Butter or Margarine

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Nowadays food is confusing, so let me help you quiet the noise and decide what’s best.

Let’s take a look at butter versus margarine.

We’ll run them through a few common sense challenges to see which makes more sense.

Challenge 1: Keep It Simple Sally – KISS

How is butter made?

God made cows and cows produce milk.

To make butter you milk the cow and shake the milk until it turns into butter.

Sounds simple enough.

How is margarine made?

Margarine is made by a process called hydrogenation.

What is Hydrogenation? It’s complicated, so rather than explain it I’ll send you here – (how margarine is made).

Did you read it? It’s not simple, and it’s not natural – at all.

Recap: God made butter and it’s natural. Chemists make margarine and it’s anything but natural.

KISS challenge winner? BUTTER!

Challenge 2: What Does Nature Teach

Since God created the world, I like to turn to His creation when I’m stumped.

So let’s ask the ants!

Dear ants, would you prefer margarine, low-fat margarine, or butter?

Butter or Margarine

Recap: God’s creatures show us the clear choice.

Nature challenge winner? BUTTER!

Overall Winner


Now you can buy and eat butter with confidence, just make sure it’s from pasture-raised (aka grass-fed) cows – and get it raw if possible.

Why pasture-raised? We’ll save this for another article, but just picture cows spread out in a sunny pasture eating grass. Now picture cows crammed together in a feed lot eating ground up corn plants and standing in six inches of manure. Which cow would you rather get your meat and dairy products from? (See, common sense is powerful!)

You may be able to find a local source for pasture-raised butter here, or by visiting LocalHarvest.org.

Check out this article about butter (a superfood?!) that we love!

Farmers and Common Sense

You know your doctor, you know your dentist, but do you know your farmer?

No? Why the heck not? Visit LocalHarvest.org again and go find some in your area.

Whenever conflicting information flip-flops on which food is better, run the food through these simple challenges and just use a little of that good ole common sense God blessed us with to come up with a confident decision you can feel good about.


About Matt Jabs

Matt loves to inspire others to save money and live more sustainably. He is passionate about eating local, living simply, and doing more things himself. Connect with him on Facebook and Twitter.

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  1. Robbie says

    LOVE this short & sweet article- and the short & sweet method of deciding whether butter is better than marg. We’ve been eating no-salt butter instead of margarine for years & years for the very same reasons and one more- IT TASTES SO MUCH BETTER!

    BTW- spreadable butter is made by storing a small portion in a covered glass container (called a butter dish) on the kitchen counter. For most of the year this works just fine and we don’t have to whip, stir, melt or add anything. We eat it fast enough that it doesn’t go bad. Only in summer, when the kitchen get’s too warm, do we store it in the fridge, and then we just grin & bear it. No big deal. 🙂

    • Matt Jabs says

      Thanks Robbie. Yeah, before getting out butter crock we always just left it out on the counter at all times. It never lasted long enough to go bad. 🙂

  2. Meg says

    Although god made the people who process the margarine so therfore its somewhat natural. No not really butters better anyway

  3. frances says

    The thought came to me: I like butter. Grassfed cows sounds good. But we have no way of knowing if the cows are eating grass that has been sprayed with chemicals. I saw in a paper that this is common.

    • Matt Jabs says

      Call the farmer and ask, or go visit the operation, they’ll let you know. Chances are if they’re going thru the trouble to raise them on natural grasses, they won’t be spraying it with chemicals. For comparison you can be sure that the corn fed to conventionally raised animals is heavily contaminated with chemical fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides – not to mention GMOs. Common sense again will point us to the pasture raised farm and its products.

  4. Mari says


    When whipped thoroughly, many good oils turn to a margarine like substance.

    U can use rape seed, olive oil, grapeseed, rice bran oil or coconut oil for this. Look for locally made and pure oil. I personally avoid food made in Asia but that’s my preference.

    Warm it slightly then put in processor and whizz (or whizz stick) then pulse until it becomes margarine like. It is easy to do and as long as you use a ‘good oil’ as above, it is perfectly healthy. Just remember , if u use olive oil, it is best not used in cooking. This gives a very pure marg to which u can add salt if wished, or garlic or seasoning for adding to cooked food.

    • Connie B says

      This sounds excellent, Mari. Do you need to refrigerate it to maintain the whipped consistency?

      • Mari says

        Hi Connie
        At this time of the year, summer here, I do put it in the fridge, just because, like marg in the heat, it will melt and collapse. In winter we keep it in a cupboard and it is fine.

