East? West? Which Has the Better Butter Stick?

While butter sold in the eastern United States is long and skinny, in the West it's offered in short, stout blocks. Find out why.
Stick of Butter

183459601

Photo by: Dossyl / ThinkStock

Dossyl / ThinkStock

Did you ever notice that butter is sold in long, thin sticks in the eastern part of the United States, while in the West it’s sold in short, stout blocks? Honestly, me neither. But a consumer who did recently asked Marketplace.org for an explanation.

Turns out the East-West butter divide dates back to the 1960s. Before then the West Coast didn’t have much of a dairy industry or churn out much butter or cheese.

“All our milk went to fluid needs. Whole milks, low-fat milks and nonfat milks, for example," John Bruhn, formerly the head of the University of California-Davis' Dairy Research and Information Center, told Marketplace producer Tommy Andres.

When the dairy industry in California, now the nation’s top dairy-producing state, sharply took off, butter makers there purchased new equipment, which turned out the cubes (“Western Stubbies”) now familiar in the West, rather than the long, skinny sticks that had long been standard in the East.

These longer, Eastern-pack sticks, also called Elgin sticks, after a dairy in Elgin, Ill., date back to the early 20th century, when a New Orleans restaurateur asked Hutchinson, Kan.-based butter supplier Swift and Company to divide its packaged pound blocks of butter into the 1/4-pound sticks East Coasters now know and love.

Since 2007, Land O’Lakes has produced butter in both shapes: one for the East Coast market and one for customers in the West. And though both Elgin sticks and Western Stubbies contain the same amount of butter, only one of them may fit comfortably in your butter dish.

Next Up

Which Is Better for You: Almond Butter or Peanut Butter?

We break down the differences between the two popular nut butters.

How to Make Better Stuffing

Get the right stuff for your stuffing.

Which Is Healthier: Turkey or Beef Burgers?

Beef burgers get a bad rap for being too high in fat, but turkey burgers can cook up dry and bland. Here's what to know about choosing the best burger.

How to Make Box Cake Better

We baked fourteen cakes to figure out the best tips and tricks — here are the five you should remember.

Are McDonald’s New Burgers Actually Better?

We did a side-by-side comparison. Here’s what we found.

Chicken Is Better with Grill Marks

When this go-to white meat hits the grates and lets out a searing sizzle, the meat that always has your back becomes tender, juicy and full of charred flavor.

Is Guinness Actually Better in Ireland?

Many say yes, but is it all just in our heads? Here’s what experts think.

Dole Has Cultivated Its ‘Sweetest Pineapple Ever’

We can’t wait to bring it to cookouts.

Butter Basics

Learn how to navigate all the butters in your supermarket dairy aisle, then find out which applications require the different varieties.

What's New