KG

Recently an article was written about Kerrygold, an Irish company that produces grass-fed dairy products, shaming them for not feeding their cows grass 365 days a year and feeding them supplemental feed that includes soy and corn. I’m sure the author of this article was very well intentioned when writing it, so I don’t want my response to come off as an attack; it’s not. I just want to clarify a few things and throw in my two cents.

Kerrygold’s cows are not on pasture 365 days a year. They are on pasture roughly 312 days out of the year. This means about 10% of their diet is supplemented. Of this 10%, majority is made up of GM-free wheat and barley. This is completely normal for cows. Many pastured based farms in the US do this too. You can double-check this information on their site as well as below. It is difficult for a farm to feed their animals grass 365 days a year; sometimes it just cannot be done, particularly during winter. And chances are, the cows aren’t even lactating during this time! At least they are supplementing with locally grown grains. And yes, around 3% of this may come from GM soy and corn. The article insinuates that that majority of the feed is comprised of soy and corn, when in reality only a very small percentage is. And depending on when the cows are lactating, that tiny percentage may make no difference at all.

I am a big supporter of Kerrygold. Their butter is delicious, grass-fed and affordable. It is my firm belief that we need more companies like them, and we should support them financially and otherwise, which will hopefully encourage other companies to enact similar business practices. When I read the original article about KG, I immediately wrote to them asking for their response. Here’s what I got,

As you know, recently, several bloggers have reported a change in our farming methods and therefore our product. This is not correct. There has been no change to our cows’ diet or to our Kerrygold butters and cheeses. Our butter contains only fresh pasteurized cow’s milk and, for some butters, salt. Our cheeses, with the exception of those containing alcohol, have only milk, cheese cultures, salt and enzymes.

Irish dairy cows continue to enjoy a healthy grass fed diet 365 days a year. For over 300 of these days our cows graze outdoors in green fields. No other consumer butter, with such widespread appeal as Kerrygold, can make this claim. In fact it is our cows’ grass fed diet that gives Kerrygold its rich yellow color and distinctive taste.

While our cows’ diet is overwhelmingly grass and forage (dried grass), our dairy farmers feed small amounts of dairy ration during the year to maintain their cows’ health and well-being. The majority of this supplementary feed is grown locally and is GM-free wheat and barley.

There is a very small percentage of feed, namely corn or distillers grain, that needs to be imported. These items can be difficult to grow in Ireland’s temperate, rainy climate. From time to time a small percentage of this feed may contain GMO. We estimate it is not more than 3% of an animal’s annual diet.

We are taking an active role in exploring the potential and challenges around using GM free supplemental feed. From the farmer’s perspective, the supplementary feed is very important for the overall health of the animal. They give the cows a healthy and balanced blend of nutrients, providing them with protein, energy and fiber.

We feel it is important to stress that no GMO ingredients are used in any of our products.

We’re incredibly proud of our traditional family farms and of our sustainable, low-carbon, grass-fed dairy system. To learn more about Irish farming practices you can visit our website or email us at kerrygold@idbusa.com. If you would like to talk with someone further, please call me in our Chicago office at (847) 492-8432.

Megan Huber

Marketing Manager

*emphasis mine

Kerrygold is a company that is committed to healthy, happy animals and sustainability. Let’s compare that to majority of dairy companies. Most dairy comes from animals that are confined to CAFO lots. They are covered in filth, including their own excrement. They don’t see the sun, they don’t eat grass. The animals are fed genetically modified products almost exclusively. They are pumped full of hormones and antibiotics. They are usually abused. They are helpless, sick and unhealthy. When articles like this one bashing Kerrygold are written, it further divides our cause. Or my cause at least, which is spreading the word about healthy, sustainble food. People that are just starting out may see an article like this and feel overwhelmed, like no matter how good food apparently is, it’s still not good enough. It most likely discourages people from doing what they set out to do: change their diets for the better, reverse health problems, feed their families healthier foods. And for what?

Let’s not make perfect the enemy of good.

