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Butter vs. margarine: A brief history

Eating Healthy Food & Drinks Ideas & Tips Kitchen

For more than 100 years, butter and margarine have railed against each other for the position of America's most preferred spread. The shifting opinions of medical experts, the faithful adherence to traditional cooking habits and the millions of dollars poured into marketing campaigns have all kept the discussion about the two substances alive and heated.

While butter has a history that goes as far back as the middle ages where cow's milk was first stirred into a soft solid, margarine is rather young by comparison. First manufactured in 19th century France, margarine's initial rise came largely on account of the scarcity and prohibitive cost of butter.

Additionally, margarine's history has been more complicated. Though it's been banned in the United States several times, one camp suggests that margarine is a healthier plant-based alternative to butter. Conversely, margarine opponents decry it for being artificial and containing hazardous trans fats. 

With a large number of legislative and institutional powers stacked against margarine, it was never seriously considered a substitute for butter for more than 50 years. The average American ate nearly 19 pounds of butter per year in 1911, the most in American history according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Meanwhile, people barely consumed a pound of margarine during that same span. To further keep margarine out of people's homes, the butter industry successfully blocked its sale in many states. 

However, the climate changed during World War II when butter became scarce while margarine was still in abundance. By 1957, Americans were eating as much margarine as they were butter, clocking in at 8.5 pounds annually. The competition has remained close between the pair ever since. Million dollar marketing accounts and disagreeing medical professionals help keep the debate alive. 

Whatever your choice for your meals, whether out of a concern for taste or heart health, Stainless Lux's Stainless Steel Covered Butter Dish is one of those beautiful kitchen accessories that holds your favorite spread for breakfast's crisp pieces of toast and dinner's soft, hot rolls.

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