When the Grass Is Greener, the Butter Is Better


Even eaters who swear by domestic dairy have been known to salivate at the sight of the words “European style” on a box of butter. The term actually indicates not a transatlantic commute but a higher fat content. The feds require 80 percent butterfat to bear the b-word and most American brands contain a barely legal 81 percent.

But richer butters yield crazy-flaky pastry, boast a higher smoke point and are generally regarded as the greatest thing on sliced bread. Recently several Brooklyn shops started stocking a European-style butter that might make the French jealous: Kriemhild Dairy Farms Meadow Butter, whose ultra-high butterfat content (86 percent) imparts a dazzling buttercup color and gorgeous, nutty flavor. And it’s from a cooperative of just four farms upstate that use only cream from their own herds, and churn only May through October, when the girls are on grass. “When we first started farming I swallowed the conventional model—hook, line and sinker,” says Bruce Rivington, one of the four farmers, of his bad old days in industrial ag. “We just were not happy with the high-production method, so we started learning how to graze our cows. They already knew—we didn’t.”

After field trips to study premium pastures in Ireland, England, New Zealand, Australia and Tasmania, he moved his family from Ontario to Madison County, New York, for one reason: “world quality grass.” But magnificent milk is unrewarded by the commodity system, which pays farmers for quantity, not quality. So in 2010, Rivington joined forces with three other area dairies—Journey’s Joy, Monanfran and Sunny Acres Farms—to create Meadow Butter as a pastured path to profitability.

They hope to start spreading the news in Manhattan soon, but selected our lucky borough as the place to debut. Brooklynites with baguettes at the ready can find Kriemhild Meadow Butter at Bklyn Larder, as well as Blue Apron Foods, Dépanneur, Court Street Grocers, the Brooklyn Kitchen and Choice Greene.

Sergio Hernandez, co-owner of Bklyn Larder, says he loves selling the stuff. “It’s traditional, handmade butter, just like you read about as a kid, as opposed to butters made on a much larger scale.” Hernandez cooks with it at home, too, calling upon it to baste beef or finish simple-but-spectacular pasta with pecorino. “This butter’s flavor almost borders on cheese,” he says. “It’s amazing.”

For a Q&A with Lindsey McDonnell, the Agricultural Economic Development Specialist Assistant up in Madison County,  about dairy farming and the current commodity market, click here.

Photo credit: Kriemhild Dairy.

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