Is Butter Secretly Ruining Your Health?

Growing up, butter was an absolute staple in my household. We thankfully never got into the margarine craze because my mother believed that butter was good for the brain. Turns out, she was right about that and scientists have now concluded that butter is actually good for you in other areas too. It’s high in a compound call CLA that protects you from tumor growth and cancer, is not inflammatory like man-made oils from corn, canola or soy, and provides a nice dose of Omega 3 fatty acids, if you get it from the right source. But finding the right source can be tricky given all the buzz words and fancy marketing these days. Choosing the wrong type of butter can secretly ruin your health without you even knowing it! Here’s a look at what’s really going on and how to choose the healthiest butter for you and your family. 

Beware of Monsanto Butter


I call conventional butter “Monsanto Butter,” because it comes from cows fed almost entirely genetically engineered or GMO grains and Monsanto is the largest producer of GMOs.

Conventionally raised cows are most commonly fed GMO corn and soy, however, some farmers fatten up their feed with additional sugar from GMO sugar beets and cottonseed. Cotton is the most toxic crop because it isn’t treated as a food crop but as a textile (it has less regulation.) And then conventional dairy cow feed is sometimes fortified with additional protein, Omega 3 fatty acids and CLA from GMO rapeseed (canola) because the cows are not getting these nutrients naturally from the grass. GMO alfalfa hay is also commonly fed to cows. So basically, conventionally raised cows are almost entirely getting their food from GMOs – food that was created in a laboratory, that hasn’t been tested long term, but has produced horrific results in several alarming animals studies

Over 49% of all GMO corn is fed to animals or livestock. Only 2% of the GMO soybeans grown are actually fed to humans, the other 98% get fed to animals. Those figures are pretty scary once you consider the astronomical amounts of herbicides being sprayed on these GMO crops and what they are doing to the increase cancer rates, harm the environment and ourselves.

Land O’Lakes = Monsanto Butter

Land O’ Lakes was a staple in my household growing up. We’d use the whipped butter like it was nobody’s business – my mom would use it on her infamous parathas (Indian stuffed flat bread), in countless desserts and to make homemade ghee. Once I found out what was really happening at Land O’Lakes, my Mom and I had a little chat. I explained to her that Land O’Lakes is owned by a pro-GMO company called Dean Foods. Land O’Lakes co-developed genetically engineered alfalfa, directly contributing to the GMO animal feed supply. I also explained that Land O’Lakes contributed nearly $100,000 to the “No on I-522 Lobby” – the bill to label GMOs in Washington State. This is all on top of the fact that Land O’Lakes is not organic, raises their cows with growth hormones linked to cancer, antibiotics and harmful pesticide ridden GMO feed. I told my Mom she has to stop buying Land O’Lakes if we are going to change this world! 

Knowing all these facts, plus the health risks of consuming GMOs, my Mom finally asked “what butter can I buy?” Well there are many brands out there that are light years ahead of Land O’Lakes. Here’s a Butter Buying Guide that will help you (and my Mama) navigate the butter aisle next time you hit the market:


