In the later months of 2020, Canada started experiencing a crisis: Their butter sucked. Specifically, they found that their butter no longer softened to the degree necessary for baking or spreading on toast when left out at room temperature without turning it into a sad pile of the worst breadsticks. 

After one reporter for the Canadian Globe and Mail joined the thousands who tweeted about their stupid hard butter, however, they got a tip from someone on the inside who painted a picture of an industry-wide lapse in judgment, a controversial cow feed ingredient, and a possible national cover-up.

It started, as everything bad in 2020 did, with the COVID-19 pandemic. When schools and restaurants closed, demand for milk dropped, which is concerning enough on its own. Calcium still strengthens your bones at home, people. But Canadian dairy farmers are working under a unique set of regulations that prohibit them from producing any more output than domestic consumption demands, so they killed off a bunch of their livestock to prevent a flood of spoiled, undrunk milk. What they didn't anticipate, for some reason, was that everyone was going to start cooking at home. Specifically, the home baking craze struck, and demand for butter soared. Unless they wanted to starve, dairy farmers had to scramble to satisfy a butter-hungry populace with a totally inadequate supply of butter providers.

congerdesign/pixabay
"Have you tried margarine?" "Have you tried shutting up?"

So they turned to the dairy farmer's long-established secret weapon: palm oil. Cow feed enriched with palm oil is a "huge booster" to the fat content of milk, meaning more butter per cow. It also happens to have the side effect of imbuing that fat with a higher melting point, resulting in a country of disappointed breakfasters who would nevertheless probably be a lot more disappointed if they couldn't get butter at all. The Dairy Processors Association insisted that there had been no changes to the butter production process, but the Dairy Farmers of Canada released a statement arguing that palm oil is a perfectly harmless method of "provid[ing] energy to cows," so that's as good an admission as any. It's also not necessarily true: Some Canadians are up in arms over what they see as the industry's brazen disregard for the health risks associated with palm fats because they live in Canada, so they don't have anything better to worry about.

Top image: Missy26870/Pixabay, Sorin Gheorghita/Unsplash

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