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May 17, 2014 04:35 PM

shape of butter "quarters"?

Why do some companies (like Whole Foods 365) make butter quarters a different shape than most sticks of butter? The WF butter doesn't fit my butter dish!

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  1. Whole Foods sells a butter dish that's perfect for their butter quarters.

    1 Reply
    1. In the case of Whole Foods, it's probably down to the dairy that makes the 365 store brand butter.

      I don't know where you're located, but historically the shape of quarter-pound butter sticks varies geographically. In the (roughly) eastern part of the US, they're longer and thinner, in the (roughly) western part, they're shorter and wider. But some brands, Land O' Lakes for example, went national but kept the style they used when regional (long), and where I live (Northern California) there's a local dairy brand mixing it up with long sticks for their organic butter and short for their conventional.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Caitlin McGrath

        I bought a round butter dish at a crafts fair in Nashville, but had to cut the eastern-style sticks in half to fit it. Now we're in Pasadena CA and the butter fits perfectly!

        1. re: Caitlin McGrath

          I live in the West and when Land O' Lakes first appeared here it came in East Coast-style long slender sticks. For some reason, they later changed to the more common western style of short/stubby. Too bad, I liked their original shape.

          1. re: Bob Brooks

            My mother started buying it when it came west, though she'd lived in CA for 20 years by then, because she always preferred the longer shape she grew up with (she also had to buy a new butter dish when she moved west).

        2. I was told once that the elongated stick like Land O'Lakes is the preferred Eastern US style, while the stubby stick is the preferred Western US style.

          Having never purchased butter on the east coast, I've no idea if this is true or not, but for a long time I didn't buy Land O'Lakes for the same reason—it didn't fit my butter dish.

          Once I switched to a butter bell, it no longer mattered what the shape it came in, since it has to soften a bit to press into the bell, with both styles mashing into the bell equally well.

          12 Replies
          1. re: RelishPDX

            Trader Joe's has the shorter sticks. It's actually surprising that shapes have stayed the same over decades, since altering them would increase impulse buying (likewise for dishes to hold them) on the part of impractical or gullible shoppers. I can see lots of fools being willing to pay more per pound at the supermarket for the packages of pats that are sold to professional and institutional kitchens.

            1. re: greygarious

              Coming soon to a store near you... "100 calorie packs- of butter!" Only 5xs a much as measuring it yourself!

              1. re: Ttrockwood

                No sugar added, vegetarian, and gluten-free!

              2. re: greygarious

                Butter compartments in refrigerators were a patented accessory way back when, so I'd think that once the standards were set for sizes, and the money spent for the infrastructure to form butter cubes, there was little incentive to alter the sizes.

                If you sold butter cubes which couldn't fit into the butter compartment, what would a person be more likely to do. Buy a new fridge, or buy a brand of butter which would fit? :)

                1. re: RelishPDX

                  The Butter Box:
                  Countertop appliance to keep any size or shape butter lightly chilled.

                  I can see the infomercial of harried housewives smashing wrong-sized butter into the butter compartment of a grungy fridge vs. a 50's diva cum soccer mom breezily adding butter to WW pancakes from her Butter Box.
                  Cut to Easter where she has Keller's carved lamb.

                  1. re: Kris in Beijing

                    LOL, interesting visual!

                    I've actually always wondered why the butter bell hasn't taken off on infomercials. They can't be that expensive to manufacture, and you *always* have spreadable butter.

                    A friend of mine's grandfather was working for Frigidaire back when the butter compartment was invented, and his name is on one of the original patents for it. Listening to how it came about was an interesting story to hear—basically they had to create a warm box inside of a cold box, because housewives were complaining that butter was too cold when kept in the fridge, so a warming compartment was wired up in the door as a marketing gimmick.

                    Nowadays they seem to have fallen by the wayside. My current fridge simply has an indentation in the door where you put the butter dish, and it doesn't even have a covering door. But I do remember that the fridge we had when I was a kid—the kind which had a big chest freezer below—had a compartment with a metal flip-up door on it just for the butter.

                  2. re: RelishPDX

                    I buy exclusively Kerrygold butter, which comes in 1/2 lb bricks, a common European format. I found a French butter dish that holds a block nicely, and it fits perfectly in the butter compartment on the door of my fairly basic Whirlpool fridge.

                    1. re: BobB

                      Is it me, I find the large blocks of butter to taste better than the sticks.

                      1. re: treb

                        It's not the shape, it's the butter.

                2. re: RelishPDX

                  How often do you clean your butterball and/or replace the water? I have what looks like a knock off Le Crueset one that I picked up at a flea market at least 20 years ago. We use butter so infrequently I haven't used it in years but this thread got me thinking about it. Lo and behold I actually found it in the cupboard, a bit dusty but intact. I would say other than baking a stick of butter lasts us at least a month and a half if not more and usually remains in the fridge, in the butter dish. If I use the bell will it keep that long?

                  1. re: foodieX2

                    Those are all good and relevant questions. I would think that the issue of rancidity would depend upon how warm your house is, since salted butter usually has enough salt in it to 'preserve' it in the basic sense.

                    Since I live in a fairly cool environment (Oregon), and have a/c, I only change the water every few days, and wash the bell out after every few fill-ups of butter. I've always been careful about double-dipping into butter, since I don't like crumbs to gather in it, which I think helps keep foreign matter out of the butter which could assist in it going bad.

                    I think the longest I've gone between washings is probably a month.

                    I found an interesting site which shows how the butter bell technology works to keep an airtight seal:


                    In the comments section people tell stories of butter sitting in just a covered dish for weeks in the cabinet without going bad!

                    Besides keeping the butter soft and spreadable, the bell keeps the butter away from any funky smells it might pick up in the fridge. I buy butter in bulk when it goes on sale, and keep it in the freezer in a ziploc bag. Then I transfer it a pound at a time to the fridge into another ziploc as each pound gets used up.

                    Another thing I do is when a recipe calls for a specific amount of butter, I'll cut that amount off of a fresh cube, then use the remainder to pack into the bell if/when there's enough room, so my bell could have butter of different ages in it at any given time. Never once have I had a problem with it going rancid or tasting off.

                    1. re: RelishPDX

                      Wow! Thank you for detailed and thoughtful response. I really appreciate it. I might find room on the counter for it again.

                3. So which does WF365 sell - east or west coast style?

                  1. I just keep butter in a ceramic crock on the counter