Stolen Cream?

written by

Edwin Shank

posted on

July 29, 2019

Good evening Family Cow Folks!

I'm sorry I didn't write earlier. I knew you'd have questions and you do deserve answers. The truth is simple. I was busy with spring and summer farm work and didn't have much time to write. I know busy isn't exactly a creative excuse, but it'll have to do in a pinch. :)

So here's the question I'm pretty sure you've asked.

"Ok... Mr. Shank... so you are right. The new Family Cow butter is yellower, softer and all around more delectable than almost any butter we have ever experienced... but why in the world is it so expensive?" Or maybe a more sinister question... "Does farmer Edwin and his family actually think it's ethical to pay off their farm in one fell swoop by selling butter at extortion prices?"


It's difficult for folks to believe that this figure only reflects the real cost of real butter.

And it isn't even as high as it should be. We actually loose a few pennies on every pound of butter sold.

I know this sounds like crazy talk, but I promise you it is not. Stick with me and I'll show you the inside story.


The short answer to why Family Cow butter is pricey is that we adamantly refuse to make our butter with stolen cream.

Whoa... Stolen Cream!

Are you accusing others of stealing cream to make cheap butter? Well yes, I guess I am sort of. But maybe "stealing" is a little bit of a harsh word. Tell you what... let me describe what happens and you call it by your own word.

You have probably noticed that industrial dairy processing companies are historically called 'creameries.' That's because the value of milk is in the cream. The cream is what they want. The cream is the reason for their existence. Creameries traditionally take in whole milk, skim the cream off, make products out of the cream (think butter, ice cream, whipping cream, cheese, etc.) and try hard to market the leftover water (aka skim milk) to unsuspecting moms at full price.

But here is the dilemma.

What if the moms are smart and fully educated on the nutritional value of the cream? What if they adamantly demand whole milk with the full cream still in it? The creamery wouldn't have any cream to work with! It all would still be in the milk! What to do?

Not a problem... the creameries simply crafted "Three Smooth Moves" to get the cream they want anyway.

Smooth Move #1: Call it 'Whole Milk' even when it's not:

Even for the mom who insists on and pays for whole full fat milk, let's stealthily remove 1/3 of the cream without telling her. (See... I was careful to not say steal.) They do this by what is called 'standardizing' the milk.

Let me show you how this works in real life: If a farmer with Jersey cows ships milk that is 5.25% cream (which is fairly normal for a Jersey herd) the creamery may remove more than 1/3 of the cream yet still label and sell the leftover milk as 'whole milk' even though it is now only 3.25% cream. Is this stealing cream? You decide.

It definitely seems deceptive to me. If I pay for 'whole milk,' I guess I'm simple enough to believe I'm getting the whole milk, right?

This move... this "industry accepted standard practice of milk standardization" snags the creamery 1,200 pints of cream for every truck load of milk. This might not seem like much until you realize that even a fairly small creamery can process 10-20 truckloads per day. That would be 12,000 to 24,000 pints of free cream per day snuck off of 'whole milk!' Not bad for a day's work!

Smooth Move #2: Keep the Customer from Noticing

But how are we going to keep these moms from noticing the missing cream? After all, they aren't blind... and we know they are smart. Hey! ...I know what! Let's force this milk and the cream through extremely small orifices at stupendously high pressure. This extreme high pressure will totally tear the fat globules to shreds so they won't float anymore. Since the butterfat no longer floats, then the cream won't rise. That'll fix them! Without the visible cream line, these finicky moms won't have a way anymore to see that we've removed a lot of the cream. We'll call this milk homogenized milk and tell them it's for their convenience so they don't need to shake their milk anymore. Smooth!

Smooth Move #3: Manipulate them to actually want Skim Milk...

...or at least low fat milk. Make them want it so bad that they'll pay almost the same price as 'whole milk.' Make them believe that low fat is the way to health. Feed them on fears that the whole milk will make them fat. Tell them it will harm their children. Confuse them with murky data that suggests skim milk is good for their heart. It doesn't matter if the science is weak or unproven or even wrong... say it anyway because we simply can't let them have all our cream!

