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Wisconsin Cracks Down on Illegal Butter

Wisconsin Cracks Down on Illegal Butter

Butter cronyism. It’s a thing.

Wisconsinites who enjoy Kellygold Irish butter have been forced to venture across state lines to buy the gold foil packaged dairy goodness.

Butter protectionism in the Dairy State has made this foreign butter illegal.

An obscure regulation turns “ungraded butter” into contraband. Since Kerrygold isn’t produced in the good ole U.S. of A., it’s not graded and hence, illegal. Selling illicit butter bears a fine up to $1,000 and a possible six-month stint in the slammer.

If you haven’t tasted Kerrygold, I can assure you it is definitely worth the drive across state lines. It’s pricey, but worth every penny.

Wisconsin local news reports:

The issue here is an obscure state law from the 1970s that requires all butter sold in Wisconsin to be tested by a panel of experts and issued a letter grade for quality.

As a butter made in Ireland, Kerrygold is not graded in the U.S.

Lisa Miller is the marketing director for Ornua North America, the Irish dairy co-operative that markets Kerrygold butter in every U.S. state except Wisconsin.

She said the company had no idea selling Kerrygold in Wisconsin was illegal until the state began contacting distributors about the law.

“Our process of inspecting is a little bit different from the process here, the standards are universally very high,” Miller said.

For Wisconsin, not high enough.

State statute spends pages detailing the steps needed to sell butter, and the 32 different quality points on which it needs to be judged.

Violating the butter law can result in fines upward of $1,000, or jail terms of six months.

People like Jean Smith wonder what that law is really doing — shielding shoppers from inferior butter or fending off foreign competitors from Wisconsin’s dairy industry.

“I feel suspicious. Who are you really trying to protect here? Are you protecting the consumers, are you protecting Wisconsin dairies?” Smith asked.

A spokesperson for the Dairy Business Association, an industry lobbying group, did not return our request for comment.

The state agency enforcing this law would only say what we already know.

A representative of the Department of Agriculture Trade and Consumer Protection said Kerrygold is making a conscious effort to follow the state law and adapt to Wisconsin requirements.

A spokeswoman for Kerrygold said they’re looking at ways to comply with Wisconsin’s ridiculous labeling requirements.

Were I Kerrygold, I’d tell the Wisconsin Dept. of Agriculture Trade and Consumer Protection where they could shove their crony regulations. But that’s probably why I don’t work in public relations.

Follow Kemberlee on Twitter @kemberleekaye


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4. “Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules.”

It’s stuff like this that might, just might, make the people of WI realize that the Nanny State is not freedom.

    So a black market of Kerrygold just in time for St. Paddy’s Day?

    Pssst, hey kid, I’ve got the good stuff, grass fed…

The one day I was in Wisconsin I got soaked. I took it as a divine sign to keep going. Although it might have been a signal to get off of the bike and put on my rain gear.

    Cleetus in reply to Old0311. | February 23, 2017 at 7:24 am

    The first time we drove through Chippewa Falls WI the oil filter came off the car. The second time we drove through there the alternator died. The third time we threw a rod in the engine. We have never gone back.

I’m from Wisconsin and it’s a great state.
That being said, in the 50’s people use to drive to illnois to buy oleo, horrible fake butter stuff. It was white and had a small dollop of color you would mix in the bag to make yellow. My uncle would go buy it and I so loved mixing it up. Margarine really.
Horrible stuff but Wisconsin is serious about its butter.

    SoCA Conservative Mom in reply to gonzotx. | February 22, 2017 at 8:23 pm

    If Wisconsin is serious about its butter, why would they be eating margarine?

      Because until 1 and 2% milk came along in the 70s butter was horribly expensive. I remember buying margarine for 29 cents a pound, sometimes even less if it was on sale, when butter was over a dollar a pound.

      Then the milk industry came up with the brilliant idea of skimming the fat off of milk, using it to make butter, then adding extra “milk solids” back into the reduced fat milk* to make it taste more like whole milk. Those extra milk solids, BTW, are mostly lactose, so while you may be reducing your fat intake, you are upping your sugar intake and if you drink a lot of milk you’re upping it by quite some little bit. I’ve always suspected that there is a strong correlation between consumption of reduced fat milk and the increase we see in Type 2 diabetes, particularly in children.

