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June 8, 2024 41 mins

True story: once upon a time, both Canada and the United States once had bizarre laws banning the production or importation of margarine -- and prohibition naturally led to crime. Today's classic episode asks: What launched the margarine bootlegging industry? Join the guys as they explore the startling, strange story of the Big Butter versus margarine.

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Episode Transcript

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Speaker 1 (00:00):
Ridiculous historians. As we are working on some new episodes
for you, we thought we would butter you up with
a classic episode for this week. I will always enjoy
hearing back our conversations about Margarine and butter and why
the Canadians and the United States, I guess, have such

weird laws about Margarine.

Speaker 2 (00:26):
Right man, Oh the idea of bootlegging Margarine. It's it's
it's wild. I mean, you know, because Margarine in and
of itself today is almost like I can't believe it's
not butter sort of situation. It's it's an alternative, supposedly
with some health benefits. I hate to say it not
to be a Margarine naysayer, but it just doesn't hit

the same, does not have the same mommy. It really
kind of feels like a mouthful of crisco.

Speaker 1 (00:55):
It really, you know, once you taste it butter, it's
like if you've eaten the meat of gods, you are
never content with the straw fools. And I think a
lot of people when they first visit the United States
are startled by the yellowness of butter here because even
the real butter is often colored artificially.

Speaker 3 (01:16):
Yeah, I've never understood that.

Speaker 4 (01:17):
Yeah, and did jump in here? Do you guys know
I can't eat butter cheese, the conditioned. I eat dairy free,
soy free butter butter quotations right there, And it's it's
pretty good, but it's not real butter.

Speaker 1 (01:32):
It's still better than the fake cheese.

Speaker 3 (01:34):
Oh, fake cheese got a lot better. Some fake cheese
is okay. God, that sounds so gross. Nut cheese does
not sound good. It's the thing though, you got cash,
you cheese. Let's call it that. That's better.

Speaker 2 (01:46):
Here's our episode, now, man, let's do it.

Speaker 1 (01:51):
Ridiculous History is a production of iHeartRadio. Ladies and Gentlemen,

Friends and neighbors, lactose, tolerant and intolerant alike. Boy, do
we have a story for you today.

Speaker 3 (02:26):
Hi, my name is Ben, my name is Nolan Ben.
We try to stay tolerant on Ridiculous History. True. Yeah,
And I have a new nickname for you. It's I
can't believe it's not Ben Bolin, but it is. It
is Ben Bolin.

Speaker 1 (02:38):
Thanks ed, And you're Noel Brown. And of course we
are accompanied as always by our super producer, Casey Pegram
And today Noel, we are exploring something that I have
to be honest with you, I had no understanding of
before our research for this episode began.

Speaker 3 (02:57):
Yeah, we're talking about margarine, not just margarine, the perennially
tolerable spread butter substitute. I don't know, maybe I have
an ax to grind. My whole thing is I've always
been a little confused about what margarine really is. But
before we get to that, people cared a lot about
margarine back in the day. Oh they did, they did.

Speaker 1 (03:20):
Margarine, it turns out, is the first domestic food to
be regulated by the federal government in the United States.
It has a very strange history on this continent that
has been explored in very strange pseudo buttery depth. There's
a great article by an author named Ruth Dupree called
If It's Yellow, it Must be Butter. Margarine regulation in

North America since eighteen eighty six. And the reason that
date is important is because it's not just a story
of this substitute. It's a story of what eventually escalated
into a continent wide war of sorts, a.

Speaker 3 (04:00):
Bit of a war. And you know, last episode we
talked about a war involving eggs. This episode, we're talking
about a war involving various incarnations of animal parts and
stuff that you can put on things to eat and
cook with. That year you mentioned, though, eighteen eighty six,
is very important because that is the year that the

United States passed the Margarine Act, which severely limited It
was kind of this cap off of what had already
been a war on butter in the United States. We're
talking about Canada today, but just to give a little
bit of background, in the United States, big butter, right,
kind of like big brother or buttery. They fought tooth

and nail against this substitute. They were so protective of
their industry that anything they saw is potentially stepping on
their terrain. They had friends in high places and they
made sure to quash that. And Margarine was persona non
grad I was enemy number one.

Speaker 1 (04:59):
Yes, we are, as Noel said, we are focusing on
Canada for today's purposes, but we found so much fascinating, hilarious,
and wait for it, ridiculous history about butter and margarine
in the United States that we're going to have to
throw some of these awesome quotes in. There's one I've
been waiting to do, like all all week. Yes, and

lest we get ahead of ourselves.

Speaker 3 (05:22):
Just know, all of this is to set the stage
for the demonization that did spread to spread there we
go to Canada. Yeah, yeah, that's good because that year
of eighteen eighty six, when this Act was passed in
the United States, was the same year that Canada banned
margarine completely.

