Lab tests of 17 samples of butter indicate that palm oil is probably not a factor in why some butters seem to be harder, according to Alejandro Marangoni, a professor of food science at the University of Guelph.
He found there was only a weak correlation between palmitic acid levels and butter hardness.
CBC Marketplace and the Globe and Mail have been hyping the issue for more than a month, labelling it buttergate and prompting Dairy Farmers of Canada to appoint a panel of experts to delve into the issue and maintain dairy farmers’ stellar image with consumers.
So CBC is looking for other reasons for why some butters may be harder, and it turned to Martin Scanlon, the dean of the faculty of agricultural and food sciences at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg.
He suggested that one factor is the recent rapid adoption of robotic milking machines on dairy farms, milking cows more frequently so fat globules do not stay in the udder for as long, resulting in hard fat crystals forming, which may impact the firmness of the final product.
Another factor is what surging demand — up 12 per cent during the COVID-19 pandemic – so butter makers may have reduced the aging time for the milk fat and sped up cooling after churning to meet the demand. That quick cooling could leave small, hard fat crystals in the butter, Scanlon said.
"Once you start cooling these fat crystals very fast, there's actually a consequence on the hardness," he said.