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Why one of America’s most vilified foods is making a comeback

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America’s newest food craze has a familiar -- and delicious -- sheen to it.

Americans’ butter consumption is forecast to jump 8 percent this year, partly thanks to hipster food trends like butter coffee and brown butter cocktails. Nutritionists are also rethinking the once-vilified food, with experts such as the Cleveland Clinic’s Dr. Mark Hyman writing in his book, “Eat Fat: Get Thin,” that butter and other saturated fats should be part of a healthy diet.

The craze is spreading across all segments of the food industry, as Bloomberg News points out. McDonald’s is adding butter to its muffins and cooking with butter, while restaurant chain Cracker Barrel promotes its breakfast dishes made with “real butter.” At farmer’s markets and high-end restaurants, customers shell out for butter churned at small local dairy farms and for butter coffee, which is exactly what it sounds like: butter mixed with coffee. 

What's bad is good: butter 02:17

The result? American butter consumption is nearing a 50-year peak. 

Like many recent trends, the Kardashians may be behind some of butter’s newfound popularity. Kourtney Kardashian has cited a type of clarified butter called ghee for helping her shed weight.

“Ghee is the first thing I put in my body every morning,” she told US Magazine last year. The fat is “categorized as a healthy fat, like coconut oil, meaning the fatty acids are absorbed directly into the liver and burnt as energy.”

While the argument that butter is a health food might be hard to swallow, it’s clear Americans are enjoying the food’s resurgence. Butters from all over the world are appearing at upscale grocers such as Whole Foods as well as mainstream retailers such as Krogers. 

High-end butter doesn’t come cheap, however. sells “decadent, fresh, creamery” Irish butter for $7.99 for half a pound, for instance. Land O’Lakes butter costs $5.19 for 1 pound of butter at Prices have whipped up in recent months, with the U.S. Department of Agriculture forecasting higher prices this year on “continued demand strength,” according to Dairy Herd Management

Still, butter lovers in the U.S. won’t find their budgets spread as thin as those in the U.K., where butter prices almost doubled last year because of lower milk production. 

Even with America’s revived love of butter, people don’t take the butter-rich cake when it comes to consumption. That prize goes to France, where consumers in 2015 ate an average of about 17 pounds of butter per person, compared with less than 6 pounds per year for Americans, according to the Canadian Dairy Information Centre. 

Butter’s rise hasn’t gone unnoticed by margarine makers. Unilever, whose roots go back to the origins of margarine in 1872, replaced the head of its margarine business last year, raising speculation that the company might spin it off or separate it from faster-growing businesses. 

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