Speaker 1 (05:41):
No ifs ands or butt substitutes.

Speaker 3 (05:43):

Speaker 1 (05:44):
I know we're skirting the family show line here. Fine,
So we'd like to give you this quote from Governor
Lucius Hubbard of Minnesota, who, in this time bemoan the
fact that the quote ingenuity of depraved human genius as
culminated in the production of oleomargarine and its kindred abominations.

I have never heard a food stuffer group of food
items referred to as abominations, kindred or otherwise. This was
such a big deal that other senators spoke out on
the issue as well. Senator Joseph Quarrels of Wisconsin, also
known as the Dairy State, said that butter should come

from the dairy, not the slaughterhouse. I want butter that
has the natural aroma of life and health, said Senator Quarrels.
I declined to accept as a substitute call fat matured
under the chill of death, blended with vegetable oils and
flavored by chemical tricks.

Speaker 3 (06:43):
And the last one. The butter lobby in the United
States had such an act to grind with marjarine that
they threw all kinds of spurious, awful misinformation to completely
malign this product, which we need to need to talk
more about what the product actually is. But let me
do this quote and then we'll see us. Yeah, I
do about that quote. They called it the slag of
the butcher shop, a compound of diseased hogs and dead dogs,

also implying that it contained quote the germs of cancer.
That is from the War on Margarine from the Foundation
for Economic Education written by Adam Young. So Ben, we
need to take it. We need to pump the brakes
a little bit before we go to Newfoundland.

Speaker 1 (07:26):
Newfoundland, Canada. I have I think a solution. Yeah, yeah,
do you remember earlier when we were at that shady
thrift store and we found that butter dish. I think
the cashier was right when they said that it had
extraordinary ability, it.

Speaker 3 (07:41):
Was imbued with mystical properties.

Speaker 1 (07:44):
Yeah, which they kind of buried the lead on that,
but we still got it and we have it in
the studio. Maybe maybe this can help us explain the
difference between butter and margarine. You want to give it
a give it a I don't know, knock it on
the table, give it a rub.

Speaker 3 (07:58):
There we go.

Speaker 1 (08:01):
Oh wait, waits happening? Do you hear that? Well?

Speaker 3 (08:04):
I don't know yet.

Speaker 1 (08:05):
It hasn't an added in post right right right, So
our amazing acting skills aside. It turns out that this
did work. I think we've summoned a fact genie, a
fact genie.

Speaker 3 (08:16):
You say, whoa, whoa, it's Lauren Vogel Bomb from food
Stuff Fame.

Speaker 5 (08:21):
I don't know why you guys get to be this surprised.
I almost had the reason why magic mushrooms formance circles.
I almost had fairy circles figured out. Why am I here?

Speaker 1 (08:31):

Speaker 3 (08:32):
That may have been part of it, Lauren. The fairy
magic carried you here, and it connected with our particular
brand of fairy magic for a segment. We would now
like to forever refer to you as the fact Genie.

Speaker 1 (08:44):
The fact Genie. Agreed, Lauren, in your outside of fact
Genie life, you are one of the driving forces behind
our favorite food show, food Stuff, also available for free
via houset off Works wherever you find your podcast.

Speaker 5 (08:58):
I am, that's very true. Thank you so much for
that compliment.

Speaker 3 (09:03):
So, you know, the mystical powers of the Thrift Story
universe must have known this and summoned you on our
behalf to answer the question what's the difference between butter
and margarine? And well, let's talk about this a little bit.
You have a minute, is it?

Speaker 6 (09:16):

Speaker 3 (09:17):
We'll release you.

Speaker 5 (09:17):
Sure, But according to this paper that just fell out
of the Magical Butter Dish, you only get three questions
and after that I can go.

Speaker 3 (09:26):
That seems fair.

Speaker 1 (09:27):
It did say that on the receipt. I should have
mentioned that earlier. It's okay, Ben, So okay, So I
think that's our number one question if we only get three.
Our first question is, just as Lil said, what is
the difference between butter and margarine? Because they're different? Right? Sure?

Speaker 5 (09:43):
Okay, Well, butter is a concentration of the fatty and
fat soluble parts of milk that have been churned and
worked to press out water and link the molecules in
its solid form. It's actually a crystallization of those fats
butterfats start crystallizing around fifty degrees faveryheight or ten degrees celsius.
Traditional only butter flavor is a waste product of nonpathogenic

or friendly lactic acid bacteria, which eat the sugars found
in milk and excrete flavor. But these days most butter
in America is flavored with lab produced compounds chemically identical
to a couple of those bacterial byproducts.

