A dairy producers’ lobbying group is asking farmers to consider alternatives to palm supplements in livestock feed pending the results of an investigation launched in response to consumers’ concerns about perceived changes to the consistency of butter.
In a statement Thursday, The Dairy Farmers of Canada said academics and industry experts will soon convene to examine the use of palm oil and its derivatives to boost cows’ diets while maintaining that the common practice doesn’t raise health or safety concerns.
The inquiry comes in response to anecdotal reports that butter has gotten harder, but some experts question whether spreadability is a widespread issue.
At the centre of the churning controversy, which some have dubbed “buttergate,” is Calgary food writer Julie Van Rosendaal, whose investigation into the issue has garnered international media attention.
Van Rosendaal said her deep dive into the dairy sector began in her kitchen when she noticed that it seemed to be taking longer for her butter to soften.
She took to social media to see if other bakers were having similar struggles, and was flooded with responses from users who had also detected a change in texture.
After consulting with experts, Van Rosendaal homed in on a possible explanation for why the spread seemed to be stiffer.
Her theory, which she laid out in an article for the Globe and Mail, posits that dairy producers have increased the use of palm supplements in cattle feed to keep up with demand for butter amid a pandemic-fuelled baking craze.
David Christensen, a professor emeritus of animal and poultry science at the University of Saskatchewan, said if the consistency of butter has changed, the use of palm supplements could be a contributing factor.
But he said there’s too much uncertainty to rule out other possible explanations, such as new processing methods that can affect the formation of fat crystals in butter.
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