How to Choose The Most Nutritious Butter

  1. Organic - First and foremost, look for organic butter. This will ensure there are no growth hormones, antibiotics, harmful pesticides and GMOs being fed to the cows. Growth hormone or rbGH that is used to raise cows conventionally is linked to cancer and often accumulates in highest concentration in animal fat. One organic brand I’m suspicious of however, is Horizon, they are owned by Dean Foods (the same company that owns Land O’Lakes). The Cornucopia Institute has filed complaints for labeling their product organic while maintaining factory farm production methods. I won’t buy Horizon organic for that reason. 
  2. Grass-fed - Grass-fed or pastured raised cows are going to be more nutritious than cows raised with grains. Remember, the highest amounts of the most beneficial CLA and Omega 3 fatty acids naturally come from grass-fed cows. Also grass-fed cows produce butter with 50 percent more vitamin A and E and 400 percent more beta carotene (which gives the grass-fed butter a deeper yellow color). 
  3. Ghee - Ghee is clarified butter where all the proteins, milk solids and lactose is removed. This makes the butter more digestible, concentrated with nutrients and really great for immunity building. Ghee does not need to be refrigerated, it can stay on the counter for a few months without going bad. People with dairy allergies or sensitives often do ok consuming this type of butter. Pure Indian FoodsPurity Farms  and Ancient Organics have the best offerings in that they are both high quality, organic and grass-fed.
  4. In an ideal world, you would be able to find butter that is both organic, grass-fed and no additives like Organic Valley (in the green foil wrapper) , but sometimes that’s just not the case. In that circumstance, I would go for either an organic butter or grass-fed butter like Kerrygold (please note – Kerrygold uses some grains that could be GMOs a couple of months out of the year because grass doesn’t grow year round in Ireland – they admit that 3% of their feed could contain GMOs). Choosing regular organic butter will lessen your exposure to pesticides but will also provide less nutrition since the cows will mostly be fed organic grains vs. grass. Regardless, these choices are superior choices over conventional butter and both options (in light green on the chart above) will lessen your exposure to GMOs. 
  5. Beware of butter mixes with labels like “with olive oil” – 9 times out of 10, these butters will have one or more GMO ingredients like soybean, corn or canola oil. These mixes may have questionable additives in them too – check the ingredient list just to be sure! 
  6. Don’t Eat Butter? Here are some Vegan Substitutes - If you are vegan, skip all the “butter like” or fake butter spreads like Smart Balance that contain GMO oils, artificial ingredients made from petroleum and unnecessary preservatives. Instead, choose 100% coconut oil, olive oil, red palm oil (that is sustainably harvested from Ecuador and does not hurt the rainforest) or hemp oil instead. Also coconut manna, or butter works well too, when slightly heated it spreads just like butter. (These are also much healthier than organic spreads like Earth Balance that are usually a combo of inflammation causing oils). 

butter substitutes

Sharing the truth is the first step in changing the food system. If you know someone who is buying Monsanto butter, please share this information with them. Our choices can really change the marketplace, make us healthier  and change companies decisions to use these unhealthy ingredients. 

Much Love, 

Food Babe  


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738 Responses to “Is Butter Secretly Ruining Your Health?”

  1. SueK

    Your butter buying guide image is too small to see the brand names. Do you have a bigger version?

    • Romayne (to SueK)

      I agree! That’s exactly my frustration! It is blurry to the point of totally unreadable even zooming on my iPad. Why can’t they just write the names of the butter brands they recommend? I was in Dr. Mercola’s site reading about butter and found Food Babes Butter Buying Guide, only to find it useless. You can’t read it. The guide was useless on his site, so I searched for Food Babes. Same problem. Food Babes! Is the point to inform people what’s bad, or wouldn’t you like to help the more discerning consumer on how to purchase smarter? If you tell people what brands that are not good to buy, isn’t it sort of pointless to not give clear information on which ones to buy?

      After wasting one hour in all this, I don’t have any nore practical information when I head to shop than before I read anything.

      • MarineCorpsVet (to Romayne)

        I’ll add a second to that.

      • Mary (to Romayne)

        How about a nicely written request with a thanks for even doing the research and posting this for all of us? Try this:
        “Thanks, Food Babe, for educating us on which brands are better than others for us. Would you mind also including a list of brand names, as the packaging is not legible to me. Thanks again for doing the research so we don’t have to.”
        I for one appreciate the FREE information she provides.

      • Flemming Hansen (to Romayne)

        “Thanks again for doing the research so we don’t have to.”

        I agry! it´s about time someone say it loud. Thanks!

  2. Trish Astrauckas

    I think you need to edit your article regarding palm oil. The harvesting is destructive.

  3. Robin

    I have a question. Land-o-Lakes has an organic butter which we have been buying. Would this fall under the ‘safer’ butters?

  4. Joe Sanabria

    I am caregiver for a dairy sensitive person. I found “Organic (grass fed) Buffalo Butter” at New Seasons store in the cheese section seems to have zero reactions to it.

  5. Bliss Doubt

    Horizon Organic brand was owned by Dean Foods. After being bought out by Dean, Horizon was soon sued for using non-organic production methods for its “organic” labeled dairy products. For whatever reason, Dean Foods is no longer the parent company, but I stopped buying Horizon after the merger. i could just tell by taste and texture that it was no longer organic.

