This brand is a great option for a rich, delicious butter that can been found at nearly every grocery store in the U.S. and costs around $4 for an 8oz bar. Compared to other supermarket brands the taste of Kerrygold butter is an upgrade because the cows have a majority grass-fed diet. This also leads to the butter having beta carotene which gives it a distinct yellow hue and converts to vitamin A in the body. When looking at this brand’s sustainability, they have ensured that their milk is humanely sourced from local Irish dairy farmers with guidelines to manage overgrazing and surface run off concerns. Some environmental issues are overlooked such as maintaining biodiversity, fertilizer usage, and emissions from transportation. If you are looking for an easy to find choice that is relatively sustainable compared to commercial dairies in the U.S. then Kerrygold is a good choice. Another option is to search for locally sourced butter which is more sustainable as it reduces emissions from transportation and can be found at your farmer’s market.
Tasty, grass fed, less intensive dairy practices
Imported product, high carbon footprint of cattle
Ingredients: Pasteurized Cream, Salt
All the cream that Kerrygold sources is from over 17,000 family owned dairy farms and 36 co-ops in Ireland. The breeds of cow generally used on these farms are the Holstein Friesian breed which are known for its high milk production (averaging 18 liters a day). Kerrygold claims that Ireland is the most carbon efficient milk producer in the EU and boasts smaller herd sizes averaging 70 cows with enough land to have 2 cows per hectare. While this is an improvement compared to other dairy operations, there are still over a million cows that have to be fed and are producing methane, a powerful greenhouse gas.
This butter is commonly found in grocery stores packaged in a foil wrapper or a plastic tub. Both forms of packaging is recyclable but the foil option is a lower impact choice.
Kerrygold prides itself in having rich, flavorful butter than is known for its distinct yellow hue. They claim that their cows are grass fed spending 80% of the year on pasture, eating surplus grasses such as hay and silage in the winter, and supplemented grains after calving. The grass used for grazing in Ireland is high in beta carotene which convert to vitamin A in the body as well as giving it a golden tint. 80% of Ireland’s farmland is used as pasture and is naturally irrigated by rainfall. It’s unclear whether the supplemental feed being used is locally sourced or sustainably produced.
As of 2018, 96% of their farms are certified by the Sustainable Dairy Assurance Scheme which lists out requirements to ensure animal welfare, traceability, food safety, etc. In addition to the base standards, there are optional things that producers can do to make their dairy farm more humane and sustainable. These standards seem to be more focused on the animal welfare aspect which is helpful but overlooks some environmental concerns as it is mainly focused on managing surface run off and does not address issues such as biodiversity. Each farm is independently audited and given a grade every 18 months in order to ensure that practices are followed and updated.
Their product is also growth hormone free as its use is banned in Ireland. The fields may be sprayed with certain pesticides and herbicides which they claim to use only when absolutely necessary and close of their fields for a withholding period. Antibiotics are used if required and there is strict testing to ensure the absence of antibiotics, pesticides, and herbicides so that it does not show up in the final product. They also claim that their cows are less intensively farmed citing lower daily milk yields of 18 liters per day compared to 35 liters per day in the U. S.
Kerrygold is produced by Ornua which is an Irish agricultural co-op previously known as The Irish Dairy Board. This Co-op is the largest exporter of dairy products in Ireland, marketing and selling under the Kerrygold name, and consists of Irish dairy producers and farmers. Although their milk is sourced from Ireland, there have 13 production facilities across the world where the butter is manufactured.
Several of the environmental goals Ornua has set out to achieve include reducing carbon emissions, unnecessary waste, and water usage. So far they have met their goal of reducing their emissions by 15% from a 2016 baseline and are expected to meet their waste and water goals by 2021. The goals they have created are great for reducing their production footprint, but doesn’t focus on the true environmental impact of their company which is milk production. They fail to talk important topics such as transportation as this brand has really grown in popularity and is built on the fact that milk is imported from Ireland.