Consumers are beginning to warm up to butter — again.
After years of anti-fat admonishments, diets and fads, butter is regaining popularity, according to Dairy Farmers of Manitoba.
“It’s an amazing story, because years ago the medical profession said butter was bad for you,” said Henry Holtman, the organization’s vice-chairman. “Now that whole opinion has changed.”
Linking the shift in consumer preference to a new-found interest in food and its production, Holtman said that people have also begun to see that high-fat foods like butter and cheese are healthy when consumed in moderation.
“They are interested in their health, but they are also interested in the taste of food and the experience food provides. That’s why people like me put cream in their coffee. I don’t just do it because I’m a dairy farmer, I do it because I like the taste of it,” Holtman said.
“Once in a while a little bit of indulgence isn’t going to hurt and I think that resonates with people, so a return to quality food and taste, that’s the biggest reason people are experimenting with different foods and different experiences.”
While fluid milk consumption has been decreasing over the last two decades, the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization notes cheese consumption in Canada has been increasing. Butter consumption, according to Statistics Canada, also increased by nearly six per cent in 2014, over the previous five-year average.
But after years of meeting market demand that called for low-fat products, dairy production in Manitoba has been geared towards fluid milk, not butterfat.
“That will be the challenge going forward,” said Holtman. “But any challenge we’ve had, we’ve been able to meet, and we will be able to meet this challenge as well.”
Fluid milk can yield other products and innovation can balance production, use and consumption, he said.
“The interesting thing with dairy products is that you can fortify dairy products with things like additional protein,” Holtman said. “So you can have the fat, but then you can also have way more health benefits, not by adding outside sources, but by using what is naturally occurring in milk, so technology has allowed us to do that.”
Holtman said the move towards more milk fats is an exciting one for producers.
“I look at it as an opportunity, I don’t think it’s a negative thing,” he said. “Tastes evolve, and it’s just a matter of making sure that all the components of milk we produce have value and have a marketplace.”