History of Butter Substitute Oleo or Margarine Spread color was regulated in Minnesota
Margarine, oleomargarine or just plain oleo is a butter substitute and the most popular of them In fact it might be more popular than butter now.
I remember in high school that it was controversial. I lived in Minnesota, which is a dairy state so, it has a vested interest in people using butter. One of my classmates in speech class gave a talk about the merits of butter over margarine. I don’t remember what he said but it had something to do with supporting farmers. I don’t believe he specified dairy farmers. After all, it seems that margarine too is made from agricultural products. However, Minnesota is a dairy state.
Although you could buy margarine in Minnesota and other states, you couldn’t buy it with yellow color. In other words, the manufacture could not add food color to the margarine to make it look more like butter. Another irony, however, is that butter often had color added to it, I understand, because it often looks pale in its natural state.
Probably none of this would have meant much to me except that my mother’s doctor told her to avoid things like butter because of her health. So we started buying margarine that came with little capsules of food color. One broke the capsule and kneaded the soft plastic container to spread the coloring. I have pretty much used margarine ever since although I would by butter if it were on sale. However,I don’t really use enough of either to have much impact on my health.
Origins of Oleomargarine
The proper term is oleomargarine since margarine is a generic term for a number of butter substitutes. Michel Eugene Chevreul discovered margaric acid in 1813.At the time scientists considered margaric acid as one of three fatty acids forming animal fats if combined together. In the 1850’s Wilhelm Heinrich Heintz, a German structural scientist, analyzed margaric acid as simply a combination of stearic acid and palmitic acid, which was unknown previously.
French Emperor, Louis Napoleon II offered a prize for a butter substitute that was suitable for the armed forces and lower classes. Oleomargarine was the result of efforts by French chemist Hippolyte Mege-Mouries who patented the concept in 1869 and expanded his manufacturing operation he didn’t have much commercial success . He sold the patent to a Dutch company, which is now part of Unilever.
Margarine was banned in Canada from 1886 to 1948. The ban was lifted during dairy shortages from 1917 until 1923. Newfoundland produced margarine that used whale, seal, and fish oil by the Newfoundland Butte Company. It was smuggled into Canada end sold for half the price that butter sold for. In 1948 the Supreme Court of Canada lifted the ban on margarine.
The courts did, in 1950, give the provinces the right to regulate margarine. The restrictions varied when it came to coloring. In some places it had to be bright yellow or orange and colorless other places. Mostly by 1980’s the restrictions were mostly gone although you couldn’t legally buy colored margarine in Ontario until 1995. Quebec didn’t legalize colored margarine until 2008.
In the United States laws were passed as early as 1877 to put restrictions on sale and labeling of margarine. In the 1880’s a federal tax of two cents a pound was levied plus the requirement of a license to sell it. States required labeling and color bans in New York and New Jersey, both dairy states. Some states went so far as to have laws to require an unappetizing color be added to the margarine, but the Supreme Court struck it down.
At the start of the 20th century 80% of Americans could not buy colored margarine and a hefty tax was levied on it where it was sold. Colored margarine was bootlegged. Also, manufacturers began to supply colored capsules so consumers could knead yellow color into the packet. Restrictions in 1902 on colored margarine reduced U.S. consumption of from 120 million pounds to 48 million. A dozen years later it became more popular than ever.
World War I resulted in an increase in margarine consumption, as dairy products became scarce. Margarine and dairy lobbies went on. The Great depression in the U.S. brought more pro butter regulations but the Second World War brought back the demand for margarine. The margarine lobby gained power after the war and gradually the restrictions were overcome. Minnesota and Wisconsin, both dairy states, were most recent in lifting restrictions.
Facts about spreads
- Both butter and margarine are emulsions of water-in-fat with tiny droplets of water dispersed uniformly through throughout a fat phase that is in a stable crystalline form.
- Definition of margarine came from the legal definition of butter as both contained a minimum of 165 Water and a minimum fat content of 80%. It was adopted by all major producers and became the industry standard.
- Beef fat was the main raw material for margarine. When the beef fat became harder to obtain vegetable hydrogenation was developed. Between 1900 and 1920 oleo was produced from a combination of animal fat and vegetable oils. By 1950 manufacturer had changed over to vegetable fats.
- Two lower fat blends in Scandinavia confused the issue what could be called” margarine” and led to use of the term” spread.” In 1978 Krona an 80% blend made of churning a blend of dairy cream and vegetable oils was introduced in Europe, and in 1982, a cream and vegetable oil blend called Clover
Was introduced in the United Kingdom. "I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter" was introduced in the United States in 1986 and the United Kingdom and Canada in
· Kosher non-dairy margarines are available for those who follow Jewish dietary laws.
Margarine seems to be popular now because it is cheaper than butter and lower in fats. If one is concerned about unsaturated, omega-3 acids, Omega 6 acids, or trans fat they should check the label, as these are better for those concerned about their cholesterol.
Note: I used the Wikipdedia article on Margarine as the primary resource for this article.