Food Scientists Make Headlines Over ‘Buttergate’

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Prof. Alejandro Marangoni

Prof. Alejandro Marangoni

Three University of Guelph spoke to several media outlets over the controversy dubbed “buttergate.”

After Canadian bakers took to social media to report their butter seemed harder in recent months, allegations were made that it could be due to dairy cows being fed more palm oil derivatives in their feed, which could have changed the butterfat content of their milk.

Drs. Keith Warriner and Alejandro Marangoni from the Department of Food Science told several media outlets they were not convinced that palm oil in cattle feed is to blame for harder Canadian butter — or that the products’ consistency has changed at all.

Prof. Keith Warriner in a lab coat

Prof. Keith Warriner

Marangoni, who researches new strategies for the replacement of trans and saturated fats in food products, told The Canadian Press there’s no data to support “sensationalist” claims of “a great hardening.”

Warriner, a food microbiologist echoed that in comments to CTV News: “But tell me, where’s the data on this one?” He noted the way butter is being processed could be another explanation if butter is harder.

“If you process butter too quickly, it can be too hard,” he explained to the Telegraph-Journal.

Dr. Stephen LeBlanc

He added it’s possible people are just noticing now that butter is harder, but it may be no harder than it was a few years ago.

Dr. Stephen LeBlanc, a professor in the Department of Population Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, contributed a commentary to The Conversation Canada in which he argued that “it is improbable that feeding palm-based supplements has had appreciable effects on the properties of butter.”

LeBlanc, a veterinarian who works in dairy cattle health management, added: “There is little data on whether or how the details of cows’ diets might affect the properties of dairy food.”