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Old 06-22-2014, 05:39 AM   #1
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Butter or margarine?

I am a beginner of cooking. I know there is no clear-cut for this question after research on Google.
I did shopping today at a large local supermarket but shockingly, there are lots of butter/margarine but none of them has the word "butter'' or ''margarine'' on any parts of their box. They use the word ''oil'' instead but I am pretty sure that they are either butter or margarine.

By the way, there are so many choices, what should I pay special attention to on the nutrients labels? Thanks

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Old 06-22-2014, 09:25 AM   #2
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To me there IS a clear-cut choice. I always use real butter. All the rest are laboratory fabrications.
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Old 06-22-2014, 09:53 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by kenny1999 View Post
I am a beginner of cooking. I know there is no clear-cut for this question after research on Google.
I did shopping today at a large local supermarket but shockingly, there are lots of butter/margarine but none of them has the word "butter'' or ''margarine'' on any parts of their box. They use the word ''oil'' instead but I am pretty sure that they are either butter or margarine.

By the way, there are so many choices, what should I pay special attention to on the nutrients labels? Thanks
Where are you situated, Kenny?

Butter is made from cream and nothing added except, sometimes, a little salt. If it has any other ingredients or references to preservatives it isn't butter. There are two types of butter - sweet cream and lactic. lactic butter (eg Danish butter) has a small amount of "ripened" butter in it but it may not say this on the ingredients (it doesn't in the UK but it depends on the labelling regulations where you are).

There are other butter substitutes which are a mixture of butter fat and oil and other things, which purport to be "better" for you than butter and in some cases are lower in fat (usually this is achieved by adding water and other things) but, as you say these are not butter and (at least in the UK) they have to be called "spreads".

There have been some recent studies published which claim that butter is not as bad for us as has been painted but I don't know where this originated (it may have been paid for by the dairy industry!). As a non-scientific person I am inclined to believe it (because I can if I want to ) and butter tastes better. To the best of my knowledge British dairy cows can't be given hormones to encourage milk production but I believe this may be allowed in some countries. Depending on where you live, you may choose to eschew butter for that reason.

As regards margarine, you rarely see the word in British shops although it is sold in Britain (eg the product which used to be labelled "Stork Margarine" is now just "Stork" and Tesco own brand Margarine is now just labelled "baking fat" which sounds very unappetising).

Personally, I prefer to stick with my butter and moderate my consumption. I prefer the taste and "feel" of it on my bread and in baking too although I'll use margarine for a strongly flavoured cake such as gingerbread if I'm short of butter. However, if frying with butter it is a good idea to add a little blandly flavoured cooking oil as it tends to make the butter less likely to burn.
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Old 06-22-2014, 10:02 AM   #4
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We have returned to the real things after years

After years of using these laboratory concoctions, we have returned to real unsalted butter. Why? It is a REAL food. It tastes better. It melts better. It combines with other ingredients better. It is reasonably priced. Nuff said?

Our beloved former pastor from Alabama, when he wanted to make a point about something being genuine and valid, used to utter the phrase "Them's home-made biscuits and real butter."
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Old 06-22-2014, 10:17 AM   #5
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I believe that the power that created life did it right. I use real butter. Margarine, or any of the Butter flavored spreads never enter my house. I know what to expect of butter, whether I'm cooking, spreading it on toast, or dressing veggies, or a piece of warm, fresh from the oven bread. It tastes better, and if eaten in moderation, as with all fats, isn't so very bad for you. I mean, the human race survived thousands of years before margarine was ever invented.

And just for the record, lard, or pork fat, has less cholesterol than does butter. So a little bacon grease added to you noodles is healthier than is butter in those same noodles. Try adding melted sausage, or bacon fat, or melted butter to your next batch of pancake batter, rather than cooking oil. Of course you will have to let it cool a little to avoid cooking the batter as the hot fat hits the batter. You will find that the flavor is more complex, and better (IMHO)

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Old 06-22-2014, 10:27 AM   #6
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...They use the word ''oil'' instead but I am pretty sure that they are either butter or margarine...

If it's butter, it will say butter on the label. Read the ingredients list. It should be short. Two ingredients is about right. Sweet cream, salt.
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Old 06-22-2014, 12:07 PM   #7
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Unless it is unsalted butter in the US then it will often say "sweet cream and natural flavor"

Go with the one that says BUTTER on the label, if it says "buttery" or "spread" or "baking sticks" it's likely margarine.