53 responses on “In Defense of Kerrygold

  1. Mandi

    Thank you for this. I still support Kerrygold. I appreciate their honesty and to me supplementing the grass-fed diet shows responsibility. Wouldn’t we rather the farmers take measures to ensure the health of the cows rather than refuse to supplement their diet when there simply isn’t enough forage available? I also think it is important to critique the companies that we support; with constructive criticism we can show our support while making it clear that we want them to source Non-GMO feed for that 3%! No need to bash Kerrygold here 🙂

      1. Jeri Ann Guth

        It’s interesting that you do not include a reply button, when someone calls you on an issue, and you can’t agree to disagree. What is destroying our food environment is GMO’s. And that is much more of an issue for farming and health, currently, than whether animals are grass fed, or, not, which I completely support. However, it is the lesser of the two evils, and you, for some reason, can’t seem to get that. You need to do more research.

        1. dani stout Post author

          I do include a reply button, that’s how you just replied to this. You keep commenting all over the place instead of our specific thread which is below. Yes, GMOs destroy the environment. So does grain and legume production, it’s just as bad. And whether or not animals are grass-fed is just as big an issue as GMOs, in fact the two cannot really be separated. I’m not the one who needs to do more research, I suggest you read the following books:

          http://amzn.to/15RI79X
          http://amzn.to/1cIyZol

          1. Jeri Ann Guth

            Correction – You did not include a reply button in your last two replies to me. I had to reply under previous posts.

    1. christine taylor

      Our local Costco carries both Kerrygold and Kirkland Brand Organic butter. Since I found out about the GMO grains being fed to KG cows, I have been in a quandry about which to choose. The article that I read said that the GMO feed was aprox 1% of their feed, and I know that the nutrients from the grass is very important for our health. So, I still don’t know which is the best choice. But, I do wish that KG would stop using the GMOs.
      Are the health risks from the GMOs worth the added nutrition? or would it be better to use the organic butter?
      I would love to hear your opinion.

      1. dani stout Post author

        Personally I prefer the grass-fed butter over just the organic. Organic butter can still be from cows that are fed corn and soy, which is NOT their natural diet and depletes the omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins. Also, soy and corn production are so massively dominated by GMOs, I honestly would not be surprised it a portion of the “organic” feed had GMOs because it’s just too difficult to separate.

  2. Ashlee

    When I saw that all my natural food blogs were posting these things about KerryGold butter, I, too, contacted the company and received about the same response you did from the company. The articles made it sound like there was a drastic change in the way they were feeding the cows, when in all actuality (according to the company) it was the same as it had been all this time. So, as you said above, I’m still a KerryGold backer. We recently started carrying the butter at our Costco, and while I feel it’s still expensive, it’s a much better quality than anything else I can afford or even find in a similar quality and price bracket. I appreciate their honesty and LOVE their product and I will continue to support them. Thank you so much for not jumping on the bandwagon (so to speak) and contacting the company yourself to get the facts before publishing your article. I wish some of the other bloggers had done their research as well before linking to the original article and getting everyone all upset and saying that they would never buy their products again.

    1. dani stout Post author

      Thanks Ashlee! I think that article was a disservice to the community. I’m glad you didn’t jump on the band wagon either!

          1. Jeri Ann Guth

            From the article “From time to time a small percentage of this feed may contain GMO. We estimate it is not more than 3% of an animal’s annual diet.” Again, 3 % poison is 3% poison.

        1. JR

          Agreed.

          I cannot condone GMO use of any kind. I will be throwing away our KerryGold butter. Thank you for writing this article, as I would otherwise have been unaware of the 3% poison in my children’s food.

          I am happy to financially support companies who take a clear line on their consumers health.

          http://www.nongmoproject.org/

  3. Liz

    The original article is *very clear* about how much GM soy and corn is contained in Kerrygold. You wrote: “And yes, around 3% of this may come from GM soy and corn. The article insinuates that that majority of the feed is comprised of soy and corn, when in reality only a very small percentage is.” The original article states that the butter “[is] actually only 97% GM free.” And even Kerrygold calls this “approximate.”

    I think you misunderstood the intent of the original article, which was simply to provide information when many in the real-food community have made an assumption that Kerrygold is 100% grass-fed and free of GMOs. Some of us have serious health issues and we simply can’t afford to eat GMOs or products from animals fed corn or soy. For us, perfect is the only option.

    1. dani stout Post author

      “It’s not 100% grass fed. It is almost 90% grass fed, and supplemented with feed that includes soy and corn.”

      That’s the sentence I was referring to. I didn’t misunderstand the article, it’s just inflammatory. But I hear ya, I understand that some people need perfect.

      1. Jeri Ann Guth

        Yes, when it’s some poison in my child’s food or NO poison in my child’s food I choose perfect – no poison in my child’s food!

