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Butter up: Animal fat sales on the rise

Jenna Blumenfeld

June 27, 2012

2 Min Read
Butter up: Animal fat sales on the rise

As recent as the 1980s and '90s, saturated fats were big no-nos to anyone concerned with their health. The FDA declared Americans were to avoid solid-at-room-temperature fats at all costs.

Is that real butter on your roll? Shame on you—as displayed in this sensual I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter commercial (to the delight of ladies everywhere, Fabio later took over as the manly embodiment of butter-like spreads.)

While omega-3 packed monounsaturated fats from sources such as olive oil and almonds are still the darling of nutritionists and heart surgeons alike, traditional fatty condiments are making a comeback.

Indeed, resurgence in butter and lard use is popping up in the food carts of Brooklyn to the local food restaurants of Boulder (I hear the Lardo Rosemary Flatbread at the Kitchen [Next Door] is to die for).

Despite animal fats’ cholesterol content, research has found that trans fats—partially hydrogenated oils that are astonishingly still found in commercial baked goods, crackers and cereals—are the main culprits behind high LDL (bad) cholesterol and heart disease.

Lard and butter, proponents argue, have been used for decades, perhaps hundreds of years without ill health effects. Both fats are infinitely less processed than “spreads,” and recent animal research presented at the 2011 Experimental Biology conference in Washington, D.C., found that eating a lard-rich diet for a brief period of time (we’re talking 24-hours to 2-weeks here, don't splurge too hard) may even protect your heart tissues.

Sure, this study is valid and peer reviewed, but I admit I'm dubious. Butter and lard are certainly not health foods.

Butter sales primed for growth

According to a recent Advertising Age article, butter is on track to become the golden egg of, well, golden-colored fats. “Grocery-unit sales of butter grew 2.19% in the year ending May 13, compared with a 0.21% uptick in olive oil and a 6.24% decline in margarine, spreads and butter blends… Overall, butter led with $1.5 billion in sales during the period, followed by $1.4 billion for margarine/spreads and $706 million for olive oil,” reported Advertising Age.

And does anyone remember the Norwegian butter shortage from last December (which was attributed to a fad high-fat diet, but had more to do with supply, demand, and tariff issues)?

While I'm a vegetarian and won't be partaking in any lard-eating festivities, I support this animal fat mini-movement. Both butter and lard are natural, resourceful, oft-sustainable, not to mention they make a darn tootin' flaky pie crust. While health is certainly a concern, I assume this trend harkens back to the desire for locality and transparency in food.

It can't be reiterated enough: Shoppers want to know exactly what they are eating. GMO-sourced canola oil? Please. At least I know exactly how butter is made... heck I've made butter in my own house before. All you need is cream, salt, and a KitchenAid mixer. Bada-bing, butter!

Are you ready to hop on the animal fat trend? Share your thoughts!

About the Author(s)

Jenna Blumenfeld


Jenna Blumenfeld lives in Boulder, Colorado, where she reports on the natural products industry, sustainable agriculture, and all things plant based. 

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