Speaker 3 (10:17):
So is it more bacteria poop? Kind of?

Speaker 6 (10:18):
Is that what?

Speaker 3 (10:18):
You're definitely bacteria poop? Yeah?

Speaker 1 (10:20):
Yeah, And that's pretty that's pretty weird when you think
about it. I personally find butter delicious, and I'm starting
to wonder if I want to learn the rest of this.
But we're here, we have the butter dish, you're here.
What's margarine.

Speaker 5 (10:34):
Margarine is oil that's been transmogrified so that it is
solid at room temperature and then flavored and colored to
resemble butter. Though originally made with animal fats, these days
it's generally made with plant based oils that have been hydrogenated, fractionated,
or interest orified.

Speaker 1 (10:51):
I understand several of those words.

Speaker 3 (10:53):
I do. It's almost like the way you are transmogrified
to this place almost.

Speaker 5 (10:58):
They're all complicated ways of of changing the chemical structure
of a thing to change its freezing points. At that point,
you can work the fats to create crystallization, the same
as with butter fats.

Speaker 3 (11:08):
But you know, butter is as old as the hills, right, Lauren.
I mean it's like, we can't really credit somebody with
inventing butter.

Speaker 5 (11:16):
Right, well, not one person.

Speaker 3 (11:18):
That's what I'm saying. But we can do that with Margarine,
can't we.

Speaker 5 (11:21):
Oh yeah, that was a French guy while back. Yeah,
Napoleon put out an all call.

Speaker 1 (11:27):
Napoleon put out an all call for a substitute.

Speaker 5 (11:29):
Correct, Yeah, because butter is so expensive that he was like,
we need people to eat food, and this food is
expensive to who has a cheaper alternative?

Speaker 1 (11:38):
And Nolan, I know a little bit about this, but
to consult our expert for the pronunciation of Margarine's inventor,
I believe it's time for Casey on the case or
what are.

Speaker 3 (11:50):
We calling the Is this a sub segment we're doing?

Speaker 1 (11:53):
Yeah, we're doing like segments and segments.

Speaker 3 (11:55):
Or a burro's over here. Yeah, well on the case
with Casey.

Speaker 1 (11:58):
Okay, we're till Casey in the case whatever, we'll get.

Speaker 3 (12:01):
There here he is.

Speaker 7 (12:04):
Wow, Hey, guys, good people just appear here, Laurie, Oh
oh boy, we'll have.

Speaker 3 (12:10):
Some serious history witchcraft here today. Yeah. So what what?
What's the name of the lovely French scientist who invented margarine?

Speaker 7 (12:18):
All right, the inventor of margarine pronounced in my best
French accent is epolite mege moyez.

Speaker 3 (12:26):
In, ladies and gentlemen. That's been Casey on the case.

Speaker 1 (12:30):
Thank you so much for dropping by letting us know
Casey how to pronounce the name of this French chemist
who invented margarine? In did he invent it in eighteen
sixty nine?

Speaker 3 (12:41):
Then, as it turns out, without being a fat genie myself,
I happened to know that is the case he invented
in eighteen sixty nine. And his recipe, if you guys
will know this, it'll be interested to know, was as such.
Heated finally mins be fat, potassium, salt, fresh sheep's stomach,
raise the temperature to one hundred and thirteen degrees. The
pepsin from the sheep's guts mixed the beef to separate
the fat from the celluo tissue. They are put under

pressure to separate those oils. Then milk and water was
added and a food coloring called anato that was made
from the seeds of the achiot tree. And it's interesting
actually because today that is used in butter a lot
of the times too, because people want that stuff to
be super yellow so they know it's the real deal,
even though.

Speaker 1 (13:22):
It's not similar to salmon being pink right cartoonishly.

Speaker 5 (13:27):
So and cheddar cheese being orange.

Speaker 1 (13:29):
That was a free fact. We didn't ask for that one.
He counts accounts, that counts. That counts is one of
our three.

Speaker 3 (13:33):
I think we're one for the third one now.

Speaker 1 (13:35):
Since we have but one more fact to ask for.
I think the question that's on everybody's mind is Louren
Vugel Bomb, Where can people hear more of you?

Speaker 5 (13:43):
Oh goodness. You can find me on food stuff and
also on brain stuff that's brainstuffshow dot com and shows
dot HowStuffWorks dot com slash food stuff.

Speaker 3 (13:52):
We're working on it.

Speaker 5 (13:53):
Also on social media. Look up food stuff or just
google Louren Vogel Bomb. I'm literally the only one on
the planet.

Speaker 3 (13:59):
And I want to commend you for being such an
effective fact Genie that we only really needed too. Yeah,
and one of them was like a free one kind
of so well done, thank you.

