Costco members are complaining that their butter changed and they are switching brands. This is what is behind the debate.

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A post on the social networking site. reddit which was shared just after Thanksgiving sparked widespread online debate over a kitchen staple from Costco, one of the largest retailers in the US.

Costco devotees are complaining that their preferred retailer's own brand of butter is suddenly causing its baked creations to fall apart, leading them to speculate that it changed the formulation of its Kirkland Signature “blue box” sweet cream butter.

To be considered butter, cream products must meet a federal standard, set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It must be made exclusively from milk or cream, or both, and contain at least 80% milk fat.

A four-pack of one-pound boxes of Kirkland butter costs about $17.40, according to Instacart. It's considerably less expensive than the Land O'Lakes butter sold at Walmart, for which an equivalent amount would cost you about $24. But some bakers say they are switching allegiances after encountering problems while baking with Kirkland brand butter.

Costco did not respond to CBS MoneyWatch's request for comment on whether its Kirkland butter formulation had changed.

butter variables

In the United States, butter is between 80% and 82% fat. European butters typically have a higher fat content, resulting in denser baked goods. There are other variables, including the water content of butter, that experts say could be at play in the Costco butter debate.

“The amount of water that is incorporated or separated when the cream is whipped is a little variable,” Rosemary Trout, a professor of culinary arts and food sciences at Drexel University, told CBS MoneyWatch.

If the water content of the butter is too low, the dough could be too crumbly, for example.

“The structure of the fats in the butter is also very important, as it will affect how it melts and how soft it is,” Trout added.

Additionally, the quality of the milk used can affect how the butter performs when used in baking. Trout said he doesn't know if Costco changed its butter recipe or formulation.

“I hesitate to bake with it”

Some people also say they stopped buying Costco butter and switched to other brands because it just wasn't working.

“My mom and I have been loyal to Costco's 'blue box' salted butter for some time,” wrote the Redditor, who posted under the username momster0519 and started the debate.

“We used butter for our pie dough recipe and that dough didn't hold up! 2 batches just fell apart and they couldn't get it to roll,” momster0519 posted.

She tried the same recipe with a different brand of butter and it worked, she said, leading her to claim that Costco's butter had changed somehow.

“I now hesitate to bake with it for any recipe,” the Redditor wrote.

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Screenshot/Reddit

“All kinds of problems”

A baker who shares videos on TikTok as @theloafandcrumb also suspected that Costco butter was the reason her Swiss meringue buttercream frosting didn't turn out as expected. So she changed it to another brand, keeping everything else the same, with positive results.

“So I've been experiencing all kinds of problems with my Swiss Meringue Buttercream that I've been making for years exactly the same way. I haven't changed a thing and just two months ago I decided it's no longer going to work,” she said in the video.

TikTok user @theloafandcrumb claims Costco butter ruined her Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting. Tik Tok

He identified Costco butter as the culprit and said that when he added it to cooked egg whites, the mixture refused to form frosting. “It used to work wonderfully and it doesn't anymore,” she said.

Trout, the professor, said a butter with a high water content would make such a product more difficult to make.

Other commenters added that they had recently experienced similar problems with Kirkland Signature butter, saying it caused their cookies to spread or bake differently. Cookies or other baked goods that don't stick together or are too crumbly could mean the butter didn't have enough water, according to Trout.

Does it warrant a boycott?

A writer for the food website and social network Allrecipes.com also investigated the alleged butter formula change and could not definitively conclude that Costco butter had changed as he “was unable to compare the current version to a previous version.” .

Your best guess is that Kirkland Signature Sweet Cream Butter might have less dairy fat and therefore a higher water content than before or compared to other butter brands.

“But, if that's true, it doesn't seem like enough to justify a boycott of Costco butter,” the writer concluded.



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