The Dairy Farmers of Canada (DFC) association is advising butter producers to temporarily stop adding palm oil additives to cattle feed following reports of butter becoming harder to melt, CBC News reported on 25 February.

Gordon MacBeath, a member of the national group’s board and chairman of the Dairy Farmers of Prince Edward Island (PEI), said the group was responding to recent concerns about the hardening of some types of Canadian butter.

“It’s just a precautionary [measure] to ensure that consumers maintain confidence in dairy products across Canada,” MacBeath was quoted as saying in an interview with CBC Prince Edward Island’s Island Morning.

The association also announced on 19 February that is was putting together a working group to study the issue of “fat supplementation in the dairy sector.”

The group would include producers, processors, the Consumers Association of Canada, veterinary nutritionists and animal scientists, the association said.

Dairy farmers said adding palm products to cattle feed had become common practice, CBC News reported, but critics said it affected the purity of Canadian butter.

“We want to err on the side of caution and we’re advising producers to just simply drop it as an ingredient in the ration until the working group has an opportunity to do its work,” said MacBeath.

The Quebec Milk Producers Association was also looking at the use of palm fat in feed, CBC News wrote, saying it would follow the recommendations of the national group.

Palm fat was not a new addition to dairy cattle diets, MacBeath explained. It had been used as an energy supplement for cows for about a decade and was also used in Australia, New Zealand, the UK and the USA.

MacBeath said no health issues for the cow or changes to the milk had been detected since palm fat started being used as a supplement for dairy cattle feed.

Palm fat is approved as a supplement by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

At least one researcher had questioned whether the issue was even a problem that needed to be addressed, CBC News said.

Alejandro Marangoni, a food science professor at the University of Guelph, said while components of palm oil found in milk fat could affect the melting point of butter, there was no data to support the hardening claims.

There were a lot of factors that could change from season to season and year to year that could affect milk products, MacBeath said, such as how weather conditions affected the grass eaten by cows.

DFC noted that dairy cattle feed also varied from place to place due to differences in the type of feed available depending on what local farmers were growing.

“While farmers grow the majority of the crops they feed their cows, a number of common feeds like flax, canola, corn and other plants have been used for decades in a targeted way to ensure cows are meeting their energy requirements,” a statement on the group’s website said.

“All milk sold in Canada is nutritious and safe to consume and is subject to Canada’s rigorous health and safety standards.”