Speaker 1 (14:07):
And we release you from your bonds, right, so we
have to say that, I think, yeah, so go be free, Genie. Well, hey,
congratulations to us man. That was not only our first
fact Genie segment, but we had a segment in a segment.

Speaker 3 (14:26):
You know, it's not every day you get to do
a segment within a segment. I'm really glad though, that
we didn't like open up some sort of portal to
Hell with that disruption of the universe.

Speaker 1 (14:35):
Yeah, that's true. We were pushing the envelope just a bit,
but I believe the gambit was worth it because we
learned a lot in a very short span of time,
and we have set the broad brush context of the
great painting that is the Margarine Butter War. So we
established that this margarine is French in origin, and it

is designed at the time to fulfill a need because
not everyone, for one reason or another, would have access
to butter, despite the fact that it was often considered
a staple.

Speaker 3 (15:10):
Yeah, even in our story about Martin Luther and his
relationship with butter and indulgences. In the Roman Catholic Church,
butter was kind of considered to be not only a staple,
but a sign of opulence in some way.

Speaker 1 (15:23):
But notice that we said for various reasons people might
not be able to access butter. It could It could
be related to a social thing such as income or
the influence right of an institution like the Catholic Church.
It also could just be a matter of climate. And
that's where we journeyed to Newfoundland, that's right.

Speaker 3 (15:46):
In a paper called Margarine in Newfoundland History by Wealth H.
Hike from Newfoundland and Studies Too for nineteen eighty six,
he talks about the reason that margarine trade popped up
in Newfoundland specifically was because the climate is just not
conducive to supporting a dairy industry. Cows they need a

stable temperature nine months of the year. The costs were
prohibitive for that region, and because of that, there were
no significant industrialized dairy interests in Newfoundland at all.

Speaker 1 (16:21):
Right, so butter had to be imported, and this created
a market demand for something to fill the gap, because
importing something will automatically make it more expensive in most cases,
and this is where people began to manufacture margarine.

Speaker 3 (16:38):
Well, they heard tell, they heard tell Ben of our
French inventor, whose name I've already forgotten how to pronounce correctly.
But you can backtrack to the casey on the case
segment and you'll hear all about it there. And it
was blowing up in the United States, and it went
by the name of butterine at the time. It wasn't
even called oleomargarine. Butterine was kind of the name that

was being around, and they realized, Wow, we might have
something on our hands here that we can use as
a butter substitute.

Speaker 1 (17:06):
Yes, this is interesting historically because we already begin to
see in sources of the time and contemporary sources the
growing controversy. The Daily Telegraph of London ran an article
on misleading packaging of buttering that The Newfoundlander, a paper
in Newfoundland, oddly enough, also carried in August of eighteen

eighty three, and the people of Newfoundland in general began
concluding that this much cheaper substitute, this buttering, could be beneficial,
especially for the poorer segments of society. So a merchant
firm named Harveying Company begins to manufacture margarine or buttering

in the colony in eighteen eighty three.

Speaker 3 (17:52):
And not to get too into the weeds with the
history of the production of margarine in the region, but
at the end of a handful of years there were
three primary margarine interests, and one of them, I think,
hilariously enough, was called the Newfoundland Butter Company. But they
just made margarine.

Speaker 1 (18:09):
It's sort of like the egg company from our earlier episode.
What was that, the Pacific Egg Company or.

Speaker 3 (18:14):
The Pacific Egg Company, but at least they had eggs.
The Newfoundland Butter Company made no butter, right, that is true.

Speaker 1 (18:20):
They were making margarine. And the thing that was amazing
about this for someone of lower income in Newfoundland was
that since margarine could be made with a combination of vegetable, mineral,
and animal oils, most notably seal oil at this time,
I know that's a rough one. The end result was
that margarine was incredibly cheaper to produce, and these costs

trickled down to the consumer, and it looked like it
might be a win win for almost everybody in society.

Speaker 3 (18:55):
Almost almost, because there was.

Speaker 1 (18:57):
One group that very very, very very much opposed the
idea of cheap butter for the people butter substitute.

Speaker 3 (19:05):
Big butter, big Canadian butter. Because at the time we
haven't mentioned this, Newfoundland wasn't part of Canada, No, it's colony, colony.
It was an English colony. And the English, you know,
they were a little more lase fair about this production
of margin. They didn't see it as a threat. There
wasn't a whole lot of exporting. They were doing it
mainly to satisfy their own needs. But here's the thing, man,

the people in Canada, even before Newfoundland was incorporated into Canada,
they wanted that margarine.

