Vegan Butter: Is It More Climate-Friendly Than Real Butter?

“Everything in butter” is a well-known saying. If we look into our own kitchen, we quickly realize that butter is everywhere. If you are looking for plant-based alternatives, you will now find a whole range of offers. We’ll tell you how to recognize the butter alternatives and whether vegan butter is actually more climate-friendly than the original.

Butter is one of the staple foods in many households. However, the milk product is not climate-friendly.
Producing one kilogram of butter produces a whopping 24 kilograms of CO².
A better choice are vegan butter alternatives based on vegetable oils and fats.
We use butter in a variety of dishes every day. It comes on the breakfast roll, in the cake batter or for frying in the pan. But like all dairy products, butter is often criticized. In addition to the ethical problems of factory farming, there is also the question of what effects butter has on climate change.

Butter has a bad climate footprint

The animal rights organization PETA writes on its website that butter is one of the most climate-damaging foods of all. The reason: the equivalent of around 18 kilograms of milk is needed to produce one kilogram of butter. In turn, this means that we have to keep a lot of dairy cows for our butter consumption, which at the same time produce a lot of climate-damaging methane gas. The ecological footprint of butter is increased by the manufacturing process, packaging, transport and the energy-intensive cold chains. Something comes together, namely about 24 kilograms of CO² per kilogram of butter.

Vegan Butter: What’s in It?

Vegan butter alternatives based on vegetable fats are said to be less harmful to the environment. They usually contain a mixture of vegetable oils such as rapeseed, sun or linseed oil and vegetable fats such as coconut or palm fat. In addition, there is water, salt, emulsifiers and flavorings as well as vitamins and colorings for some varieties. Legally, the vegan alternatives cannot be called “butter”. That’s why you can find it in the supermarket under the name “vegetable margarine”.

But beware, not every margarine is automatically vegan. There are also variants that contain dairy products, fish oil or beef tallow. A look at the list of ingredients provides clarity. Vegan products are often also marked with a special seal, such as the green V. Incidentally, alternatives based on rapeseed and linseed oil are particularly recommended, as they contain many healthy omega-3 fatty acids.

The carbon footprint of vegan butter alternatives

But how climate-friendly is vegetable margarine actually? According to a study from 2010, the production of one kilogram of margarine produces around 0.7 kilograms of CO². That is considerably less than when making butter. In addition, the production of margarine requires about 50 percent less land area than butter, since the cultivation of oil crops requires less land than the cultivation of animal feed for cows.

On the other hand, the fact that many products contain palm oil is bad for the climate balance of margarine. Because large parts of the rainforest are cleared for palm oil production. If you don’t want to support this, take a look at the list of ingredients before you buy. Because palm oil is subject to labelling.

By the way: If you want to make vegan butter yourself, you will find a wide range of recipes on the Internet. All it takes is coconut oil, linseed or rapeseed oil, some soy milk and turmeric for the color.

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