  4. Kathryn

    I agree 100%! KG is delicious and a wonderful company. Even local farms have GMO contamination from time to time so 100% is virtually impossible and villianizing this company will end up doing more harm than good.

    1. Liz

      or maybe it will prompt them to make changes. What a slippery slope to say that a little bit of GMOs is ok, that it’s to hard to be GMO-free…

  5. kelly kc

    “From time to time a small percentage of this feed may contain GMO.” – Megan Huber Marketing Manager, Kerrygold

    How often would that be? And would 3%, 5% or 10% be considered “SMALL”? How much of this SMALL amount of GMO is safe when leukemia has already been linked to GMOs?

    Why are you paying the same price for lesser ie. low-fat instead of full fat.

    How can someone say that something is GMO-free when 3% is GMO? No need to bash? Sure. They are still dishonest and you have the free choice to vote on a dairy corporation that has shown a lack of integrity.

    You defend something just because it’s from raw milk instead of pasteurized milk. That’s just sad.

    You see why no one else who disagree with you commented here? Dani, I think you can do better.

    1. dani stout Post author

      Your comment is largely incoherent.

      “Why are you paying the same price for lesser ie. low-fat instead of full fat.”
      Makes no sense. I don’t buy any low-fat products.

      “How can someone say that something is GMO-free when 3% is GMO? No need to bash? Sure. They are still dishonest and you have the free choice to vote on a dairy corporation that has shown a lack of integrity.”
      How exactly were they dishonest? All of the info is directly on their website.

      “You defend something just because it’s from raw milk instead of pasteurized milk. That’s just sad.”
      Kerrygold isn’t from raw milk. Again, you’re not making a lot of sense.

      “You see why no one else who disagree with you commented here? Dani, I think you can do better.”
      I don’t even understand this sentence.

  6. Deb P.

    Hi!! Thank you so much for writing this article in defense of Kerrygold products. I have read those other articles about Kerrygold and still chose to use Kerrygold butter and cheeses. This is still the better product in my opinion and didn’t plan to switch to others.

    There is no “perfect” in this world. I don’t want to eat GMO’s, corn & soy either but, we do the best we can!!

      1. dani stout Post author

        Personally I prefer the grass-fed butter over just the organic. Organic butter can still be from cows that are fed corn and soy, which is NOT their natural diet and depletes the omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins. Also, soy and corn production are so massively dominated by GMOs, I honestly would not be surprised it a portion of the “organic” feed had GMOs because it’s just too difficult to separate.

  7. Sandra

    Great post. I have been extremely disturbed how one person’s post can cause so much trouble and it wasn’t even that accurate.

    I for one will continue to use Kerry Gold and still feel it is better than any alternative on a grocery store shelf.

    1. Jeri Ann Guth

      I don’t know which grocery stores you frequent, but you do know that there are options that are No_GMO’s verified? As well as being organic, antibiotic and hormone free?

      1. dani stout Post author

        You are free to buy whatever you like of course. Just because something is GMO-free verified does not mean it’s grass-fed. Animals can be fed GMO free grains, soy, corn, etc. and the product will suffer. I also get butter from a local farm that is 100% grass-fed. The point of this article is that Kerrygold is still a great product, and a much better option than conventional dairy.

        1. Jeri Ann Guth

          Yes, 100% grass fed is better than conventional, but dealing with current standards, organic is still best. A 100% grass fed animal can still have been given antibiotics and/or hormones. 100 % organic is the only current label that covers GMO’s, antibiotics, and hormones. It’s as close to pure food as you can get. And I’m still not sure why there is an article about grass fed vs. conventional when organic is the best scenario, and can be bought, I have found, locally, for less than the price of this produce at the super market. Why settle?

          1. dani stout Post author

            I’ve never heard of a pasture based farm giving their animals antibitoics/hormones. This rarely happens. I would rather buy butter from grass-fed animals than organic butter from animals fed a only non-GM soy, corn, wheat, etc. Grass-fed animals are healthier. Plus, the genetic modification of soy and corn is so rampant that even when animals are fed “organic” soy and corn, I’m willing to bet a portion of the is from GM ingredients (probably more than 3%).