      * Note that Skim Milk is not the same as “reduced fat” milk. Skim milk simply has the butterfat taken off without anything extra being added. You can easily see the difference just looking at it in a glass. It looks thin and watery.

    pst314 in reply to gonzotx. | February 22, 2017 at 8:40 pm

    …buy oleo…margarine really”
    Because the original, full name was oleomargarine. /end of unnecessary trivia

    alaskabob in reply to gonzotx. | February 22, 2017 at 10:10 pm

    Then they let the oleo into Wisconsin and you could smash the color capsule… that was a great step forward. I thought it just as stupid at 10 then as I do now. If you travel to Wisconsin, butter be aware of your surroundings.

    fulldroolcup in reply to gonzotx. | February 23, 2017 at 12:16 am

    I think it goes back to WWII. I remember being a pre-schooler who, like you, enjoyed massaging that plastic bag to get the red dye mixed with the pasty white oleo.

    I’m pretty sure it was “Big Dairy” who lobbied for and won the requirement that margarine wasn’t sold looking like butter in the first place!!

SoCA Conservative Mom | February 22, 2017 at 8:26 pm

Please stop telling people about Kerry Gold. I’m going to blame you if the price goes up. It’s my secret ingredient in shortbread. You cannot make a decent shortbread with domestic butter.

The Friendly Grizzly | February 22, 2017 at 8:35 pm

Does the land of William Proxmire still require margarine to be sold with separate dye packets?

    No, that ceased many decades ago.
    But I think there may still be a Wisconsin law that restaurants may not provide margarine unless butter is also provided and displayed at least as prominently. Likewise creamer and so on.

    When I retired from active duty in 1994, the Navy was required to use butter, and offer butter to sailors, no margarine allowed. Only the best for our men! That was thanks to Proxmire. Maybe someone still on active duty know if that’s the case.

    But since it’s recently been shown butter is really better for you then the fake stuff- maybe his posturing was a good thing, albeit for the wrong reasons…

I enjoyed Larry Niven’s short story “The Return of William Proxmire”, in which Proxmire’s political career is ended by a nationwide boycott of Wisconsin dairy products:

I like butter, and bacon, …. alot of butter and bacon….

Well, prohibition always works, and look, its the state government of Wisconsin, so obviously they know what they’re doing. I say great job.

On an unrelated note, does anyone know many ounces of butter can fit in the back of a Pontiac Trans Am?

I can’t believe how racist this post is. They’re called undocumented dairy products.


Touch my Kerrygold and you’ll draw back a bloody stump.

American Human | February 23, 2017 at 6:52 am

“That product has too much butter in it!”

Said no one, ever!

please keep the Grubernment out of my butt-er!

Kerrygold also makes an Irish Cream Liqueur that puts Baily’s to shame. I keep some on ice at my bar for shots. Never had 1 person who didn’t think it was delicious.

buckeyeminuteman | February 23, 2017 at 12:33 pm

I hope they’re enforcing those standards for yogurt. Greek yogurt is disgusting and has no place in the USA!

And the correct answer was “Smokey and the Bandit”. Sorry, no prizes will be awarded.

Wisco has a lot of beautiful country, but it is chock full of regulators united in dogged determination to root out every non-compliance, great and small. It might help though, if this butter product was renamed JOHNKerrygold.

Not sure why anyone would eat margarine when butter prices are about the same. Taste-wise the imitation butter sucks.

As for grading butter, that is more of a USDA thing to price the milk sold by farmers. If milk is sold inside the many Federal Orders, milk is first determined to be for class I, II or III use. Folks with kids will be unhappy to find out that the conversion of milk from the cow to the bottle results in the highest priced milk. Cottage cheese and ice cream get class II pricing and butter and cheese makers get the lowest priced milk. Milk that is contaminated results in no payments. Add up the volume times price for each Fed order and divide by total milk each month will determine the milk blend price paid to each farmer.

To participate in the pricing, bottlers and manufacturers have to agree to inspections and the grading is an end result of the inspections and testing. Kerry Gold can become graded tomorrow if the Irish would allow the USDA into their plants. Many Amish and raw milk sellers don’t let the USDA in.