Wisconsin residents can legally buy Irish butter again

Workaround allows sales of Irish butter in US state

Residents in the US state of Wisconsin who love Irish butter will soon be able to buy it in their dairy-obsessed home state, thanks to a creamery's workaround to a decades-old state law.

Old World Creamery of Sheboygan announced that it will import Irishgold * butter, process and package it — then have the company's five state-licensed butter graders rate it. That will allow the Irishgold brand to be sold legally in Wisconsin, which bans the sale of any butter that hasn't been graded for quality.

Residents tired of crossing state lines to load up on Irish butter filed a lawsuit against the state last month over the law, the only of its kind in the US.

"This will be a big day for Wisconsin residents who love the rich taste of Irish butter," Steve Knaus, Old World Creamery's managing partner, said in a news release announcing the workaround. Mr Knaus said the company will import the butter in bulk and grade it both before and after packaging. He said the plan was in the works before the lawsuit was filed.


Meanwhile, Ireland's best known butter brand Kerrygold is working with US authorities to get its product on the shelves in Wisconsin. In a statement, Kerrygold said: "Under Wisconsin legislation, dating back to the 1950s, retail butter for sale in Wisconsin must bear either a Wisconsin or federal grade mark. This effectively excludes Kerrygold butter being sold in Wisconsin because Kerrygold butter is graded, produced and packaged in Ireland.

“We are currently working with the Wisconsin officials on a solution which will enable consumers throughout the state enjoy the great taste of Kerrygold butter.”

Jake Curtis, the attorney for the residents suing the state, applauded Old World's efforts, but said his clients would press forward with their lawsuit. Curtis called the ban "irrational" and said it inhibits access to all international butters.

“This story illustrates the extreme measures retailers have to go through,” Curtis said. “Only in Wisconsin.”

The lawsuit characterizes the law as a “government-mandated taste test.” But Knaus said he appreciates that Wisconsin’s law holds butter to high standards.

Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protections spokesman Bill Cosh has said his agency has to uphold state law, but that enforcement "has been limited to notifying retailers of what the law says."


*Updated: April 12th, 2017: An earlier version of this story mistakenly named Irishgold butter as Kerrygold. They are different brands of butter.