        I forgot to say, I sometimes add a little water to the oil when beating it. I’m on a tight budget and it increases the volume. As I said I warm the oil and water to about 15C (60F I think or finger heat). Put the oil in the food processor then drizzle the waterl and seasoning in as it whips.

  5. Marlies says

    My cousin is a chemist and she actually tested margarine–her findings– margarine is only 1 molecule away from PLASTIC!!!!! yuck!! Now, we only use real butter.

  6. Stephanie KL says

    I agree wholeheartedly! Also, keeping it as simple as you have is a great way to explain it to young children — other than by setting an example.

  7. Katie says

    Great post! Been trying to explain the dangers of certain oils and finally have a post to share with people. In fact, tweeting it now to share with everybody!! 🙂

    Thanks for a great post,

  8. Matt Jabs says

    To Sharon and Harriet: have you tried butter from pasture-raised cattle? The dairy from such cows is naturally organic. Get raw if you can.

    To those asking about spreadable butter: stay away from canola and opt instead for olive (or grapeseed as Eva suggested) or you can do what we do – use a butter crock and leave it out on the counter (the crock keeps it from spoiling).

    • Sharon says

      Yes, I’ve tried just about every possible permutation of feed, type of cattle, and processing/lack of processing. I’ve also traveled a bit in other countries with stellar reputations for the quality of their fresh, wholesome dairy products and made myself sick with experimentation. I’ve also tried goat milk with disastrous results. If something has lactose in it, it makes me sick. A friend who is mildly lactose intolerant can handle raw milk because of the microorganisms that aid digestion, but apparently the process is not complete and some lactose remains for the user’s body to digest, and, sadly, mine simply doesn’t. I have been quite cavalier in the past and not taken this condition seriously because of my love of cheese, but about two years ago I faced serious damage to my lower intestines or giving up dairy, and I chose to give up dairy. Now I am looking for savory alternatives.

      • Stephanie KL says

        Sharron — I’ve often used virgin coconut oil as a butter substitute in my baking. I also drink the Pure Coconut milk in lieu of dairy milk. It is delicious and also flavors my coffee. If coconut agrees with you, this might be an alternative.

        • Sharon says

          Stephanie KL – Thanks! I will do some more experimenting with coconut oil for baking. I do use Pure Coconut Milk and agree that it’s a really good product. I also make ice cream out of canned coconut milk (organic Thai Kitchen) with really good results. Cold hard fact about lactose intolerance is there is no 100% perfect substitute for butter in baking, either performance wise or flavor, but coconut products sure seem to come close.

          • Ginny says

            Yes, I agree and I have substituted coconut oil for butter, but you may want to reduce the sugar a little as coconut oil is a little sweeter than butter.

  9. harriet says

    what do you eat naturally if allergic to dairy? i eat smart balance right now and dont have the luxury of natural.
    can eat soy and do. eat cheeses and veginnaise yum.hopefully you can tell me a natural butter too.:>

  10. Sharon says

    I am extremely lactose intolerant, so even the amount of whey in butter can cause me to get sick. I’ve tried making ghee, which seems to be almost okay with my digestive system but doesn’t work in baking situations in which the butter is depended on to provide some moisture for steam, like in making croissants. Plus it lacks the elasticity of butter. Any suggestions for a healthy alternative?

    • Dusty says

      Coconut oil works well as a butter substitute in baking. Unrefined will give you a slight coconut taste and smell. Refined won’t have the coconut taste or smell.

  11. cathy says

    I’m with Cassie I use Land O Lakes butter with Canola oil in it. The only 3 ingredients are sweet cream, canola oil and salt. I’m pretty sure they do that so it will spread.

    • L says

      From a farming perpective…with canola oil, you get spray, GMO and bleaching before it is added to the cream…

      You are far better off getting butter made from cream and adding your own oil if you wish.

      We have our own milk cow and we salt our own homemade butter (made from clean fresh cream) ourselves. lol I first put this down as we salt it (our cow is what “it” would have referred to) ourselves…changed that after re-reading…lol…come to think of it, she is self-salting with her salt block. haha Anyway, sometimes the butter is harder than others. It depends on the solids that are available in the cream. This depends on the feed, time of year and point in lactation. We don’t rinse our butter out with water (why would we want to contaminate it with municipal tap water…yuck), and we leave it out, covered of course, in our cupboard. If it starts to turn even oh so slightly, into baking it goes…you can’t taste it there. We use it up quite quickly, so rarely ever have any go bad. We take out only what we can use in a set period of time. So, it is usually quite soft and spreadable and is not a danger to us in any way. The salt is there to draw out the flavor, not cover anything, and it is a natural preservative too.

