I'm at the check out, buying Kerrygold butter. (Our cow is drying up, so I'm back to buying butter.)
Lady at the checkout: “What's so special about this butter?”
Me: “It comes from grass-fed cows, so it's rich in beta-carotene and Vitamin D.” (Also E and K2, but I didn't say that.)
Lady: “Oh, would that be the same as the Amish butter we carry?”
Me: “YOU CARRY AMISH BUTTER????” (I was a wee-bit excited.)
Lady: “Yeah, it's over there [she described where] and people just love it. It's SO GOOD! And it's such a good price, too! You get this big log for about six dollars or something like that.”
Me: “I've got to check that out!”
Finding the Amish Butter
I found the refrigerator case with all the hand-rolled logs of Amish butter.
Wait a second. Hold on. What's “country” supposed to mean? It's from the same area as Amish farms? It's rolled into a log like Amish butter?
Is this Amish butter or not?
I open the case and pull out a log, going right for the label.
You see what it says. Don't read further down this post. Check your gut feeling. Is this Amish butter or not?
(blank space to give you room to think)
What I Was Thinking?
“WI Grade A” — Grade A milk from a regular dairy in Wisconsin? “Alcam Creamery” — could be Amish? Nah, doesn't sound Amish.
If this is Amish butter, wouldn't it be labeled as “grass-fed” or “fresh from a Wisconsin Amish dairy farm”?
(For comparison, the Kerrygold butter label says, “In Ireland, cows graze on the green pastures of small family farms. This milk is churned to make Kerrygold butter.”)
What's with the pale yellow color?
And why are there gobs and gobs of rolls of it? Certainly small Amish family farms don't produce enough butter for discount markets across the country?
My stomach is now sunk all the way to the floor.
This is no Amish butter, I'm certain of it.
As I put the butter back into the case and turn around to leave, a lady tells me, “That butter is THE BEST. … It's Amish.” Really? I wasn't so sure.
Getting the Facts
Back home, I visit the Alcam Creamery website, specifically the Hand-Rolled Butter page.
I notice that nowhere in the text of the page is there any mention of Amish. The only place you see Amish is on the picture of the package.
Check out these words: “A great item for specialty stores, for a chef in an upscale restaurant and farmers' markets.” So, are they hand-rolling regular (non-Amish) butter to sell as a specialty item and therefore charge a higher price? Hmm… could be.
Then I call Alcam Creamery, using the customer service number listed on the website. A man answers.
Man: “Alcam Creamery. How can I help you?”
Me: “Hi, I live in Oregon and I just picked up a roll of your Amish Country Roll Butter at my grocery store. Is this Amish butter?”
Man: “Yes, that's the brand name.”
Me: “But is it actually Amish butter?”
Me: “So, why is it called Amish?”
Me: “Is it because you hand roll it?”
Man: “Yes, that's why.”
Me: “Thank you so much.”
Then I hang up.
I open a package of Amish Country Roll Butter and Kerrygold and put them side by side to compare color and taste.
The Kerrygold butter is more yellow, no doubt. More yellow means more beta-carotene. It means the cows were probably eating lots of rapidly growing green grass, because that is where they get the beta-carotene that gets into the cream which makes the butter (or cheese). Yellow cheese and yellow butter are awesome all around — taste and health.
Ingredients in each type of butter? The same: pasteurized cream and salt. The kids and I do a taste-test. The Amish Country Roll Butter is overly salty — unmistakeable to all of us. And we like salt, so that says a lot.
The taste and color comparison is neither here nor there in terms of getting the facts. I don't even know if Amish farms have grass-fed cows any more. Do they? Or have they converted to grain-fed? You tell me.
It was just interesting to compare, for our own curiosity.
By the way, the Amish Country Roll Butter is about half the cost of the Kerrygold.
I talked with three people about this Amish Country Roll Butter and two of them thought it was true Amish butter. The checkout lady told me how everyone in town loves this Amish butter, and I speculate many think it really is Amish butter, too. This reminds me of how the labels “natural” and “farm fresh” are used on foods. Most consumers fall for it.
I'm not even sure that the Amish Country Roll Butter is falsely labeled. It is hand-rolled like real Amish butter, after all.
I do think the name on the package is deceptive, though. I'll go that far. Alcam Creamery must realize that people think their hand-rolled butter is Amish, yet they don't do much to dispel that myth. Remember that when I called Alcam Creamery and asked whether the butter was Amish, the man's first answer to me was: “Yes, that's it's brand name.” Does that usually satisfy people? Are they told to say that and hope the inquirer won't try to go deeper?
If Alcam Creamery was really interested in truth in marketing, the employees (or maybe he was the owner, I don't know) would answer something more truthful, like “Oh, no, it's not Amish. But we hand-roll it like the Amish do and that's where the name comes from.”
Instead, his answer confirmed for me that he knew the label was misleading. He couldn't answer my real question without revealing his insider knowledge.
I don't know much else about Alcam Creamery, and I'm not trying to slam them or their people. I only know what I've shared here about the hand-rolled butter. For all I know, they're a great small town place to work. In terms of labeling, though, they're not unique. Many companies use misleading labels.
All around I think it is unfortunate and depressing. Consumers don't question what they're buying and assume that labels are truthful. Companies knowingly mislead consumers through less-than-truthful product labels.
What's the solution? Not government regulation! Consumers should wise up, push back, and stop supporting companies that market like this. There's nothing more effective than marketplace competition. Ron Paul said of the healthcare industry, “True competition in the delivery of medical care is what is needed, not more government meddling.” That's true of the food industry as well.
What do you think about the Amish Country Rolled Butter and how it is marketed? Would you have bought it thinking it was really Amish butter or would you have known better? Do you think it is falsely or deceptively labeled? What is the responsibility of consumers, government and food companies in issues of deceptive marketing? Seen any false labels on other foods lately?
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