    • BobbyLee (to Bliss Doubt)

      Dean Foods spun off Horizon into White Wave, but don’t be fooled, The Board/Owners of White Wave is the same people that owns Dean Foods

  6. aed939

    On the best to worst butter chart, I think the column on the far right should have a gray background to indicate that these are not even butter but butter substitute spreads. Also you should add a column further to the left which would include raw milk butter–both fresh and soured.

  7. Margi

    Please respond to all the questions above and repost the chart.

  8. Erin

    I emailed Wild Harvest and they said that they’re butter has been discontinued. That’s a shame since it was one of only two grass-fed butters listed above.

  9. JD Mumma

    Wow, Thank you! I am sure that took several hours to research and compile!
    Suggestion: Also show images of the non-dairy products you suggested.

  10. Kathy Sills

    Your best to worst chart is impossible to read. Please just print the names as well as show their pic. Thanks,

  11. Ivana

    I have contacted Organic Valley about the grass fed cow’s butter you indicate on the picture in this article, however, when they responded to me officially via e-mail they said they currently do not have 100% grass fed cow butter. Please check with them and revise your article.

    • andrea (to Ivana)

      Oh lordy, give this awesome woman a break, commenters. Its a very good article.
      Organic valley has 100% grassfed in the spring, called pasture butter, which is what she described above in the green wrapper. They do not have it all year long, it’s true, but they do havr it for part of the year. She states clearly that palm oil should only come from specified sustainable sources.
      I have a small ghee company. We use organic, CULTURED butter, which is soooo much more tasty. Cultured butter is not raw, but once you make it into ghee, its not raw anyway. Our butter is mostly grassfed, but grainfed oart ofbthe year, due to climate. The grain is organic. Do your best. Organic valley is a good choice, if you live in oregon, you can get mothers choice organic, or sierra nevada cheese company makes a vat cultured grass fed butter. Yum.

  12. christy

    the only problem with the so called healthier butters that you named is that the majority of the population has to do their butter shopping in walmart or brookshire brothers where they don’t sell those “healthier” butters you named.

    • janel (to christy)

      Then you should go somewhere else for your butter.

    • Martha Gruber Arntson (to christy)

      Grass fed and finished butter is hard to come by in the average grocery stores or Walmart (the worst for choices). But buying the KerryGold will be way better than any of the Land O Lakes or store brands!

  13. Shobhna

    I purchased Organic ghee based on the recommendation from many but was shocked to see Trans Fat in the Organic India brand ghee. I assumed it is organic ghee so I cant go wrong. I bought 2 bottles that I am going to return soon unless they respond back with an explanation :

  14. Patricia Clark

    You do have a choice where to shop. Aldi’s have the best prices and carry health foods.

    • kat (to Patricia Clark)

      Aldi has cheap food for a reason. It is cheaply made with tons of bad stuff in it. I have shopped there but now that I know better I dont.

  15. Roses1

    I am SO ANGRY right now! I switched to Smart Balance years ago thinking it was healthier than other margarines because the government said butter is unhealthy!
    We stopped using it last year because I felt as tho it was all a huge lie and that the tiny bit of olive oil they put in did not make up for all the soy [estrogen that we are bombarded with in tons of foods) and other ingredients I could not pronounce they put in it as well!
    DAMN this government for poisoning our foods! THIS is where all the cancer and other terminal illnesses are coming from. We don’t need a cure, we NEED them to STOP POISONING OUR FOOD SUPPLY! Now this so called POTUS has taken healthcare from millions of Americans so that many will suffer and die. We are seeing this already! How EVIL!

  16. Carol Probst

    Saw you on The Doctors today so am new to your website. I think I agree with most of what you say. For food producers to try to tell us that crap they feed the cows does NOT come through in the milk is just plain stupid. We definitely always have to apply common sense to every thing they try to convince us of. Their agenda consists entirely of greed of the dollar. It makes sense to me that if you put out a product that is real and true, your sales will go up and your company will be more respected!!

  17. Annie

    Land O’Lakes is a member-owned co-op….it’s not owned by Dean Foods.

