As It Happens

When it comes to some fatty acids, B.C. biologist says Canadian butter 'sucks'

B.C. biologist, Sanjoy Ghosh, studied butter from around the world and found that Canada's does measure up.
UBC researcher Sanjoy Ghosh has published a study about Canadian butter. (Pixabay)

A B.C. biologist is coming down hard on Canadian butter.

In a study published this week in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, UBC researcher Sanjoy Ghosh revealed that Canadian butter has a high omega-6 acid content. That's not the good omega-3 kind you've probably heard about.

The Canadian dairy industry is already fighting back — saying their products don't contain enough omega-6's to be bad for you.

Ghosh spoke with As it Happens host Carol Off about his research. Here is part of their conversation:

CAROL OFF: How does Canadian butter compare with butter from other countries?

SANJOY GHOSH: What we did was we compared butter samples from around the world. We did a proper chemical analysis. We found that Canadian butter has the highest omega-6 to omega-3 ratio. It's the highest level of omega-6 from across the world.

Cows eat hay at a dairy farm in Upton, Quebec, October 3, 2015. REUTERS/Mathieu Belanger - RTS2VQ7 (Reuters)
CO: So, what does that mean to us and our hearts?

SG: You may have heard that vegetable oils, as doctors and scientists have been saying for decades, are not so good. So, many people — including myself — we have started using more butter in our diets: butter in the morning, butter even during cooking. Now, this is with the belief that whatever we are eating has less omega-6's because the other vegetable oils had a lot of omega-6's. So, what this data shows is that, yes, butter is still good. But, the omega-6 level we see in vegetable oils is slowly creeping into our food system.  

CO: There is some extremely expensive butter that's grass fed. Is that different?

SG: Yes, it's very different. [Grass fed butter makers] are doing a very good job in keeping these omega-6's down. If we look at other countries butter, say in Europe, like Dutch butter or French butter, they're able to keep their normal butter at very low ratios. It is not impossible. There are several countries who do it. Like, Belarus as an example. 

CO: Why is Canadian butter so much higher?

SG: There is a direct correlation between omega-6 levels and the amount of oilseed we produce. 

CO: So, is that a coincidence? 

SG: When we produce so much corn ...these are put into the dairy feeds of those particular countries.

CO: So, the cows are eating the oil...

SG: Yes, so that comes out into the milk and ultimately into the butter. 

CO: Is there any country that has worse butter than ours? 

SG: Yes, Israel. Because it's a small country in the middle of a desert. So, it imports its entire animal feed which is essentially corn, gluten and other oil feeds. 

CO: You were talking to the National Post for an interview and you said to them: "Our butter really sucks. There's no other way to spin it." So how is the butter industry responding to what you've had to say?

SG: First of all, let me talk about my comments. When I was talking to this reporter, Randy, I was saying something and I didn't know he was actually recording this. I really said it sucks because I didn't have any word to say it in a short way.

CO: But, is it true? Does our butter really suck?  

SG: Our butter in comparison to other country's butter ... yes, it does suck. But, is it bad compared to the other vegetable oil and alternate fats that we eat? Not at all. I still suggest people eat butter.


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