Once in awhile we come across something so interesting that we diverge from all things poultry for a moment. So here’s the question that led us to write this post, “Why is margarine yellow?” Of course it has something to do with the ingredients, but why yellow when butter is nearly white? What today may seem like a little too much artificial color was once a subtle attempt to represent a premium product. What was this top-shelf target of the margarine industry? Butter made from Guernsey milk. Now on the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy Watch list, the Guernsey was once renowned for his high quality milk. Guernsey milk has a distinct yellow color due to the high carotene levels it passes on from grass pastures. It was this color that makers of margarine were trying to replicate.
The Guernsey cow originates from a the tiny island of Guernsey located in the channel between England and France. The locals were once so proud of their cows that they banned the import of any other cattle to protect their local treasure. In an article by Kay Wolfe in the April-June, 2013 ALBC newsletter, Ms Wolfe explains in great detail the outstanding attributes of this historic breed. According to her article, in 1929, Dr. J.R. Crewe of the Mayo Foundation (forerunner of the Mayo Clinic), believed that Guernsey milk was “more than milk- it was medicine.” What was the basis for this claim? Perhaps it had something to do with the makeup of Guernsey milk. It has “12% more protein, 30% more cream…33% more vitamin D, 25% more vitamin A and 15% more calcium.” All this while using “20-30% less feed per gallon than larger breeds.” As if this weren’t enough, the Guernsey is capable of producing more cheese per gallon than most other breeds, and produces the A2 beta casien protein (Holsteins have the A1 variant), which is believed by some to be healthier (although this is debated). All of this, and the Guernsey also happens to be a docile animal, well-suited to the small farm or dairy. It’s hard to believe that something so wonderful as this breed is slowing slipping into extinction. Larry Yocum, a local businessman and my father, has been involved in the dairy industry for decades. When I asked him about locating a Guernsey dairy, he remarked, “I haven’t seen a Guernsey in probably 15-20 years.” Luckily there are efforts underway to preserve this wonderful breed. For more information, visit the ALBC’s website, or The American Guernsey Association.