    • Jennifer (to Annie)

      Land O’ Lakes also spends a lot of money to prevent GMO labeling.

  18. Clara

    Is there a petition out trying to ban Monsanto? It seems that a lot of problems we face with food are coming from them. I hear a lot of countries are banning the company all together.

    • Chris (to Clara)

      There are marches and petitions nationwide from what I have seen. We have had a few in Florida but I have also seen pictures from other states.

  19. Tom

    Sorry Babe, Land o Lakes is my butter of choice.
    As for ghee–too much processing

    • jeanniejayne (to Tom)

      Ghee is heated whole butter with the whey separated from the fat. That’s all! Hardly “processed”.

    • Marc (to Tom)

      You remind me of my father in law. Traditional Italian who believes he knows quality food. He thinks real bread is something labeled Freihofer’s or Wonder. It is hard to convince someone who’s brain has been soaked and washed by Monsanto for the past 30+ years. Land o Lakes is junk food.

  20. Inna

    What about tillamook and challenge butter?

  21. Mary

    Geez, rude people demanding she redo the chart and make the names legible! How about a nicely written request with a thanks for even doing the research and posting this for all of us? Try this:
    “Thanks, Food Babe, for educating us on which brands are better than others for us. Would you mind also including a list of brand names, as the packaging is not legible to me. Thanks again for doing the research so we don’t have to.”
    I for one appreciate the FREE information she provides.

  22. Chris

    FYI: Costco’s Kirkland Signature butter is not solely grassfed but it is organic. It’s so nice to see only two ingredients on anything, including this butter.

  23. Aimee

    Yes there are people fighting Monsanto, there is a small organic farm in Bridgewater, Maine that has taken them to court before. In Maine we have a butter called Kate’s homemade butter, it is really good. I don’t know if it passes the food babe test, I hope so because it tastes and bakes the best.

  24. Jennifer

    My Dad is trying to change his diet and informed me that he switched to Country Crock. Of course I had a bunch of red flags come up in my mind and wanted to give him a better explanation, which this article came in super handy. What would you say to a person trying to watch their cholesterol and trying to be heart healthy? Love the Army!!

  25. Leonna

    Can you tell us more about different options? I buy the Earthbalance soybean butter. I’m thinking it’s probably awful, and of course I love it.

  26. Courtney

    Hi Vani,

    What are your thoughts on Earth Balance and their claims about using ‘sustainable’ palm oil? I see that they have claims on their website saying they are approved by Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) BUT isn’t that company just a bunch of people invested in the palm oil industry?

    I’d appreciate your views on this issue!

    Thank you,


  27. Cheri Rapson

    I would like to know where to buy Organic Valley in the green foil wrapper?
    Thank You.
    Cheri Rapson

  28. topramfan

    FRANKLIN PARK, Ill., July 10 /PRNewswire/ — Dean Foods Company (NYSE: DF) and Land O’Lakes, Inc., announced today that Dean Foods has completed the purchase of Land O’Lakes Upper Midwest fluid milk operations. The two organizations have also formed a joint venture to nationally market and license certain value-added fluid and cultured dairy products to further expand the LAND O LAKES(R) brand. Both

    • J lut (to topramfan)

      LOL sound assets to Deans. Deans does not own LOL. Read the article

      • topramfan (to J lut)

        I never said Deans Owns LOL-I was merely showing another poster that the buy was in fact on the Upper Midwest Fluid Milk operations ONLY-I most likely should have posted my response listing to whom I was addressing it to-
        Personally-we churn our own butter and make our own cheese from milk we buy direct from a dairy farmer here in Georgia that has grass fed cows and milks their cows the old fashion way-by hand. We also raise our own chickens that are truly free range never caged from birth and eat the way chickens were meant to eat-best dang chicken you’ll ever grill or rotisserie.

  29. Theresa McCummings

    What about the butter the Amish sell from their small stores connected to their farms? They say they churn it daily. They sell it by the pound in unlabeled plastic containers which they keep refrigerated in “ice box” type wooden cabinets that use ice to keep the temps cool..

