Early in 2021, #buttergate caused a media frenzy when a foodie from western Canada suggested that butter seemed firmer at room temperature than before. Some suggested a link between farmers feeding palm oil and too-firm butter, but there was no readily available science to prove or disprove the theory.
A year later, a working group focused on the characteristics of Canadian butter says that there’s no clear evidence to suggest that butter is more firm at room temperature than previously. The report also suggests that there is no causal link between palm oil byproducts in cattle rations and butter characteristics, and that more research is required to explore the issue further.
An extensive literature review and analyses combed through processor data, feed data, and butter composition across Canada. While there was a range in final fatty acid profiles of butter, researchers could not find a link between palm oil levels in feed and final fatty acids.
“The Expert Working Group was convened (by Dairy Farmers of Canada) to review these issues and undertake a literature review and related analyses. In the end, it observed there is no data to confirm that there has been a change in the consistency of butter over time. As a result of this lack of data, it is not possible to test for a causal relationship, and therefore draw conclusions, on the link between the use of palm-derived supplements on Canadian farms and the consistency of butter in the last number of years,” the group writes in the executive summary.
The summary also states that palmitic acid is a saturated fat, and the predominant fatty acid in milk, regardless of what cows eat.
The Expert Working Group includes academics, industry experts, members of the consumer association, and life cycle analysis professionals.