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By Nellie's Kindness Crew
It may seem like a simple fridge staple on the surface, but the makeup of butter (in particular, the percentage of butterfat in that butter) plays a big role in flavor, texture, and quality. In turn, all of these factors can influence the outcome of your chocolate chip cookies, pancakes, and even your scrambled eggs, so it's important to know what butterfat is, why it matters, and which percentage of butterfat is right for your cooking needs.
Butterfat is the fat found in cream. Contrary to what you might think, the butter you purchase at the grocery store isn't simply "butterfat," but rather a combination of some percentage of butterfat and other components. The minimum butterfat content found in American butters is 80%. Products with butterfat below 80% cannot be labeled "butter," and are often called spreads instead. Along with 80% butterfat, the average butter sold in the United States contains about 16-18% water and 2-4% additional components, such as milk solids and sometimes salt. Salted butter typically contains 1-2% salt by weight, or about a 1/4 teaspoon of salt per stick.
Not all butter is created equal! If you've spent much time in the butter aisle, you may have wondered why certain butters have a higher butterfat content than others. The most common types of butter found in a typical American grocery store are American butter and European-style butter, both of which have distinct butterfat compositions.
American butter (sometimes called "sweet cream butter" or simply "salted butter") typically contains the minimum 80% butterfat. American butter can be sold salted or unsalted, and is widely available throughout the country.
The minimum butterfat content for "European-style" butter sold in the United States is 82%, and these butters can range from 82-86% butterfat. For those in European countries, 82% is the minimum for all butter sold in stores. Though 2 percentage points may not seem like much on paper, the slightly higher butterfat content of these butters makes a big difference in quality, flavor, and texture when compared to American butter.
So where does Nellie's Free Range Butter fit in? Both our salted and unsalted butters are 84% butterfat, and you can taste (and see!) the difference. Our high butterfat content means less water filler, yielding a richer flavor and a softer, creamier texture than your average butter from the grocery store.
Butterfat is arguably the most important factor when it comes to the flavor, texture, quality, and even nutritional content of any given butter. In general, a higher butterfat content means a better butter.
You've probably heard the saying "fat is flavor," and there's a lot of truth to it. Butters with 82% or higher butterfat tend to have a much richer and fuller flavor than their lower butterfat counterparts.
Butters with 82% or higher butterfat content have a softer, smoother, melt-in-your-mouth texture without feeling greasy. They cut clean when sliced, whereas lower butterfat butters often crumble or end up with jagged edges when cut into. Like all animal fat, butterfat is solid at room temperature, so butters with a higher butterfat content hold their shape well while remaining smooth and spreadable when left on the counter. Butters that sag and droop at room temperature tend to be closer to 80% butterfat.
Butterfat gives butter its color, and the percentage of butterfat can help determine whether that butter is pale and off-white or a rich yellow color. The color of butterfat itself is determined by the cow's diet; a grass-fed diet rich in plants and greens from the pasture yields a yellower butter.
Butter is primarily made up of fat, but also contains numerous nutrients that are essential for health, including vitamins A and E, riboflavin, niacin, calcium, and phosphorus. Vitamins A and E, which are both fat soluble, are found in high proportions in butterfat itself, so the higher the butterfat, the more concentrated the nutrients. This means that butter like ours contains just a little more of the good stuff and less water filler.
Butterfat is made up of approximately 63% saturated fat, 26% monounsaturated fat, and 4% polyunsaturated fat. The current Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend limiting saturated fat intake to less than 10% of your daily calories, so even butters with a higher butterfat can be enjoyed in moderation alongside other healthy fats from foods like eggs, nuts, olive oil, and fish.
At 84% butterfat, our butter is incredibly versatile. It will shine in recipes that showcase its flavor (think buttered toast and butter-basted steaks), and is also ideal for finishing anything from simple side dishes to pasta; adding a pat to steamed veggies or noodles just before serving is always a good idea! As for baking, the flavor and quality of our higher butterfat butter will show in your cookies and cakes. While you may not taste a difference in treats that feature strong flavors like spices, coffee, and berry jams, the difference in quality will be unmistakable in simple and elegant recipes like classic butter cookies or your favorite buttercream frosting. Here are some of our favorite ways to showcase Nellie's Free Range Butter:
Most, if not all packages of butter do not display butterfat percentage, but under nutritional information it breaks the far down to Saturated and Total fat. Typically Saturated at 13-15%, and Total fat at 34-38%. How do you translate that into butterfat content?
Hi Howard, we understand the slight confusion here, especially with all the different types of labelling on different brands of butter. In general, we would recommend to look for whether or not the butter is American or European-style(a clue for the latter is look for "extra creamy" on the packaging): American will usually have the minimum 80%, and European-style will have anywhere between 82% and 86%.
