2.3.17

CROSSING STATE LINES FOR THE HIGHER-PRICED SPREAD.

Once upon a time, the dairy lobby in Wisconsin's rent-seeking included a ban on the sales of margarine.  The law was later amended to allow the sale of uncolored margarine.  The shopper could buy a tub of the stuff and a packet of coloring and whip up something that looked a little more like ****** (in those days, advertising convention precluded the mention of a competitor's product, although "the high-priced spread" was a permissible locution).

Or, the shopper could bundle the kids into the car, take a Sunday drive to Interstate Park or the Upper Peninsula or the Museum of Science and Industry, and on the way back, stop at an oleo stand, load a case of contraband into the trunk, and have a substitute that looked just like ****** (rhymes with udder.)

Sometime in the 1960s, and perhaps motivated by the nutrition science of the day, in which dairy fat was somehow worse than vegetable oil fat, or perhaps by the suburbanization of the state, the state repealed the colored margarine ban, and the oleo stands couldn't quite repurpose themselves as dealers in motor fuel or fireworks or lottery tickets, although I suspect a sharp-eyed archaeologist could spot a surviving building here or there.

But now, the smuggling is ******!  What the ????
When Wisconsin resident Julie Rider shops for groceries, there's one item she can't legally buy at her local market — or at any stores in her state.

Because of a decades-old state law, Rider's favorite butter — Kerrygold, imported from Ireland — isn't allowed on Wisconsin store shelves.

The law, requiring butter sold in Wisconsin to be graded for taste, texture and color through a federal or state system, effectively bans butter produced outside the U.S., as well as many artisanal butters that also aren't rated.

This means some residents of the Dairy State have to drive across the border into Illinois just to buy their favorite butter.
You'd think the same creativity that leads to artisanal cheeses (why buy from France when you can go to Plymouth?) would lead to artisanal butters. I'll have to hit a county fair this summer and report back.  The Kerrygold phenomenon appears to be an upscale thing, note that Ms Rider isn't going butter shopping in Menominee, Michigan, where there used to be oleo stands.
Rider, who lives outside Green Bay, gets around the law by buying her Irish butter online, but has heard friends talk of taking road trips to the Chicago area to get their Kerrygold fix.

Though the rule has been on the books since the 1950s, it is churning new controversy at a time when butter consumption is on the rise in America as it's increasingly thought to be healthier than margarine. Butter made from grass-fed cows, such as Kerrygold, is a staple in some diets and for the "bulletproof coffee" movement, where such butter is mixed with coffee and MCT oil for purported — but debated — weight-loss benefits.
Catch that "is thought to be healthier than margarine."  Will the dairy lobby resurrect the margarine ban?  Dairy State artisanal butter producers, if any, already have trade protection.
The Wisconsin rule also affects artisanal butter makers like Adam Mueller.

The fifth-generation owner of Ohio-based Minerva Dairy, Mueller says his distributors have told him they will no longer sell products to Wisconsin grocers because of the law — even though his butter has been available in the state since the 1990s.

As a smaller, artisanal dairy, Mueller said he can't afford to fly in someone on a weekly basis to grade his product, just so it can be sold in Wisconsin stores. Even if he could, Mueller said artisanal products like his "exceed" federal grading systems, so he wouldn't want to affix his butter with that seal.

"We make butter the same way it's always been made since ... before there was a USDA standard," he said. "We're concerned about (the law) because … if I can only reach a portion of the distributor's customers, that reduces my ability to stay with the distributor."
A creamery in Ozaukee County or Sheboygan County, say a member of the old Lake to Lake Dairy Cooperative, might be able to get its Wisconsin-only product into Milwaukee and Green Bay easily enough.

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