        2. Jeri Ann Guth

          However, the problem is supporting any company that isn’t GMO free, i.e. poison free. Grass fed is great if in conjunction with being organic, otherwise the grass / feed the animals are eating is full of poisons, and that poison is bad for the individual eating it and the future of our children, who will have to worry about what to feed their children, if we don’t take a stand and make all food poison free. So, splitting hairs and supporting companies that are grass fed – yes, better than conventional- but not organic, isn’t helping individuals completely, or the future, as a whole, as should be done. I would like to know how much GMO’s you think it is OK to eat? Or feed to someone else? Especially a child, to whose body weight, it effects more? Am future people, especially children? An their children? This is the problem with those on the fence.

          1. dani stout Post author

            Less than 3% of GM supplemental feed when the cows aren’t even producing milk IS NOT AN ISSUE. It is better to support grass-fed farms than it is to support farms that feed their animals non-GM soy, corn, canola, wheat and other junk. Just because it’s organic doens’t mean it’s good for you. Furthermore, soy, corn, wheat, etc production is DESTROYING the environment. Grass-fed farms improve the environment and build topsoil. So yeah, every single time I will buy KG over an organic brand that still feeds their animals complete junk, because it’s not as good as KG, and it’s much worse for the environment.

          2. Aimee

            I just wanted to comment here. Grass-fed & organic would be awesome BUT to be certified organic requires a great deal of control that one would not be able to have in a field of grass. If I recall correctly, for a farm that grows organic produce they must spend several years growing their product in an organic way before the product can be labeled as such. There are similar restrictions (http://blogs.usda.gov/2013/05/17/organic-101-can-gmos-be-used-in-organic-products/) especially in feed (which may or may not be the best most healthy for the animal) for animal products to be labeled organic. I’m willing to guess that the farms that pasture raise their cows do everything they can to keep their fields free of poisons but because they can’t verify that the feed was all organic (since you can’t follow the cows around & make sure they don’t consume something they shouldn’t) they cannot label their products as such. I’m sure Dani would agree that a product that could be labeled both grass-fed & organic would be the optimum choice but one that is grass-fed (& more likely animal friendly) is the next best choice. Besides all that, they aren’t saying that they buy GMO feed but that the feed may contain GMOs…. unlike America, countries in the EU of which Ireland is a part must label foods containing GMO or derived from GMOs (see: http://ec.europa.eu/food/food/biotechnology/gmfood/labelling_en.htm). Also something labeled organic is not guaranteed to be 100% free of GMOs or pesticides per the USDA (see bottom of page 3-page 4 of http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/getfile?dDocName=STELPRDC5090396). With this in mind NO company can truly say they are GMO free all they can say is that they do everything they can to be GMO free.

          3. dani stout Post author

            Exactly! I love it when people who comment are well-informed, intelligent and critical thinkers!

  8. Brittany Ardito

    Thank you for this article. I agree, when I first read the article about KG cows possible being supplemented with a small amount of GM grain, I was discouraged. I had been so happy to find a grassfed butter at the store since I lost my source of local raw butter. But then I decided, I have to choose the lesser of the evils, and KG is the the best quality butter I can find at the store, so I will continue to eat it. This butter is better than no butter.

  9. Ivonne

    I just used a whole bar of Kerrygold to make amazing sf/gf walnut chocolate chip blondies. It is amazing butter (and their cheeses are damn good too). I’d rather have tiny amounts of gmos in my butter (which is indeed questionable) than have 100% hormone laden, RgBh injected mistreated sad cow butter. I think people blow things way out of proportion. Great article 🙂

  10. superf88

    While your appreciation and defense of Kerrygold is coming from a good place, by taking your position, you may be passing an opportunity to stand up for what you really care about — the quality, taste and process that goes into Kerrygold butter.

    Firstly, your argument that Kerrygold is better made than most butters, is risky. The bar for American conventional dairy products has become so low that millions of consumers have rejected American dairy products, altogether once they learn about them. After all, hasn’t this fact created Kerrygold’s market in the first place? Are you really wishing to help create wiggle room for KG’s standards?

    Secondly, with regard to Genetically Modified Organisms, KG’s apparent commitment to excellence is what prompted the company to state to you that “We are taking an active role in exploring the potential and challenges around using GM free supplemental feed.” The company is recognizing that KG’s primary selling point is observing the typical, cynical multinational dairy, which may include dirty, unhappy animals, and cheap, badly grown and possibly risky feed — and then doing the exact opposite. When viewed this way, GMOs are the very emblem of what KG is saying it is NOT. A company’s position on using GM Organisms can also serve as a litmus test for its commitment to excellence (maybe it can be compared to judging a restaurant by how clean its bathroom is?).