  12. Alayne says

    What’s hysterical is that my doctor actually recommended that I switch from butter to something called Benacol (spelling?) because ‘it’s guaranteed to reduce my cholesterol 10 points.’ (which is barely in the high range) In the first place, I don’t even use that much butter to warrant switching. I’m certainly not going to switch to something that isn’t natural and has ingredients I can’t even pronounce. I told her this and she just looked at me like I was crazy. LoL! Time to go to a naturopath!

  13. cassie wadley says

    Matt, I came to the same conclusion several years ago over butter and cheese. It really started with the american cheese food product which I did not like but my daughter did, I switched to real cheese, and she didn’t even notice. Then there was margarine, which I grew up on. With all the transfat issues, as a nurse, I decided we were better off with butter. Now, here’s my question, I like spreadable butteriness, so I purchase a brand that adds olive oil (another good fat in my book), any problems with this? I did know a couple several years ago that would mix their butter with lecithin, honestly, there was a health reason, but I don’t remember what it was. Any problems with my logic on using butter mixed with olive oil (my oil of choice) or canola oil?

    • Connie says

      Hi, Cassie. The issues could be (1) cooking — olive oil breaks down at a lower cooking temperature; (2) canola – unless it’s labelled non-GMO or organic, it’s probably genetically-engineered. Yuch!

      • cassie wadley says

        Thanks for the input, I may look more into a butter keeper, just can’t imagine not refridgerating.

        • Laura says

          Someone mentioned further up that if you leave butter out until it softens, then beat air into it. I never tried it myself, but it seemed like it could go back in the fridge and still be spreadable.

  14. Kim says

    I love the article and website! If people would just eat what God gave us to eat, we wouldn’t have all these health issues! I started milling my own wheat 3 years ago and it has changed my life. We use butter, EVOO, or coconut oil.

    I so appreciate your website. Keep up the great work.

  15. Angie Meche says

    I read the link about margarine production, then, went and looked up a couple of my own. I believed you, but I also know that some articles are written with an agenda other than what it seems, and embellishments can be made.

    Well, what I saw backs up this article, although this one was better and more specific. (and grosser!)

    Thanks, I will be reposting this on my facebook page.

  16. katrina says

    I have also heard that it is best to use unsalted butter as the USDA has different standards for the age at which the cream can be processed if it’s salted. So unsalted butter comes from fresher cream.

    Not sure if it’s true, just something I heard.

    • James says

      We make “spreadable butter”. The reason most people don’t like butter is because you can’t spread it. Take a stick of butter which is a half a cup and left it soften on the counter then mix an equal amount of olive oil (half a cup) with the butter in a bowl and blend together. There you have a healthy butter that will spread pretty easily. You can adjust the mixture to any consistency that you like. Usually the half and half mixture will spread once out of the refrigerator for only a few minutes.

      • Eva says

        If olive oil gives it too strong of a taste try using grapeseed oil. I use olive oil for when I make garlic and herb spread but my kids like the grapeseed oil in our everyday spread.

  17. cheryl eustice says

    My doctor had me switch from margarine to butter a few years ago.Margarine contains tran fats.He also had me switch from american cheese to using real cheese on my sandwitches.I have also switched to using whole milk after hearing that 2% and skim milk is made from powder.Sounded way to processed for me.I am diabetic,so my doctor checks on my diet all the time ( gets annoying).I see him every three months.I have cut way back on process foods and gave up drinking diet soda except once a month.I lost 50 lbs without even trying and I’m still losing.

  18. Mari says

    To most people it’s the fact that marg is so much easier to spread straight from the fridge. This is easy fixed.

    I soften 500gms (1lb) butter in a bowl on the bench,but out of the sun, for a few hours until it is soft enough to beat. This can be done in your cake mixer, processor or with a whisk or beater. It is just a matter of getting air into the butter to make it increase in volume to a spreadable consistency. I cheat and put it in an old margarine container as the male of the species ‘doesn’t like butter’, nor does he know he hasn’t eaten marg for about 6 months. Devious huh? 😉

  19. Linda says

    My thoughts exactly….I have a rule…read the ingredients on the package..if there is any ingredient you can’t pronounce, DON’T eat it. I will be 73 this year, tap dance once a week with a group of fun-loving seniors, and am on no prescription meds! Love your website!

    God bless,