February 5

Soup to Nuts: New attitudes put butter lovers – and makers – in fat city

Casco Bay Butter Co. in Portland sees its sales soar as the real thing is less margarine-alized.

By Meredith Goad mgoad@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Kerry Altiero, chef/owner of Cafe Miranda in Rockland, says he appreciates the “craftsmanship and integrity” that goes into Casco Bay Butter Co.’s line of artisanal butters.

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Alicia Menard of Casco Bay Butter Co. checks the consistency of a batch.

John Ewing/Staff Photographer

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Casco Bay Butter Co. in Portland makes organic and conventional butter in about 20 flavors, including salted caramel and garlic and herb. Here, co-owner Alicia Menard pours heavy cream into a churn.

John Ewing/Staff Photofrapher

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“But what they’ve really got is” – here, he raises his voice in glee – “the highest butterfat content I’ve ever experienced. It’s awesome. Give me the fat, with three a’s. Faaat. I tell you the truth, I eat it like cheese. I cut off a chunk and just eat it.”

Butter, to be considered butter, must contain 80 percent butterfat. Most grocery store butters hover close to this mark, while the pricier European-style butters that chefs love may reach 82 to 84 percent or so.

Since Casco Bay Butter Co. began using organic cream from the Maine company MOO Milk last year, its certified organic butters test out at 87 percent butterfat. Its conventional line tests at 84 percent.

If you haven’t heard of Casco Bay Butter Co., or seen its line of artisanal flavored butters on local store shelves, that may change soon. As the popularity of butter starts bouncing back, more people are searching for butters that meet that foodie trifecta of local, artisanal and organic.

Earlier this month, the American Butter Institute reported that U.S. butter consumption has reached its highest level in 40 years. In the last 12 years, Americans have increased their butter intake by 25 percent, and now eat about 5.6 pounds per person per year.

The increase has been attributed in part to the backlash against highly processed, “fake” foods, such as the trans fats in those margarines we once were told were good for us. (The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced in November that it now wants to ban artificial trans fats in the food supply.) The backlash is captured perfectly in the new favorite catch phrase of butter lovers: “I trust cows more than chemists.”

Consumers also have been wooed over to butter by the prolific use of the real stuff by chefs on food TV. The seductive flavor of real butter somehow makes it easier to swallow the guilt that once came along with consuming extra-saturated fat.

The owners of Portland-based Casco Bay Butter Co. are seeing this relaxed attitude toward real butter reflected in their sales. Winter is usually a slower season for them, since there aren’t as many farmers markets around and it’s not a busy time of year for restaurants, but the tiny company has seen a 300 percent increase in sales this winter over previous years.

Last weekend, their products debuted at Zabar’s in New York City, where a 5.5-ounce tub of their butter that sells for $5 to $8 here in Maine is priced at $10.95.

Dan Patry, founder of Kate’s – another local butter – says his sales have also risen steadily as the public turns its back on processed foods.

“People are looking for local, number one, and they’re looking for all-natural,” Patry said. “If you stop and think about it, there’s nothing in (butter) but cream and sea salt. It’s passed the test of time. They’ve made butter since camels roamed the desert, you know?”


The founders of Casco Bay Butter Co. are Alicia Menard, 37, and her partner, Jennell Carter, 36. Menard’s brother, Andrew, 38, helps with production. The company got its start a few years ago, when the two women started playing around with making butter in their Kitchen Aid mixer at home. They advanced to experimenting with different flavors, making compound butters with ingredients like lemon zest and chives, and gave away the results to friends and family.

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

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Andrew Menard measures out parsley and other herbs before mixing them with fresh butter to make one of Casco Bay Butter Co.’s specialty blends.

John Ewing/Staff Photographer

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Packaged butter is ready to ship.

John Ewing/Staff Photographer


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