© Mark Hoffman
Joe Ortner performs maintenance on a robotic palletizer at Grassland Dairy Products Inc. in Greenwood, the largest family-owned butter producer in the nation.
Butter is back.
Driven by the movement toward food that contains natural ingredients as well as the foodie and gourmet cooking trends, butter consumption in the United States has reached its highest level in 40 years, dairy industry leaders say.
Where margarine and other spreads were once hailed as healthier alternatives to butter, the pendulum may have swung back in butter's favor. That matters in Wisconsin, where nearly 12,000 dairy farms and their 1.3 million cows annually produce 3.2 billion gallons of milk, the raw material for butter.
In the middle of the trend is Grassland Dairy Products Inc.
in Greenwood, whose plants make about a third of the nation's butter. Grassland is the largest family-owned butter company in the United States.
"We're busy," said Trevor Wuethrich, a vice president at Grassland and the fourth generation of the Wuethrich family to work at the company, which was founded by John Wuethrich in 1904. "We're definitely seeing butter consumption go up."