Speaker 1 (19:34):
Yeah, yeah, they wondered the margarine. And you can easily
see why. Although you know, there are going to be many,
many people, some of us in the studio today, folks
who will argue that butter is superior in terms of
taste of margarine, there's still many people who say, hey,
you know what, it's good enough and it's not breaking

the bank.

Speaker 3 (19:55):
The thing about it, too, is there were like health
consideration too, right, because these people that in Newfoundland had
become such loyal customers of this food stuff. There were
studies that went around in the Newfoundland region that showed
that folks there were quite deficient in some vitamins, vitamins
A and D, and they also found that margarine was

deficient in vitamins A and D. And you know, the
health benefits of margarine versus butter have largely been called
into question because of things like saturated fat transits trans fat,
which both have, so you're supposed to use both of
them sparingly, right, But at this time, you know what
Big Margarine did in Newfoundland, they did a lot like
our pals that made the vitamin donuts. Yeah, they just

fortified that biz.

Speaker 1 (20:40):
Yeah, and they wanted to keep the consumers incentivized to
eat this. So now they could say, not only is
this more affordable than butter, but this is also healthy
or it's you know, fortified with for any vitamin donut
listeners out there, so everyone could afford it. Everyone got
a little bit more vitamin A and D intake for

PEP for PEP for vigor. Right. At the time, as
we said, Newfoundland was still a British colony, but in
nineteen forty nine it became part of Canada, so that
eighteen eighty six law banning margarine in Canada didn't apply
to Newfoundland at the time because it was a colony, and.

Speaker 3 (21:23):
We're talking about the idea of bootlegging margarine. Maybe that's
a little loaded, but it's interesting because when we say bootlegging,
we're talking about bootlegging in the same way that during
Prohibition people would smuggle illegal booze. They were making it
themselves in stills or whatever. Right, the margarine thing was

happening at the very same time people were smuggling it
from Newfoundland into the rest of Canada. Because in Newfoundland,
even when it got incorporated into the Dominion of Canada,
they were still allowed to make the stuff. They couldn't
ship it anywhere else throughout the entire country. It was
totally isolated to Newfoundland, which is a little bit isolated
in and of itself. It's kind of an island, right.

Speaker 1 (22:06):
Yeah, it's it's it is a little bit isolated, I
would argue from our perspective down here. Canada's parliament passed
federal legislation in nineteen forty nine, the same year that
Newfoundland became part of Canada, to prohibit the manufacturing sale
of margarine anywhere in Canada except for two places, Newfoundland

and Labrador, because they both had this pre existing industrial
base for the production of margarine.

Speaker 3 (22:32):
Right, the other one of Labrador being all the retrievers.

Speaker 1 (22:36):
Right, yes, yes, the famous home.

Speaker 3 (22:38):
Of all retrievers, that's where they come from. But this
is the thing, the whole joining up Newfoundland with Canada.
There are some caveats, ben because Big Butter put its
big giant buttery foot down and influenced lawmakers to the
point where we got this delightful little section from the
nineteen forty nine British North American Act, Section forty six.

Speaker 1 (23:01):
As it happens, oliomargarine or margarin may be manufactured or
sold in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador after the
date of the Union, and the Parliament of Canada shall
not prohibit or restrict such manufacture or sale, accept at
the request of the legislature of the Province of Newfoundland.
But nothing in this term shall affect the power of
the Parliament of Canada to require compliance with standards of

quality acceptable throughout Canada. That's the setup. And now we'd
like to Now we'd like to show where the rubber
hits the road legislatively.

Speaker 3 (23:32):
Big time number two. Unless the Parliament of Canada otherwise provides,
or unless the sale and manufacture in and the interprovincial
movement between all provinces of Canada other than Newfoundland and
Labrador of oliomargarine and margarine. It's interesting they call them
two different things. I did not realize that was the case.
Is lawful under the laws of Canada, oleomargin or margarine

shall not be sent, shipped, brought, or carried from the
province of Newfoundland and Labrador into any other province of Canada.
So there you got the black market margarine trade popping
up overnight. It wasn't overnight though, because they it was
already happening, right. Yeah, it wasn't like all of a sudden.
Canada was like, what is this magical margarine. They knew

what it was. You could get to Newfoundland. People knew
each other, they talked.

Speaker 1 (24:18):
But the dairy industry does have profound influence at this point,
and they didn't just wage the war in the halls
of parliament. They also waged the war in the public domain.
It's interesting. In the Dupre paper, the author says that
in both the United States and Canada, the people who

were prosecuting against margarine argued that they were acting in
the public interests. In one case, and this goes back
to that quotation you had earlier. They would say that
they were protecting consumers from a product that was injurious
to health, or they were protecting people from the fraudulent
sale of margarine as butter.

