Natural butter can vary from the palest of yellows to a deep yellow, depending on the cow's breed and feed. Certain breeds produce deeper yellow butters and all cows produce their deepest-colored butter in the springtime and early summer, when the grass they eat is particularly rich in orange-yellow carotene. When winter comes, so does a paler butter.
Because the consumer wants consistency, butter manufacturers try to give their products year-round uniformity by using dyes such as annatto seed extract or carotene. A butter made with winter or Holstein cow milk, for instance, can therefore be made just as rich in color as one from springtime or Jersey cow milk.
Color is a quality indicator, however, when it comes to uniformity in a particular sample. White streaks or multiple shades of yellow indicate a defect in the cream ingredient, production process, or storage.
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