After reading about your butter, I don't understand why it's classified as a "B" rated butter. Especially when the much cheaper store bought brand is classified as "A" or "AA"
Hi Georgio, we're guessing that the "B" you saw on our packaging was the "B" for our B Corp Certification!
Nellie's sea salted butter has become the only butter I buy for cooking and eating. It's really, REALLY delicious!
Hi Lucy, we're so delighted to hear that you're enjoying our butter! Thank you for choosing free range! 💜
Thank you for sharing your tips and clues. Is butter fat the same as ghee?
Hello Steve! Ghee has a slightly higher concentration of fat than butter and more calories. One tablespoon of ghee has about 120 calories , whereas one tablespoon of butter has about 102 calories . The differences in fat content varies based on the food manufacturer, but typically ghee has a bit more.
I learned a lot about butter that I never knew. Can't wait to have a steak and not feel guilty about the butter.
That sounds delicious Rebecca! We're so glad you enjoyed this article!
The post is great. Thank you.
Could you please explain how to read labels on butters. How do I know how fat is a butter if it only shows sat. fat (7, 8 g or 35%, 38%). Is there a conversion chart for that?
Hi Dina, most butters in US are generally 80% minimum butterfat content, but we realize not everyone will share nutrition information in the same manner. We think your best bet is to look for quality butters that share the butterfat content right on the package, that way you can be assured of what you're getting.
I was amazed to find your butter at Kroger. I bought it to make ghee. You might want to add ghee as one of your grass fed products. Thank you very much for quality when everything is cheapened for profits sake these days.
Hi Donald, we're so glad you found our free range butter! We'll definitely let our team know that you'd like to see ghee offered in the future. Thank you for your kind words and for choosing free range!
I finally tried Nellie's butter.salted and unsalted. As a retired chef and baker, I have used all manner of butters - domestic and imported and Nellies' is right up there with the best. I now use it all the time as well as the eggs.. Keep up the quality.
Hi Lui, we're honored to read this, thank you!
I love your eggs. The yolks are photo worthy and delicious. I am eager to try the butter. Do you produce a cultured butter? I make my ghee with cultured unsalted butter and have difficulty finding butter needed for ghee.
Hi Diane, thank you for taking the time to reach out! We don't currently offer cultured butter, but we're happy to suggest it to our team! We hope you have a chance to try our butter soon!
I tried your eggs and really liked them. Wanted to try your butter but couldn't find it at Whole Foods Market in Glendale, CA even though you list this as a source. Where else can I buy Nellie's butter near zip code 91205?
Hi John, we're sorry to hear that you are not seeing our butter at Whole Foods. Unfortunately we're not seeing any other stores that are carrying it in your area. We hope that this form given to your grocer may help to get it to your area soon: https://fal.cn/3mVQv Thank you
I found your butter this week @ Harris Teeter in Asheville, NC. We’ve had your eggs before - they were yummy - but this is the first time we’ve tried the butter. WOWOWOWOW - so delicious!!! We’re certain we made the BEST blackberry pancakes EVER thanks to your extra creamy butter! Sure would love to be able to but it in Spartanburg, SC!
Hi Stephanie! We're so happy to hear how much you love our butter! (We do too, but we're pretty biased.) We also have good news for us: you can find us in the Spartanburg, SC area at your local Ingles!
Please add a blog for differences between cultured vs normal butter. What is slow churned butter?
Thank you for this feedback! We will take this into consideration!
Your state 84% Butterfat yet have 11gr/14gr fat which is 79%?
What is the difference between Butterfat and the Total Fat listed on the label contents?
Hi Winthrop, butterfat refers specifically to the fat from cream. So, the 84% butterfat means that 84% of the total fat comes from cream :). Hope this clears it up for you!
What is the difference between cultured and uncultured butter? It seems most European-style butter is cultured, but Nellie's doesn't seem to be. And if Nellie's is grass-fed, why is it not as yellow as Kerrygold?
Hi Sam! The difference between cultured and uncultured butter is that cultured butter is treated with cultures(like yogurt), allowed to ferment, and then churned. Our butter is uncultured and slow-churned. Butter gets its color from carotenoids in the grass that the cows consume. Carotenoids are naturally occurring yellow, orange, and red plant pigments that cows cannot digest, and ultimately end up in the milk that they produce. In grass-fed butter like ours, the hue always varies with the seasons and the location of the farm, reflecting what types of greens are available to the cows. Throughout the year, you may see a range of beautiful pale yellows to off-white hues in our butter. Have no fear: this is completely normal!
I am a rustic controlled diabetic. Can I use the unsalted better without affecting my blood sugar, cholesterol and triglycerides
We'd love for you to be able to use our unsalted butter, so we recommend checking in with your doctor to get the best answer to your question.
I never researched butter qualities till I tasted Nellies and knew it was so different and wonderful and wanted to know why. Thank you for all the great extra butter tacts!!!! Hope you have it in my area of NJ.