Speaker 3 (24:58):
And that is a thing that we see in the
United States side of this story as well. In a
story from the New York Times from eighteen seventy seven,
we have this quote. Christopher Strauss, a grocer of number
sixteen Second Avenue, was arraigned before Justice Murray in the
fifty seventh Street Police Court yesterday, charged with selling oliomargarine,

representing it to be pure butter. Sa Churchill, a former
manufacturer of the artificial article and who is now employed
as a detective by the Butter and Cheese Exchange, appeared
as complaint.

Speaker 1 (25:30):
Yeah, and this is strange because it turns out those
accusations of fraud are pretty well founded. Margarine was often
sold as butter because both could be sold in bulk,
and it was virtually impossible to distinguish between the two
by sensory examination, you know, so like if you and
I just saw blocks of marginal one side, butter on

one side, and they were made to look relatively identical.
We wouldn't be able to tell without a little bit
more in depth investigation. And there's a weird thing here
because from its inception or a multiple times throughout history,
butter was regulated the same way you would regulate the
so called vice products like tobacco or alcohol of some sort. Sure,

which is strange because it's not going to affect you mentally, right,
You're not going to get a butter buzz, or maybe
you and I just haven't eaten enough butter. And I
love the phrase butter buzz, dude.

Speaker 3 (26:30):
I mean sometimes I just take a bite out of
a stick of butter just just to feel that euphoric
rush right to me, dopamine sensors.

Speaker 1 (26:38):
I saw a guy at a baseball game casually eating
a stick of butter.

Speaker 3 (26:42):
That's a fair food. They deep fry a stick of butter.
They'll deep fry anything at a fair now, and the
stick of butter, it's apparently the wave of the future.

Speaker 1 (26:49):
That's crazy. It looked like he bought it from home,
like he had the foil and he was unwrapping it
and he just started eating it.

Speaker 3 (26:55):
It's a brave new world, my friend.

Speaker 1 (26:57):
It's a brave new world nol and this was a
brave new trade front, right because there's market demand. Big
dairy is fighting tooth and nail against this. And as
as we had said, I think we'd be remiss if
we didn't spend just a little bit of time on
the United States version of this conflict.

Speaker 3 (27:19):
Totally, man, I think we've drawn the parallels between the
two situations. How you know, the American story definitely influenced
the Canadian because all this was kind of happening around
the same time. But there are some very interesting little
fact nuggets from the American side that we have not
mentioned yet.

Speaker 1 (27:35):
Yes, we owe it to everyone, ourselves included, to dive
a little deeper into the butter churn of big dairy
in the United States, so in the Midwest, in Wisconsin specifically,
in other states like Minnesota and such. This was a
tremendous deal because dairy was a hugely influential industry right

and then provided a lot of jobs. It was super
crucial to the economy. And the governors and the senators
and the representatives understood this, and they were all kind
of many of them were running to be on the
side of butter and dairy, right and to fight the
perfidious threat of Marjorie Well, especially.

Speaker 3 (28:17):
If they were representing constituents who had those jobs and
depended on those jobs. I'm sure there was also some
palm greasing buttering of palms going on, perhaps, but you know,
at the end of the day, they were looking out
for their constituents, possibly a little too vehemently. But what happened.

Speaker 1 (28:33):
Yeah, there was a fantastic example we found in a
National geographic account written by Rebecca Rupp called the Butter
Wars when Margarine was pink. That's a little spoiler for
you later too, and it concerns a Wisconsin taste test
in nineteen fifty five in which senators were blindfolded and
they were It's sort of like the Pepsi challenge. If

anybody remembers that from what was that the nineties, nineteen
nineties or so, Yeah.

Speaker 3 (28:59):
Yeah, I think so. You know aroun when Michael Jackson
set his hair on fire. Taste of a New Generation.

Speaker 1 (29:05):
And the reason we bring this up is because the
arrangement was essentially the same. These senators were blindfolded and
they had to taste butter and they had to taste
margarine and tell the difference between the two, which, of
course they all claimed that they could do, no question,
and most of these folks were not fooled, except famously

a guy named Gordon rose Lip. He was extremely pro butter,
a huge advocate of butter, and he tasted it and
he got it wrong. He preferred the margarine consistently. He
told the people who were testing him, who of course
were not wearing blindfolds, that they were wrong and they
must have mixed it up because he knew his butter

by gum.

Speaker 3 (29:49):
Twist though, isn't there?

Speaker 1 (29:49):
Yeah, there is, there is, yes, Because it turned out
that his wife had been worried about her husband's health,
specifically his heart, and for years she he had been
sneaking this guy yellow margarine, which was illegal at the time,
at dinner, at lunch, whenever they ate at the house.
So he literally had no idea what butter was supposed

to taste like. He must have forgotten.

