Why Embracing The 'Better Butter' Movement Comes At A Price

There are few foods better known than the humble stick of butter. Often the companion to a slice of toast or used for cooking, the yellow sticks are a staple at tables everywhere. When you sit to dine at a restaurant, oftentimes the first food you'll eat is bread and butter, even before the appetizers come out. But not all butters are created equally and there's far more to the delicious fat than the off-yellow sticks in the supermarket.

A recent trend in the culinary world is a push for artisan butters, with prices to rival those of fancy cheeses. It seems rather odd to attach such a price tag to just butter, such as the restaurant Dedalus in Vermont (via Bon Appétit), whose starter of bread and butter sits at a robust $12. But artisan butters aren't priced like that simply for prestige or profits. There are true costs incurred to make a properly creamy, tangy artisan butter as opposed to the mass produced sticks on supermarket shelves.

The costs of better butter

All butter is made through the same process of agitating cream until the fats in the cream split and form a solid ball of fat separate from the water present in the milk (via BTTR). Artisan butter takes its price from the care put into the milk itself, however. A large portion of the price comes from artisan butteries using limited numbers of cows to make small batches of butter, allowing them to control the quality of the milk and cream that goes into making butter in a way that a factory mass producing butter never could, while also creating distinct flavors unique to certain regions and even the time of year (via Daily Mail).

But far more can go into crafting the artisan butters restaurants want to serve. Bon Appétit looked at the process of how Animal Farm Butter, the butter served by Dedalus, was made by Diane St. Claire, who started the company in 2000. St. Claire worked hard, carefully breeding her three Jersey cows to get a cow whose genetics supported her passion for high quality butter and even went through much of the butter making process by hand. Artisan butters might boast a high cost, but the quality and craftsmanship, not to mention the flavor, make them worth the price.