    Therefore, when I see a company’s marketers/lawyers state that its cows are probably consuming GMOs — while in the same breath stating that “no GMO ingredients are used in any of our products,” my good consumer and good friend alarm is activated: Misleading and brand-killing marketing extrapolations are possibly at play.

    When beautiful product built on ancestral traditions tries to sell “change” to its most loyal customers — that is often the moment for its true friends to intervene.

  11. superf88

    Reflecting on the comments above leads me to 2 other quick comments:

    1. the bigger KG grows, the more clout it has with grain growers. If the world’s excellent companies demand GMO-free grain until it is proven to have zero risk in its production/consumption, then the marketers/inventors of GMOs will have no choice but to raise their standards (instead of cynically manipulating government officials and the public). Because of its market position, KG has political capital in the US, and American KG loyalists are similarly in the position to employ KG as a proxy in their last ditch effort to protect their food supply.

    2. I haven’t tried KG. I am going to buy some today!

  12. Jeri Ann Guth

    It’s very simple – I want to buy products that are free from GMO’s. Not 3 % or more or less. NO GMO’s. So, though I have bought Kerrygold, until reading this, I will sadly, no longer but from them. I hope that they will one day be GMO free. Period. End. Of. Story.

  13. Annapurna Moffatt

    Given where Ireland is located in relation to the equator (Dublin’s coordinates: 53° 20? 52? N, 6° 15? 35? W), it makes sense that there would be at least a little non-grass feed. 90% grass-fed is really good, as is their response.

  14. Pat

    I, too, e-mailed Kerrygold when I read the blog about their use of GM feeds. I, as others here, am very concerned about GM foods, and I will avoid them if at all possible. Both blog writers have given Kerrygold a very good lesson–consumers DO read labels and consumers are concerned about the feed animals receive. Many food companies with excellent reputations have made the decision to cut their quality and have suffered. I LOVE Kerrygold butter, but I bought Organic Valley today. When I have to choose, I will choose non-GMO containing foods every time. When Kerrygold adopts the policy to use only non-GMO feeds, I will return as a customer–not until. The non-GMO trumps the pasture fed for me. Pasture-fed butter has many benefits, but if it is contaminated with even trace amounts of Round-up or whatever, I don’t want it.

    1. Jeri Ann Guth

      Absolutely! It is so good to hear that I am not alone! I want real food, and don’t want it to include any poison’s. Why are we having conversations about how much poison we will allow in our food?!

  15. Karl

    I thought something was wrong anyway – figured they were using other sources of butterfat as KG has become quite popular in the USA – where is the huge increase in cows that would be needed to expand production this far? GM matters not to me – selective breeding can also do great harm.

    I grew up in Wisconsin, and remember grass-fed butter from my youth – it is more yellow than what I’ve been getting from KG.

    The USA diet now has 5x the amount of PUFA in it – recent studies suggest that PUFAs cause inappropriate insulin sensitivity – that would help explain the obesity pandemic. That is what you really should be worried about.

  16. Sarah @ Blog Guidebook

    I’m planning on purchasing a boat load of Kerrygold products this weekend when I go to the city…I would love to purchase local butter or make my own but it is not affordable. $16 for a quart of cream…that makes homemade butter very pricey.
    Thanks for this article. People love to get on their little homemade soapboxes don’t they?

    Sarah

  17. Breann

    Thank you for this article! I love KerryGold, and I think it’s great that they even gave a response to their criticism… Most dairy companies wouldn’t even acknowledge it. I agree with you 100%. They’re a good company, the more we fight them, the less we are really helping. I’d rather purchase KerryGold with their 3% of “poison” than what comes from huge dairy companies. Criticism and complaint should be directed towards them instead.

  18. Deb P.

    I am just thankful that the local Walmart is now carrying Kerry Gold. I had heard about it and in my opinion, it is the best option in the stores. I don’t care to shop at Walmart but I will to get Kerry Gold. And Dani, thanks for your article.

  19. Sharon

    Hi,

    Tk you for your article about the best butter in the World! I’ve always used Kerrygold but maybe that’s because i’m Irish too 🙂
    Now the only problem we need to correct is the Fluoride in our water…..which in turn affects alot of produce made in Ireland!!!
    Pls support thegirlagainstfluoride.com also on FB.

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