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
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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 She does this thanks to an outdated law in her dairy-obsessed state.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."

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Why is Wisconsin so into butter?
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COMMENTS (70)
  • tashara-kul
    4/10/2017 - 12:33 p.m.

    I don't understand why the lawmakers find the need to ban specific foods and food brands. I mean if there was a disease or something in the food then yeah. Ban the food temporarily. Leave my butter alone you psycho lawmakers!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • garyttt-kul
      4/11/2017 - 03:11 p.m.

      Foods don't get banned if they are contaminated by something, they get recalled. They recall it so nobody else buys it and gets sick from it. A product or a brand doesn't get banned because of one faulty batch.

  • katherinel1-bur
    4/10/2017 - 12:35 p.m.

    I think Wisconsin is so into butter because it is a state in which dairy is highly favored. When I go to the store I see Kerry Gold butter and many other types as well.

  • taylorm-kul
    4/10/2017 - 12:36 p.m.

    I didn't even realize how long a process butter has to go through just to get to the shelf. I can't imagine how long some other products take to get onto the shelf. I think that plain butter noodles are nasty (just had to throw that out there).

    • danielb-kul
      4/10/2017 - 01:52 p.m.

      It is weird how long the process takes for the butter to be approved. I agree with the noodle part too, plain butter noodles are to die for.

    • abigailo-kul
      4/11/2017 - 12:42 p.m.

      I agree with Taylor that you never realize how long stuff takes to get to the shelf until you research it. Butter takes a long time to get to store shelves. I love noodles with butter because they are so good.

  • abigailo-kul
    4/10/2017 - 12:44 p.m.

    I think that is disgusting how that lady could put a teaspoon of butter in her coffee. I can’t even stand the taste of coffee and putting butter doesn’t make it any better. I can’t believe they filled a lawsuit against that. That sounds like you’re wasting your time trying to file a lawsuit for butter.

  • danielb-kul
    4/10/2017 - 01:48 p.m.

    It does not make sense to me as to why they would feel the need to something like this. After all it is just butter. It is crazy to think that you could face a huge fine and even jail time. They should focus on something more important.

    • taylorm-kul
      4/13/2017 - 10:55 a.m.

      I agree that they should focus on something more important; however, I do think it does take some consideration to provide better quality butter so nobody gets sick.

  • samuelb1-bur
    4/10/2017 - 01:54 p.m.

    I think they like butter so much because there is a outdated law about it.



    I think they are interesting to like butter that munch.

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