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butter block

Record-high U.S. butter imports driven by Irish butter

Country’s marketing strategy successfully touts higher butterfat.

Total U.S. butter imports — driven by high imports of butter sourced from Ireland — reached record levels in July, supplanting a record set in May 2004, the U.S. Department of Agriculture recently reported.

Total U.S. butter imports for July were 7.5 million lb., with 5.8 million lb. (about 77%) coming from Ireland.

USDA

USDA explained that Irish butter contains at least 82% butterfat, a slightly higher amount than the at least 80% butterfat in most U.S. butter. Additionally, the butter is sourced from cows that are mainly grass fed and is usually sold at a premium.

“Irish butter’s higher butterfat content is marketed as being superior for baking and as more pure than lower butterfat options,” USDA said. “The recent rise in butter imports from Ireland can be partly attributed to the success of this marketing strategy and Irish butter’s popularity with many well-known professional bakers and chefs.”

Irish butter brand KerryGold has seen the largest success in the U.S., now ranking second only to Land O’Lakes in butter sales. The company sold 23,000 tons of butter in the U.S. in 2017 and also had sales of $1 billion in more than 80 other global markets.

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