Margarine can have huge variations in the amount of fat and water and this can really mess with baked goods. Butter is usually much more consistent. Butter is a more natural, better tasting product too.
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Old 06-22-2014, 12:44 PM   #8
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I mean , the local margarine/butter does not have any label about whether they are margarine or butter. They simply use the term "oil". I can't distinguish whether they are butter or margarine. I'd like to know what parameters on the nutrient label that I should pay special attention to.
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Old 06-22-2014, 12:49 PM   #9
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I mean , the local margarine/butter does not have any label about whether they are margarine or butter. They simply use the term "oil". I can't distinguish whether they are butter or margarine. I'd like to know what parameters on the nutrient label that I should pay special attention to.

The labeling laws in Hong Kong are clearly very different from other parts of the world. I don't think we can help you with this as the labels don't seem to provide enough information to make a decision.
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Old 06-22-2014, 12:57 PM   #10
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I think margarine tastes better for making toast & jelly. I think regular butter tastes pretty bad on toast.

Everything else gets butter because it tastes better.
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Old 06-22-2014, 01:16 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by Andy M. View Post
To me there IS a clear-cut choice. I always use real butter. All the rest are laboratory fabrications.
Yes I agree too.
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Old 06-22-2014, 02:13 PM   #12
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The labeling laws in Hong Kong are clearly very different from other parts of the world. I don't think we can help you with this as the labels don't seem to provide enough information to make a decision.
True. You might want to ask a local person about this.
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Old 06-22-2014, 04:10 PM   #13
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When butter was supposed to be bad for us, I switched completely to margarine. After splurging on real butter for a lobster dinner, I realized that I really prefer the taste of margarine.
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Old 06-22-2014, 09:01 PM   #14
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Butter, and butter only.
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Old 06-22-2014, 11:30 PM   #15
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Butter.
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Old 06-23-2014, 01:03 AM   #16
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Butter is King!
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Old 06-23-2014, 09:18 AM   #17
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BUTTER NO Parkay! LOL
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Old 06-23-2014, 12:18 PM   #18
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According to a government website, HK labeling is not so different that butter won't be labeled as butter with the primary ingredient being cream. While all sorts of imitation butter and adulterated butter may have a variety of names and sets of ingredients, butter will be BUTTER. Anchor is a New Zealend brand said to be common in HK. The front says, Pure New Zealand Butter. Also President, a French brand. Lurpak Danish Butter is also said to be in HK. Harmonie-organic butter is a UK brand sold in HK.

It's safe to presume that if an ingredient is "oil," it is not butter, although it might be one of the combinations of butter and oil. But any brand of real butter will prominently and proudly be labeled BUTTER, SALTED BUTTER, UNSALTED BUTTER, SWEET CREAM BUTTER, etc. Beware of words like "Buttery." Butter will never be labeled "Buttery," because it IS butter.

I use real butter (European style) and never substitutes. I have no fundamental problem with most of the substitutes, but I try to avoid becoming so accustomed to fakes that real food tastes odd. But I also use full-fat versions of things that are also offered in low-fat or no-fat, for the same reason I do not use sugar substitutes. I find it reasonable to believe that humans are evolved to appreciate fats and sugars, having developed through times when both were high-value, and that we are more satisfied with our foods contain the real thing and that it allows us to properly establish a reasonable metabolic set-point and helps to prevent the urge to eat more and more to seek that satisfaction.
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Old 06-23-2014, 12:52 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by kenny1999 View Post
I mean , the local margarine/butter does not have any label about whether they are margarine or butter. They simply use the term "oil". I can't distinguish whether they are butter or margarine. I'd like to know what parameters on the nutrient label that I should pay special attention to.
It doesn't matter if you are in Hong Kong, New York, London or the moon, as several people here have already said if it says "oil" IT IS NOT BUTTER - full stop, end of story.

If the shop assistant can't answer your question ask to speak to the manager or the person responsible for buying in the goods on sale. Bear in mind that if you don't get a straight answer it may be because the person you ask has something to hide. Dairy produce generally is at a premium in China so you may be able to spot genuine butter by it's price although I suppose there could be retailers who get on the bandwagon and hike up the price on "pretend" butter and try to pass it off as the real McCoy.

China banned the import of British dairy produce in January this year but dairy produce from the Republic of Ireland is still allowed. One brand you could look for is "Dairygold". I'm not sure if New Zealand butter is imported to China but that could be a label to look for.
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Old 06-23-2014, 12:55 PM   #20
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When butter was supposed to be bad for us, I switched completely to margarine. After splurging on real butter for a lobster dinner, I realized that I really prefer the taste of margarine.
Each to their own. My dad didn't like butter (didn't like marge either but that's another story).
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