Butter ban sparks fight in butter-loving Wisconsin A supply of Kerrygold Pure Irish Butter sits amidst other butters on a store shelf Friday, March 17, 2017 in Edina, Minn. A handful of Wisconsin residents has filed a lawsuit challenging a 1953 state law that bans the sale of Kerrygold Irish butter, or any other butter that hasn't been graded for quality. (AP Photo/Jim Mone/Larry Avila/Wisconsin State Journal via AP)
Butter ban sparks fight in butter-loving Wisconsin
Lexile

Wisconsin resident Jean Smith snatches up entire stocks of her beloved Kerrygold Irish butter from stores when she visits family in Nebraska. She does this thanks to an outdated law in her dairy-obsessed state. It bans it and any other butter that hasn't been graded for quality.
 
"We bring back 20 bricks or so," Smith said. She noted that she plops a tablespoon of the Ireland-made butter into her tea each morning. "It's creamier. It doesn't have any waxy taste. And it's a richer yellow."
 
But she is tired of trekking across state lines to stock up. So she and a handful of other Wisconsin butter enthusiasts have filed a lawsuit. They are challenging the law. They say local consumers and businesses "are more than capable of determining whether butter is sufficiently creamy, properly salted, or too crumbly." No government help needed, they say.
 
The law has been on the books since 1953. It is strict. It requires butters to be rated on various measures. Those include flavor, body and color. The ratings are made by the federal government or people licensed as butter and cheese graders with the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.
 
Wisconsin's grading scale dictates that the highest-graded butter must "possess a fine and highly pleasing butter flavor." Graders might describe a butter as "crumbly," "gummy" or "sticky." Its color must be "mottled," "streaked" or "speckled."
 
Anybody convicted of selling unlabeled or ungraded butter is subject to a fine. It could be between $100 and $1,000. Violators could receive six months in jail.
 
Wisconsin is the only state in the nation with such a stringent butter provision. The lawsuit argues that it amounts to an unconstitutional "government-mandated 'taste test.'" The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, a conservative legal group representing the plaintiffs. The group said the grading process is subjective. It doesn't protect consumers, the group said. The real issue, the group argues, is personal freedom.
 
Institute attorney Jake Curtis acknowledged it's a light-hearted case. "But economic liberty is a civil right."
 
Department spokesman Bill Cosh released a statement. He said his consumer-protection agency has to uphold state law. But he noted that enforcement "has been limited to notifying retailers of what the law says."
 
Ornua is the company that markets Kerrygold and Ornua isn't part of the lawsuit. The company declined to comment on the case. The Wisconsin Dairy Products Association didn't immediately return a message seeking comment.
 
Curtis said he's also heard from frustrated residents. They can't buy their favorite Danish and Icelandic varieties near home. Smith said Kerrygold butter, which uses milk from grass-fed and hormone-free cows, occasionally shows up in stores near her home in Waukesha but its availability is unpredictable.
 
"If I couldn't get Kerrygold, I would use the other butter," Smith said. "It just doesn't taste as good."

Filed Under:  
Assigned 255 times
CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why is Wisconsin so into butter?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (70)
  • Isaac-mar1
    4/06/2017 - 05:09 p.m.

    In Wisconsin, the residents are growing tired of the state ban on butter that hasn't been rated.so they are retaliatling by lawsuit.

    • Senaew-eic
      9/01/2017 - 10:50 a.m.

      That is very true I agree

  • joeyh-
    4/07/2017 - 08:37 a.m.

    The Wisconsin government makes money off the grading process. They don't want to lose money so they keep the grading.

  • nathanm14-ste
    4/07/2017 - 01:22 p.m.

    I do not understand why law makers feel the need to ban foods. Or any consumables for that matter. I highly doubt that tobacco is illegal there and that not only harms the user but others around them. If people want to eat butter, let them eat it. If people want to eat fistfuls of dirt, let them have at it. People need to be responsible for themselves.

  • hayleel-ste
    4/07/2017 - 01:55 p.m.

    I don't understand the point in banning foods. Their are more dangerous things out there that need to be banned. compared to food.

  • holdenj-orv
    4/09/2017 - 07:39 p.m.

    A Law that is Against Butter? That seems very Stupid, and there is some Stupid Lays out There.

  • holdenj-orv
    4/10/2017 - 11:30 a.m.

    This is Stupid. Its because the Governor or something like that believed that there was Communist in the U.S. Government {Remember, the Cold War was was happening during 1953}.

  • bens-pla
    4/10/2017 - 11:42 a.m.

    This article is about a Wisconsin restriction on butter, and a woman's woes about one of her favorite butters being banned because of this. The article delves into the butter restriction and the possible punishments if illegal butters are sold. This article has to do with civic engagement because setting a law or restriction in place requires a lot of solid communication that may also be exhibited in a public setting. If I could ask I a question to the author I would ask, "What is the full list of butters that are banned?"

  • abigailh-pla
    4/10/2017 - 11:42 a.m.

    This article is about Wisconsin residents who are trying to get rid of Wisconsin's regulations on butter. One argument is that economic liberty is a civil right so people should be able to buy butter that they believe is good quality. Jean Smith is demonstrating civic engagement by filing a lawsuit against Wisconsin to overturn the butter law. Although I don't feel as strongly about the topic as Smith does, I agree that butter shouldn't be banned based on specific preferable qualities since different people have different preferences. However, if the law regulates butter based on safety I do not think it should be overturned.

  • jacquelineb-pla
    4/10/2017 - 12:10 p.m.

    This article discussed a longstanding law in Wisconsin that requires a quality test for butter. The law, which judges butter on taste, color, and consistency, is considered by many residents to be a subjective assessment that limits personal economic freedom. A group of annoyed residents have decided to sue the state on account of the restriction of personal liberty. The article reflects civic engagement through the activism of residents in pursuing liberty. Concerned citizens are using their democratic rights to challenge unnecessary government intervention on completely subjective tests.

Take the Quiz Leave a comment
ADVERTISEMENT