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What to choose: butter, spread or margarine?

Madein.md team decided to carry out an experiment, guided by Viorica Bulgaru – university professor, doctor of technical sciences, specialist in the field of dairy technology and dairy products within the framework of the Technical University of Moldova. Together we made an analysis of the color, taste, smell, consistency and appearance of several samples of butter, spreads and margarine.

Butter is de facto milk fat in concentrated form, as a single product.

Natural butter, which is produced only from milk fat, has special characteristics, both organoleptic and physical-chemical, so it can be easily distinguished from other types of products that may also resemble or be called butter.

There are two methods of producing butter, which also contributes to the quality of the product: by whipping the cream in batch and continuous buttermakers and by converting high-fat creams.

The first method is used more often and gives the butter a uniform, more plastic mass in comparison to butter obtained during the conversion of high-fat cream, even if the same ingredients are used.

A very simple way to determine the authenticity of a product is to look at its composition. In case of butter, the ingredients should be only cream or salt (if one buys salty butter).

In case of spread, a producer should always indicate the vegetable fats that are used in the manufacturing of this product.

Spread is a product partly made from milk fat and partly from vegetable fat. It can contain 72.5% fat, however it would be right for consumers to know if the product they buy is butter or spread.

The butter is rich in saturated fatty acids (40%), which allows the body to get more good cholesterol. Its melting point is lower than body temperature, so the product is pleasant to taste and easily digestible. A consumer should always choose a natural, healthy butter, but there are several problems with added vegetable fats, as well as other additives used to extend the shelf life and give the butter an aesthetic appearance. There are several ways to determine the quality of the butter and its composition.

The best quality butter must have a fat content of 82.5%.

To date, local dairy producers use proprietary standards, which they register at Moldova Standard.

The main types of butter:
- Traditional butter (82.5%, 81.5%);
- Amateur butter (78%), which is no longer produced;
- Peasant butter (72.5%);
- Sandwich butter (61.5%);
- Butter with the addition of chocolate, fruit, - (62%)
or honey, coffee, cocoa, berries - (52%).

Spreads are of the following variety:
- Lacto - vegetable - milk fat is not less than 50% of the fat content;
- Vegetable - milk - vegetable fat is 15-49% of the fat content;
- Vegetable - contains only vegetable fats;

In spreads, according to the rule provided by Codus Alimentarius, the use of various aromatic substances, vitamins, is also allowed.

For example, chocolate butter is not butter, but in fact it is a spread.

Vegetable fats

There are dairy products that contain vegetable fats and it is a known fact that palm oil is used in the vast majority of them. It can be of two types: made from fruits, namely from kernel (core), and made by the method of deodorizing the oil of these fruits. Viorica Bulgaru told us that "palm oil is included in the list of food additives as a natural product, but there are no established recommendations for the daily norm of its consumption. In addition, it is defined as a product of the category quantum satis, meaning it does not have any negative consequences for human health. But in this case the opinion of specialists and consumers is rather contradictory. Many do not consume this product because it contains saturated fatty acids, others avoid it due to its high melting temperature and because palm oil can clog the blood vessels like a cork.

The problem is not so much in the ingredient itself, but in the fact that it is not always indicated on the product. Palm oil should be indicated on the packaging of any product. Having bought butter, we would like it to contain only milk fats. "The choice should belong to the consumer, says Viorica Bulgaru. Palm oil in its natural form is widely used in a number of countries in Europe, Latin America and Africa."

An experiment with 2 varieties of butter, a spread and a margarine

The sensory analysis of butter is usually made at a temperature of 10-12 degrees. Having four examples of products, we were able to see a tangible difference between them, first of all - by color. Of course, the consumer can be mislead, because the color can be easily changed. Most consumers believe that if the oil is yellow, it means that it is richer in beta-carotene and vitamins A and E, and its quality is higher. But one needs to know that some of the manufacturers can add color intensifiers.

It is also important to distinguish the product by how easily it is cut. If the butter is hard, it’s cut with difficulty and breaks, it's a good sign that we bought a good butter, but if it is soft and cheesy, some additives may be present in its composition.

As for margarine, it generally cannot be compared with the spread. These are absolutely different products. Spread can be consumed as a food product, while margarine, in turn, is usually an ingredient that is used in cooking and in the production of other products.