The mystery of Canada’s hard butter

Canadian food writer and cookbook author Julie Van Rosendaal started a minor firestorm recently with a tweet about butter: “Have you noticed it’s no longer soft at room temperature? Watery? Rubbery?” she asked. People chimed in with their own observations – yes, butter does seem different these days, more difficult to spread and remaining hard even when the kitchen is not cold.

Van Rosendaal posited that the changes to the dairy product could be explained by the increased demand that pandemic baking has wrought on the butter supply. The spike in demand may have led farmers to change up their cows’ feed, adding a product – palm fats – to the mix due to pressures on the feed supply. Palm fats increase the amount of fat in the resulting milk and cream and can lead to changes in the structure of the butter churned from the cream.

The situation has received enough attention to cause two trade groups, Dairy Processors Association of Canada and Dairy Farmers of Canada, to weigh in. The latter notes that while there may be differences in butter from one batch to the next, any disparity is due to “seasonal and regional variations in a cow’s diet.” Both groups downplay the anecdotes about hard butter. What say you, Canadian EYB Members? Have you noticed any differences in the texture or other characteristics of your butter?

Post a comment


  • annmartina  on  February 23, 2021

    Huh. I live in Minnesota and I’ve noticed the same thing about my butter. It cannot be spread, even at room temperature. I buy mostly Kirkland butter at Costco, and I’ve also discovered it has a really high water content. I think I’m going to switch for a while.

  • eliza  on  February 23, 2021

    I haven’t noticed it but I have heard about it. I avoid palm oils as palm plantations are a major cause of deforestation in places like Madagascar and Indonesia. However, I did some further research; it seems that palm fats are relatively expensive and are therefore likely to be less used in Ontario and Québec since they pay farmers less for increased butterfat. In the west, they are likely to be used more for the opposite reason. I’ve not yet been able to discover just how much is fed to dairy cows.

  • averythingcooks  on  February 26, 2021

    So I read this post and began staring at my butter and then all of a sudden the story hit the news via the CBC.

    I’m positive my butter is the same high quality as usual. I buy Kawartha Dairy butter and this Ontario company (operated out of Bobcaygeon since 1937….. “just” down the highway from my small town) gets its milk through the Dairy Farmers of Ontario cooperative and now that I have done a little reading into this company, I’ve learned that 90% of its milk comes from farms within 100 km of the dairy AND the dairy is still owned and operated by the same family that started it so many years ago. Anyone who has driven to / through cottage country in this part of the province will likely have stopped for Kawartha Dairy ice cream!

    I have sent an email to the company asking if they have knowledge of their dairy farm suppliers using palm oil and/or if the company itself has a policy regarding its use as a nutritional supplement for dairy cows.
    We will see if I get a response.

  • CutCookEat  on  March 5, 2021

    I use Kerrygold which is even soft from the fridge…

  • thewoobdog  on  March 10, 2021

    It’s not just Canada – I live in North Carolina in the USA and I’ve noticed my butter just will NOT spread any more. I’m trying some different brands to see if I find one that is spreadable at room temp, like pre-pandemic butter did.

Seen anything interesting? Let us know & we'll share it!