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Bicoastal Butter Research: What’s the Difference Between East Coast and West Coast Butter?

Bicoastal Butter Research: What’s the Difference Between East Coast and West Coast Butter?

Words Erin Zimmer

While designing the Butter Dish, we discovered butter is not the same around the U.S.

If you grew up on the West Coast like I did, you were probably used to seeing short, stubby butter sticks. But an East Coaster might come along and wonder, “why is that butter stick so stubby?” In most regions east of the Rockies, butter sticks are longer and skinnier in shape. What’s up with this bicoastal butter disparity? (And why are you only finding out about this now?)

We found out when designing our Butter Dish in 2014. OXO Category Director Lua was researching butter compartments in various fridge models at Home Depot to figure out what size our dish should be; she quickly realized they weren’t all the same size.

Turns out, the East Coast-style butter, or “Elgin,” is named for a once-prominent dairy farm in Elgin, Illinois. Once the West Coast caught up with the Midwest’s dairy production in the 1960s, the Elgin-style butter printers (or molds used to shape butter) were no longer available. West Coast dairies began using new butter printers (can we stop to appreciate butter printers for a second?) which produced shorter, chubbier sticks. While most butter dishes are sized to fit the Elgin-style sticks (more common throughout the States), OXO’s Butter Dish is unique in that it can accommodate both stick sizes, no matter where you live, with measurement markings for each style. For the record, both butter sticks contain 8 tablespoons, even if the stubbier sticks look smaller—so make sure you don’t short your cookies any butter.Interested in how we design products? Check out our Behind the Scenes section.

By Erin Zimmer

Erin Zimmer is a freelance writer and photo stylist for OXO. The former managing editor of James Beard award-winning food website Serious Eats, Erin is based in New Orleans, where she loves adventures in her canoe, evenings on the porch, and long bayou walks with her dog Lillie.

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