily grazing on grass.
I'm curious… How much butter does your family eat?