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On the left is commercially-made, organic butter, on the right is homemade, spring butter

Imagine a pad of butter as intensely yellow as the flowers of the common buttercup. On pasture-based dairy farms the most productive grass growing seasons are marked by gradual changes in production. As the nutritional content of the grass peaks, the butter can be as yellow as the flowers of the buttercup.

Carotenes from the grass are concentrated in butter and give it a naturally pale yellow color.[1] The color is a sign that the cows are allowed access to pasture. On dairy farms where cows have no access to pasture producers add annatto (a brightly colored Latin American spice) to their butter. However, when cows are raised on pasture their butter has a naturally yellow hue. It is rich in nutrients.

The vitamins A, D, K2-MK4, and E; omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids; conjugated linoleic acid (CLA); and trace minerals can all be found in butter from naturally raised cows.[2] [3] The Danish Institute of Agricultural Research has shown that organic milk has significantly more nutrients than conventional milk.[4] For example, they found, on average, 50% more vitamin E and 75% more Betacarotene in organic milk than in conventional milk. The study attributes these nutritional differences to the pasture that organically raised animals are allowed to graze.

Environmental toxins (like pesticides) can bioaccumulate in dairy products. Pastured and organically raised dairy animals are not exposed to these toxins. It is especially important to seek out dairy products from grass-based farms that use organic methods.

Making your own high-vitamin butter from local, high-quality cream is straightforward. The food processor is your modern butter churn. The only ingredient required is the cream. If possible, talk with the dairy and ask when the spring (or fall) grass will peak and plan to make butter at that time. Watch the local weather and the grass in your neighborhood. Here, in the Pacific Northwest, the grass grows fastest when the sun shines after a few days of rain. We’ve had a few weeks of this type of weather. It’s time to bask in the nutritious luxury of spring butter!

This was shared on Real Food Wednesday.


[1] Jessica Prentice, Full Moon Feast (White River Junction: Chelsea Green, 2006) (p. 97).

[2] Chris Masterjohn, “On the Trail of the Elusive X-Factor: A Sixty-Two-Year-Old Mystery Finally Solved, ” www.westonaprice.org/abcs-of-nutrition/175-x-factor-is-vitamin-k2(2008).

[3] Sally Fallon Nourishing Traditions (Washington, New Trends, 2001) (pp. 15-17).

[4] “Organic milk ‘higher in vitamins’,” http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/4153951.stm, 7 Jan 20

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