Butter, Eggs, and Outrage

Butter and eggs are basic foods, wouldn’t you say? Unless you are vegan, or have lactose intolerance, or are allergic to eggs, then you probably have either butter or eggs or both in your refrigerator. One or both of them gets used every day in feeding yourself or your family. Even if you just have a little bit of butter on your morning toast, and even if you only use one egg a week when baking cookies, you still need to have both milk and eggs on hand. Just in case.

Well, Canadian dairy farmers have gone and messed things up. In case you don’t follow Canadian news (and, why would you?) let me enlighten you.

The pandemic has meant that more people are staying home most of the time. This, in turn, has meant more people are baking. Having more people baking has meant an unexpected demand for butter. In trying to meet that need, Canadian dairy farmers have been adding (gasp) palm oil to the cows’ feed. Apparently, this increases the milk yield, and thus enables a greater abundance of butter.

Butter from Jules via Flickr

That would be all well and good, except that we are all now noticing that our butter doesn’t spread properly. A year ago, I could confirm that room-temperature butter would spread evenly on bread. Now it doesn’t even spread on warm toast. It is as hard and stubborn as a cranky senior, or a five-year-old, whichever you think is the most stubborn.

I thought it was just me. Perhaps my kitchen was too cold, or perhaps I wasn’t buying the best butter, but no. Other people have noticed, too. This is especially true for professional bakers who have to attack a block of butter with a rolling pin in order to break down its resistance. And, they aren’t happy about it.

One person mentioned this somewhere online and suddenly received a multitude of responses with people saying “I thought it was just me” over and over. So, we now have a hard butter reactionary force at work and they have been quoted in mainstream media explaining how hard their butter is. Eventually, someone in the dairy industry got wind of this and they have convened a meeting to decide what to do about it. It seems pretty obvious to me what they should do, but no-one is asking me. In the meantime, they will experiment with varying amounts of palm oil to see what they can get away with.

As to eggs, well, this is not a national scandal. It’s just something I noticed today in my own kitchen. I happened to take the last egg out of a box of large eggs and the first egg out of a box of extra-large eggs, and put them in my frying pan. The first thing I noticed was that the yolks were of very different colours. One is orange and one is yellow.

The other thing I noticed was that they were both exactly the same size. “What the heck!” I said to myself. I think I am being ripped off. They were the same brand name of egg from the same grocery store, so there ought to be a difference in size between the large and the extra-large, don’t you think? I know. Me too.

I am assuming that the difference in yolk colours has to do with whatever they feed the chickens, and I don’t know what you have to feed a chicken to make its egg yolks go from yellow to orange, but it may be worth finding out.

Otherwise, both eggs tasted the same to me, but my egg-tasting taste buds may not be of professional standard. And, in case you are wondering, the egg on the right, the one with the yellow yolk, is the one from the “extra large” box. Perhaps I should put this observation on social media and see if I can drum up some national outrage. Good idea. I’ll get on that right away, right after I stop bashing my butter with a rolling pin.

26 Comments

  1. I had to look it up, and you are correct! Egg yolk colors are based on their diets.
    I had noticed my butter being less soft. Now I am wondering if my butter comes from Canada, or if American farmers are also adding palm oil. Fun blog!! Made me grin.😊

  2. If you let your hens feed outside on green grass etc., they will have orange eggs and they taste much better and are great in baking. I used to make scones that everybody raved over. But now I have to use just egg whites.

  3. I agree, diet is the key to egg yolk colour. We feed our five hens corn and a variety of other foods … including rice and, from time to time, even left over bits of cake!
    I like to think our hens – who have the run of the garden for at least an hour every day and sometimes the whole day if we forget to close the gate to their run and they are able to scratch for all sorts of bugs and what have you – are a lot less stressed and thus more content.

    One can see the difference in eggs bought ( or in our case delivered) which we use for the business and those eggs our hens lay. (for home use).

    Haven’t noticed the issue with butter as all cakes are made with Stork Margarine. I must ask my wife, who is the chief baker.

      1. Ah … a bonus question! Sorry, that’s above my paygrade!

        Everything Canadian is probably just weird.
        I recommend you make some coffee, cut a slice of cake and watch Chicken Run.

          1. ”Actually, yolk color depends almost entirely on pigments in the food chickens eat. If a hen eats plenty of yellow-orange pigments called xanthophylls, those pigments will make a darker orange egg yolk. … When they eat wheat or barley, they lay eggs with lighter-colored yolks”

            So there …. Canadian chickens eat lots of xanthophylls, which is obviously some sort of Greek takeaway food. Told you Canadians are just plain weird.

            1. Me and Google are best buds.
              In all seriousness, I learned something new here as well, which is always a good thing.
              It might be interesting to see what happens if we fed our hens barley instead of corn for a week or two just to see the change in the egg yolk?
              Or we could just feed them Souvlaki?

  4. The eggs are different but if you’re not hypersensitive, thank your lucky stars. I have had serious reactions to eggs because of antibiotics and preservatives in the chicken feed. I stay away from all designer varieties for that reason.

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