Speaker 3 (30:18):
Yeah, I bet he didn't want to get that out though,
because that would have been a pretty soaring cosign on
how convincing that butter substitute is.

Speaker 1 (30:32):
Oh, and we do want to add one thing here,
one point of order, just while it's on our minds.
We earlier said that the Canadian prohibition was from eighteen
eighty six until nineteen forty nine, when they allowed at
Newfoundland and Labrador. There was a brief shining moment for
margarine during that time, and that was between nineteen seventeen

and nineteen twenty two when the ban was lifted due
to the War Measure Act.

Speaker 3 (30:59):
Just scarce of foods in general. So yeah, well we'll
give you a pass. But then it was back in
full effect. But what's what's the deal with margarine in Canada? Now?

Speaker 1 (31:09):
Then it's interesting that we get to this point because, uh,
as of recent history, butter has surpassed margarine as America's
favorite spread. Now people are eating on average five point
six pounds of butter a year as opposed to three
point five pounds of margarine.

Speaker 3 (31:28):
The margarine is still doing gangbusters in both Canada and
the United States.

Speaker 1 (31:32):
Right, yeah, yeah, we're just now we're just talking about
like their their comparison. But by no means is either
industry small.

Speaker 3 (31:40):
When did adwin? Did Canada finally bite the bullet and say, okay,
all are welcome, you know, make make your make your
food substitutes?

Speaker 1 (31:50):
Oh yeah, it went provincial similar to the way that
in some regards not one on one comparison, but it's
similar to the way that marijuana began to be treated
differently in space rights. Yeah, yeah, yeah, So provinces could
have their own sort of sovereignity over that law, and

they didn't all legalize margarine. At the same time, there
were some holdouts. Quebec had a band specifically on colorized
margarine because it could look like butter, and that band
wasn't repealed until two thousand and eight.

Speaker 3 (32:25):
Yes, because like margarine in its natural state, I guess
is white. I think it's pure white, and it was
different too, And this came into play in the American
story where you had stuff like Chrisco that was a
food substitute, but it was not something you would like
eat on its own. It would be part of cooking

and be part of baked goods, whereas margarine was a spread,
so you had to interact with it in its current
form and you would see it. So there was a
time where when in the United States that colorization of
margarine was banned. There was a company that even had
like little packets that came with it, so you could

die at yourself.

Speaker 1 (33:08):
That reminds me of the old grape concentrate blocks that
were sold during Prohibition, where they said the instructions on
the box would say things like don't do the following
steps because you will create wine.

Speaker 3 (33:23):
Okay. Whenever I hear the word steps and wine, I
always think of that woman at the winery that's snamping
on the grapes and then falls out, and.

Speaker 6 (33:31):
Just like, oh, yeah, no, I think she's actually hurt.

Speaker 3 (33:45):
No, I think she is ever. It's just the saddest sound,
beautifully portrayed and family guy. But back to America just briefly,
and we set this up earlier with some of the
quotes some of the anti margarine propaganda that Butter put out.
You know, Canadians are are They have a reputation as
being a little more civil and friendly perhaps than we are.

And it does seem like the stories are a little
out of whack with one another, whereas in the American side, Boy,
were they ruthless and awful. And you know, there was
actually some kind of faux scientists that were employed and
presented some findings quote unquote in a Chicago newspaper. And
this this guy's name was Professor Piper, just Professor Piper,

and he said that he did analyzes of margarine samples,
and this was in eighteen eighty five, and in his
analyzes he claimed to have found these the best samples
had many kinds of living organisms in them, with masses
of dead mold, bits of cellulose, various colored particles, shreds

of hair, bristles, et cetera. While other samples teemed with life.
Doubtful portions of worms were all also. Notice corpuscles from
a cockroach, small bits of claws, corpuscles of sheep, the
egg of a tapeworm. This sounds like a witch's brew.
And it was as I of Newton here.

Speaker 1 (35:12):
What's the threshold for a doubtful amount of worms?

Speaker 3 (35:15):
Yeah? I did unclear. All I'm saying is Man, America,
You're mean be more like Canada. At least they were
civil about their modern war.

Speaker 1 (35:22):
And it was also propaganda.

Speaker 3 (35:24):
They Newfoundland keep doing it because they just really liked it.

Speaker 1 (35:27):
Yeah, and also they the economic argument is pretty tough
to sell, Like, no, you have to keep importing butter
and paint much more. That's not gonna fly, right, pro
butter cartoonists in the United States also drew these hit
pieces on Margarine where they have a visual depiction of
the stuff that you just mentioned they had. They put

stray cats in margarine and soap paint, arsenic rubber boots.
There was also an implication by somebody who was probably
as legit as Professor Piper, that Margarine might cause insanity yikes,
margarine madness.

