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CBC Marketplace: What testing 17 butter brands told us about the science behind ‘buttergate’

March 19, 2021 — 

As CBC’s Marketplace reports:

What can influence butter softness?

Researchers say it’s difficult to pin the cause of butter hardness on one source.

“There are an enormous amount of other factors intervening between the feed that gets fed to the cow and the production of the butter,” said Martin Scanlon, the dean of the faculty of agricultural and food sciences at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg.

Scanlon was one of the independent researchers contacted by CBC News to review [another researchers’] results.

One factor is the recent rapid adoption of robotic milking machines on dairy farms, he says. Cows no longer wait to be milked but enter an automated stall when they are ready to be milked. As a result, the milk fat globules do not stay in the udder for as long, resulting in hard fat crystals forming, which may impact the firmness of the final product, says Scanlon.

…Scanlon says butter makers may have reduced the aging time for the milk fat and sped up cooling after churning to meet the demand. That quick cooling could leave small, hard fat crystals in the butter.

“Once you start cooling these fat crystals very fast, there’s actually a consequence on the hardness,” he said.

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