We're so happy you found some useful information here! You can check out or product locator to find our butter near you! https://fal.cn/3fHyf
I am so glad I read your ‘all about butter’ article. It has taught me of the exposure of what the butter product has been through here and abroad since I used to help make butter when I was a kid myself.
We're so glad you enjoyed it!
You responded to an earlier comment by saying that 25% of the cows' feed is grain and soy. Could you also let us know if the grain and soy are organically grown or not?
Hi Lynn, our butter is not USDA Certified Organic, which means we cannot guarantee that the feed our cows receive is free from GMOs. Our partner dairy farms have the option to treat persistent pest problems on their land with synthetic pesticides, but their pastures are rarely sprayed. Organic grain can be very expensive and adds a significant cost to the final product, so we’ve chosen to provide our Nellie’s Free Range Butter for consumers who are seeking a humane, higher quality option at an affordable price. Please let us know if we can answer any additional questions for you!
I am also thrilled to be able to buy products where people are being kind and humane to the animals. I will continue to support you and I am thankful (and grateful) for you!
Hi Erin, Thank you for those kind words! Our farm animals are truly the star of the show here at Nellie's! We are so glad you choose our purple packaging in the dairy aisle!
I won’t buy any animal product that is not certified humane. Butter has been hard to find. I’m thrilled to see your butter in my local store,( near Gettysburg,PA). So excited to try this.
Hi Christina, we are so happy for you to try our butter! Thanks for being loyal to Nellie's!
I'm an unashamed butter addict. After recently finding and tasting Nellie's butter, I won't be buying my imported "grass fed" butters anymore. THIS is a butter truly worthy of my "fussy" palette. Thank you !!!
Wow! Thank you for the incredible compliment. We are so glad you are loving our butter so much.
How a slow churned butter is different and how it makes difference in quality & nutritian of your butter
The biggest difference between our slow churned butter and regular butter is the butterfat content. Our butter has 84% butterfat, which is slightly higher than most butters. This leads to a creamier texture and is often preferred by bakers.
You really came on point with the butter education!! My family is if Scandinavian and German descent. We only buy European style butter. Now so know exactly WHY. Thanks again! Hint...lots of wild fish.
Thank you for this wonderful feedback. We are so happy to hear you found this helpful. Enjoy!
Thank you for explaining butterfat. I have long been a fan of Nellie's eggs and when I saw the butter, I had to try it.
Let me tell you about the butter coffee using Nellie's: it is SO MUCH BETTER than my old staple in the shiny gold box. I choose unsalted but this butter is lucious in my cup. Thank you Nellie's for bringing us this butter. It is absolutely amazing. I am hooked!
Hi Falynn! We're so happy to hear that you've been able to try our butter. The butter coffee sounds amazing!
Where do you buy your butter in the Aurora, Illinois área?
Hi Judy, thanks for your inquiry. Unfortunately our butter isn't sold in your area just yet. We are working on expanding distribution though and should hopefully have it in some stores soon. To help speed up the process, we invite you to submit a product request form to your local grocery store, asking them to bring in our butter. The form can be found under the "Where to Buy" section on our website.
Where can I buy the butter in Orlando, Florida.
We're still working on gaining distribution in your area, but hope to be coming your way soon. Stay on the lookout, Bruce!
Hi there - My husband just purchased dark chocolate chips for my vegan banana bread recipe. I am trying to eliminate cholesterol so I am using an egg replacement. However, the chips say the cholesterol is 0%. I don’t understand how chips could be cholesterol free.
Good question, Cindy! Since we don't know enough about the other product, it may be best to contact them for some details. Hope you're able to enjoy that banana bread soon!
Would like to know if the cows producing this butter are 100%
COMPLETELY grass fed or just finished off with grass.By your
package I was led to believe the cows are 100% grass fed. But you don't say much about that on the carton
Hello Marie! While grass-fed is not an industry regulated term, for us, it means that grass makes up the majority of our cows’ diet. A 100% grass-fed diet isn’t feasible in most climates, so our partner farmers work closely with nutritionists to ensure that the cows are getting all of the nutrients they need to stay healthy and produce high quality milk all year long. Approximately 25% of our cows’ diet comes from grains, while the remainder is grass. The grain is typically made up of barley, corn, and alfalfa grown by the farmers and fermented into silage. The grain portion of their diet can also be supplemented with soybean and other high quality protein sources if needed. Our dairy farms are independently audited to ensure that the cows are given ample access to green, grassy pastures. Please let us know if we can answer any other questions for you.
thank you for the info about the butter. I can't wait to try and will continue to purchase your eggs
Thanks so much for your support! We're excited for you to try our butter soon - be sure to check us out in the dairy aisle soon!
cant wait to try this butter. love your eggs too
Yay! We're so glad to hear you love our eggs, and we're pretty excited about our butter too! We can't wait for you to try it
Are Eggs Dairy?
Salted vs. Unsalted Butter