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Grass-fed cows' bright yellow butter and questions about food coloring

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The grass-fed cows' butter I tasted recently was sunny yellow due to natural carotene content.

Now, I've seen some very yellow butter, good quality butter and otherwise. (Similar quality variation for creamy white butter.) There is supposed to be seasonal color variation as well.

I understand butter is regularly dyed with food coloring. And margarine, too. I haven't paid too much attention to this fact before.

Now I am wondering about the extent of this food coloring practice.

Your thoughts, please.

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  1. Also, which butter brands fall in the "yellow" category, (natural or color-added)
    and which brands in the "white" category?

    1. I don't know if this will help or further add to your confusion, but I spent some time on the Isle of Mann a few years ago for work and there even the fresh cream is yellow! They take real pride in their dairy products; their ice cream even has A.O.C. - type protection.

      1. Butter, like cheese and ice cream, enjoys an exception to the labeling rules for food additives. Remember that lots of food colorings are completely natural, carotene included. It could be added to the butter from grass-fed cows year-round to maintain a consistency of color. Many people now are just not aware of the seasonal changes in the color of things like butter and egg yolks so farmers add things to affect products.

        For more on butter and margarine coloring regulations, some interesting references: http://www.slate.com/id/2161806/sideb...

        1 Reply
        1. re: MakingSense

          That article reminded me of the Wisconsin ancestor in my family who made a ton of money by bootlegging "colored margarine" back to Wisconsin, where margarine was legally sold only as a white slab of grease with an attached "color pellet".that had to be mixed in at home.

        2. Let's try the color "chips" one more time. I've numbered them (pulled from real butter pictures) butter 1, butter 4, butter 7, butter 10.
          All butter should fall somewhere along this scale.
          What number is the butter in your fridge?

          1 Reply
          1. re: grocerytrekker

            I've had some raw butter that was between the two rightmost color chips' color. On the other hand, I didn't really like the taste. This was from very grass-fed cows that produced a very grassy-tasting milk.

          2. It is a very old practice. My grandmother made her own butter with raw milk and it was almost white most of the year. It freaked me out as a kid even after she explained that the color of dairy products was based on the diet of the cow and it wasn't flower season yet.

            It used to be very traditional to color butter "on the farm" for exactly this reason...