The more moms we can convince to want skim, the better! Because if we can manipulate their thinking so they actually want skim... they choose skim... they believe skim is best... we get to keep ALL the cream from their milk! YEE HA! If we could convince all of them... sigh... that would be a dreamland. Just think! 60,000 pints of free cream in a day's work at the creamery.

Ok... so maybe this is a bit dramatic, but there are two points here.

The first point is that the above three methods are the sad truth of how industrial creameries obtain their cream. Yes, even industrial organic creameries. And it is how they can sell cheap butter.

The second point is that you can trust that we do not and will not use those methods to get cream. If others do... that's with them and their customers. I'm staying out of it.

As for me and my house... we refuse to steal cream from your raw milk. Family Cow butter is honest butter. We personally feel that it's the high integrity way.

This commitment does mean though, that when we make butter, we start with whole milk. And since it takes 3 gallons of milk to make a pound of butter, it gets expensive. We do discount our raw milk to $4.30 per gallon (since we ship in bulk to the butter maker) but still, our cream cost alone for 1 lb. of butter is $12.90.

In addition to our cream cost, our butter making costs for each lb. look like this: $1.50 to haul milk to butter maker, $1.15 for butter maker fee, $0.18 for container and label, $0.61 to haul butter back to the Family Cow. So, our other-than-cream costs are $3.44/lb.

Add $12.90 to $3.44 and you arrive at $16.34.

Our butter is priced at $16.25.

Enough said.

Note: $16.25 is farm store price – anything above this price for pickup locations and home delivery is only to cover our shipping and handling cost.


We aren't paying off the farm on honest butter, folks. I thought it's important that you know! :)

~Your Farmer Edwin... for the whole Shank Family and the rest of the team!


P.S. Ok... so I know the most dedicated of you have a few more butter questions, too. I just stopped the above section there since I figured it would make a nice place for some less interested to hop out. Here are a few more pressing questions I realize you have.

Q. If $16.25/lb. does not give you any profit… why don't you raise the price?
Wait, I've got my arms crossed over my head warding off the rolling pins and butter knives already! We can't go any higher with the price! :)

Q. But if the butter price isn't profitable and the rolling pins won't let you be profitable, why do you even bother to make butter?
 Because we like to make our tribe happy and we know that you'd not be happy without butter. It's so happy to do butter! :)

Q. Seriously, you make 100% grass-fed butter just to make us happy?
No, sorry, that was only part of the answer. The rest of the answer is that even though we don't make money on the butter, the butter keeps us from losing a lot. I know that sounds weird, but let me explain.

Making butter helps us with milk balancing. Here is how it works.

We understand that you Family Cow Raw milk aficionados would be very unhappy if we ran short of our raw milk. But your milk orders do fluctuate from one week to another. To be sure that we never run out... we always need to manage our cows and herd size to have at least a little extra milk.

This extra milk is our cushion to keep you and us happy. And we use butter-making to help with that cushion. If we have a lot of extra milk some week, we make a lot of butter. If we have very little, then we only make a little butter. This is called milk balancing.

If we didn't have butter-making and some other foods like yogurt and cheese to help with milk balancing, we'd only have two choices. We could tell you that The Family Cow raw milk is first come first serve and that we cannot guarantee you that we'll have enough to fill your order each week or we'd have to send some milk to the compost pile or to the pigs most weeks.

We do not like the last option and you do not like the first. So... we just make butter... even though we end up selling it at break even. :)

Q. So... we should buy this butter because it helps with this thing called 'milk balancing?'
Well... if you want to think of it that way, yes. And thank you. It does help us out. But if you just want some of the best organic butter you ever experienced... that is a good enough reason, too. Butter literally doesn't get much better than this. It's from 100% certified organic Jersey cows. They are 100% grass-fed, so it's grain-free, soy-free, and corn-free, too. This means that the butter is super yellow.


The super high levels of beta carotene and extraordinarily high CLA levels and Omega3's and all that other good stuff are unashamedly screaming through that yellow for you to notice the difference. The salted version of it is salted with Celtic sea salt... and, and... well... you'll just have to try it to see what I mean. :)

God Designed it. We Respect it. That Explains it!

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