    • J Lee (to Theresa McCummings)

      Your facts are completely wrong. Land O Lakes is a member owned company. Deans is a private company that mostly markets fluid milk. As for your thoughts on GMO link to all the different butter you use in your article, why don’t you use some real evident and science.

  30. Amanda


    You should definitely retest and re-evaluate based upon Non-GMO change-overs.

    A lot of companies, including Smart Balance, have made the Non-GMO switch.

    Let us know! I’d like to see what you think!!!!

  31. Hana

    Is there a way to buy these butters in bulk to make it less expensive. It’s waaaayy to expensive for the little 1lb boxes in the stores. We just cannot afford it. I’ve been buying organic butter only and grassfed when I feel I can afford the extra but we are having to cut back on food budget and we go through butter too much to keep buying it like we have. We use it in baking, homemade waffles, pancakes, fruit bars etc. If there was a less expensive way to buy it I’d love to know. We have a local farm where we get our milk but the butter is kinda pricey.

  32. Tabitha Wallen

    Thankfully, we buy our butter from a local Mennonite community.

  33. dawn

    this is in need of an update — smart balance is not GMO free and they even have an organic version

    • abruunee (to dawn)

      I know that’s what we have been using because it’s now GMO free, but the vegetable oils are still bad I guess so we are trying to find a much healthier butter but it’s proving to be a hard task -_-

  34. Renee

    What about Costco’s brand? They have an organic butter as well.

  35. abruunee

    I found the blue box of Organic Valley butter at my grocery store and on it, it says pasture raised, it’s very expensive for me to buy though (4.99lb.) but is it worth it or should I keep trying to find pure grass fed (which is proving hard especially since I live in Vermont, it’s probably because I don’t have a car though)… So should I just stick with coconut and olive oil for now or is that a good butter? Your butter guide says it’s only in the light green category but I’d prefer my butter to be in the greener category (I have an extremely tight budget low-income basically so it’s hard to get healthy things but I try my best anyways), so is it worth it or not?

    Thanks Ab

  36. Kelly

    Do you know anything about the Kirkland brand of butter from CostCo?

  37. Tabitha

    Thankfully got on the grassfed, organic butter bandwagon over 2 years ago and will never go back to these gross, subpar “food-like” science experiments masquerading as butter! However, there’s a brand I really like and frequently buy their products but they aren’t listed here as a good option. It is Kalona and here’ s a link to their site: Would you recommend them as well? My local natural grocers all carry their products and they have the best chocolate milk I have ever tried although it’s a rare treat at our house. Could you tell me if you’ve done any research into their products? Thank you! Love what you do.

  38. Susan Wagner

    What do you think about the “Costco” butter? Kirkland Signature brand?

    Thank you,

  39. Chloe

    Me and family use Kate’s Creamery butter. We use it on daily basis along with coconut oil and ghee. I was wondering if Kate’s was a trust worthy brand. My family has been aware of monsanto butter for a while but often wonder if the butter we are consuming is GMO. We really like the taste of this butter, so i was wondering if you could find out. Thank you!

  40. Graduate Student

    I would love to put this information and pictures in my research paper. Do I need permission for copy rights?

    • Emily (to Graduate Student)

      No, if you site your sources properly to qoute or summarize you do not need permission.

  41. Amanda

    Hi I’m from Ireland and we have NO gmo foods here in the winter when grass doesn’t grow we feed hay to the cows which is grass collected in summer and dried out so the Irish butter is the best

  42. Laura

    One thing left out of this article is the fact that nearly all the bad stuff that is in milk to start with (hormones, antibiotics, pesticides) is concentrated in the fat (butter is 100% fat) so eating non organic butter is much worse than drinking non organic milk. If you are going to buy anything organic, it ought to be your butter. Second point, although it is very expensive, perhaps it would help you use less. Americans consume way too much fat in general. Oils are poison to our bodies, and while butter is much better, still it contributes to weight gain and attendant problems. It is possible (albeit difficult) to cook with little or no fat. I recommend for great recipes that prove this.

  43. Ellis

    Organic Valley Pasture cows are fed grains. I just called the company.

  44. Jody (to

    Remember if it’s not Organic and Extra Virginin would stay away from it


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