Speaker 3 (36:03):
Huh. Well, there's a lot to both sides of the story.
I'm just again praising Canada for their prevailing level headedness
in US history. You can chill out a little bit,
but I think we can wrap this story up right.

Speaker 1 (36:16):
Yes, And the best way for us to wrap it
up is to note that this is not in any
way unique phenomenon. And in the course of digging into this,
we found some what would you call them analogs I guess, so, yeah,
that's totally accurate. So you and I both found a couple.
One conflict that surprised me from our current day is

the conflict between municipal broadband and telecoms. It's a similar
situation wherein you know, there's one part of a country
or a state or region where they say we want
to build a telecom substitute for lack of a better word, right,
and then the telecoms will use their influence to stymy

this in hopes of preserving their own establistry. So we
want to be clear. This isn't just food. But boy,
we did find food comparisons too.

Speaker 3 (37:05):
Yeah, lots, And my favorite is because mainly I like
to say it is nut milk. Big Dairy is out
to get nut milk. And when I say that, I
mean things like almond milk. Cashew milk is even a thing,
and of course sewy milk. And a representative of the
National Milk Producers Federation said this in a case that

was levied against one of the big manufacturers of some
of those nut milk. He says, mammals produce milk, plants, dome.
This guy's name was Jim mulhern, same last name as
my buddy Frank. I wonder if he's secretly part of
Big Dairy.

Speaker 1 (37:41):
Yeah, Frank listens to our show. So hey, Frank, let
us know, man, spill the beans. We want to know
your secret life as a dairy soldier.

Speaker 3 (37:49):
But no, here's the thing. It's in the same way
that big butter. You know, we'll call it big Dairy.
We can lump it all under Big Dairy. We're trying
to protect their interest, protect their turf. They're doing the
same thing today with like these these soy based products,
and they're basically saying that the use of the words
like soy milk, almond milk that are put together, they're
joined together as one words. The dairy industry says that

that's just sort of a cheap way of getting away
with using the word milk, which again they say exclusively
comes from mammals. This came from an article called Dairy
producers targeting quote fake milk in Latest food Fight from
CTV News, and this is how the Plant Based Foods
Association responded. They say that it's it's a different animal

entirely from what they're talking about. They say these companies
are charging more money because consumers are gravitating toward them.
I think that says it all right there. You know,
the margarine thing, it was cheaper, you could I'm not
saying that Big Butter was doing the right thing at all.
They were clearly jerks about it, but you know, I
could see that as being seen as a legitimate threat.

Nobody is buying soy milk because they think it's milk,
and they certainly aren't getting a sweet deal on it.
That stuff is pretty price.

Speaker 1 (39:00):
And with this, we would like to hear from you, folks,
what's your take on margarine versus butter? Do you have
a preference? Do you feel that one legitimately tastes better?
Would you ever I think most people are going to
say no, but would you ever smuggle Margarine? Because Casey Nolan,
I might have a job for you.

Speaker 3 (39:21):
I know you've been waiting for it.

Speaker 1 (39:23):
Butter smuggler. I just let's be clear. I just want
to say, butter smuggler. It's been bugging me all week
and I know we're talking about margarine smuggling. So this
is our only chance to say.

Speaker 3 (39:33):
Well, I'm glad you finally got that chance, and we
hope you'll take a chance and write us at Ridiculous
at HowStuffWorks dot com. You can also hit us up
on social media on Facebook or Ridiculous History or on
Twitter where we're at Ridiculous History and Instagram. We're still
toying with the idea of bringing back the joke about
not doing a pinterest.

Speaker 1 (39:53):
So right and is it a joke? We want to
thank everybody who wrote in told us that they miss
us continually debating whether or not we will ever have
a pinterest.

Speaker 3 (40:03):
So we're thinking about maybe bringing that debate back, but
we're definitely still never going to have a pinterest.

Speaker 1 (40:08):
Right Maybe we'll put a pinist in it. So thanks
to everyone who already wrote into us, and we look
forward to hearing from everyone in the future. As always,
we want to thank our long suffering super producer, Casey
Pegrob and Candice Gibson, who wrote the awesome article on
the butter Wars for our parent website, houstuffworks dot com, not.

Speaker 3 (40:29):
To mention Alex Williams, who composed our theme, and today's
resident fact genie Lauren Vogelbaum, who dropped in under complete duress.

Speaker 1 (40:39):
Yes Yes, and most especially thank you for.

Speaker 3 (40:43):
Listening and we hope you'll continue doing that and hang
out with us next time for another episode of ridiculous History.
Take care everyone. For more podcasts from iHeartRadio, visit the
iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen to your
favorite shows.

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