Raw buttermilk vs. raw whole milk
November 30, 2012 6:13 PM   Subscribe

Anybody know how the nutritional profile of REAL pastured buttermilk compares to that of fresh pastured whole milk? I'm talking about the stuff that's actually a byproduct of the butter making process... Not the thick, cultured stuff you would buy in a grocery store.

I buy two gallons of raw cow milk every week from my local dairy farm for $10/ gallon. I'm more than happy to spend the extra money because I know the benefits of raw vs. pasteurized, but lately my farmer has been offering raw buttermilk for a fraction of the price. Since cream is more nutrient dense than whole milk, and buttermilk is derived from churned cream, it got me wondering about whether buttermilk might be nutritionally superior or at least comparable to whole milk. If so, I could definitely learn to love the taste for $1.00 a pint! Does all the good stuff in the cream end up in the butter, or is there enough fat and vitamins left in buttermilk to make it worth drinking? When I search for the nutritional content of buttermilk online, everything that comes up is referring to the cultured milk product that most people think of when they hear the word "buttermilk," which is an entirely different food.
posted by lmpatte2 to Health & Fitness (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I have made butter from my father-in-law's dairy cows. This was unpasteurized whole milk straight from the cow. The fluid left after making butter looks and tastes like a few drops of milk in a gallon of water. All of the fat would churn into the butter, so the fluid you are referring to as "buttermilk" is basically a no-fat milky colored liquid. I personally would not drink it, we just poured it into the hogs trough.
posted by JujuB at 6:36 PM on November 30, 2012 [3 favorites]

Best answer: On Food and Cooking says, of traditional buttermilk, "True buttermilk is the low-fat portion of milk or cream after it has been churned to make butter"; so it terms of fat content (and by extension, fat soluble vitamins), not so much.
posted by ambilevous at 6:36 PM on November 30, 2012

I'm more than happy to spend the extra money because I know the benefits of raw vs. pasteurized

"Benefit" is a novel descriptor of Salmonella, E. coli, and Listeria.

It isn't that cream is more nutrient dense than milk but that it is more calorie dense. Cream is essentially an emulsification of fat and water.

You do not seem to understand what buttermilk is. If you have ever made butter, you have obtained buttermilk. Butter is made by agitating cream until the fat is separated from the not-fat components of the cream. The fat becomes butter and what is left over is buttermilk. It is a white, thin, watery liquid. I think it tastes good, but it is not something that you are going to have on hand as a daily beverage unless you plan on making butter every day, or you have a good relationship with a butter manufacturer who will provide you with the buttermilk. You are not going to get buttermilk from your own buttermaking for $1/pint because you'd need about a quart of heavy cream to extract a pint of buttermilk. So, buttermilk is going to cost twice as much as your heavy cream.

If you want to try buttermilk, get yourself a pint or quart of heavy cream and get it ice cold. Then, beat it at high speed with a handheld or stand mixer for some minutes. First you will get whipped cream, but keep going. Eventually, you will have clumps of butter and the buttermilk. Be sure to squeeze the clumps of butter to extract more buttermilk. Like I said, I think it tastes good but it is essentially just skim milk with a bit of a different taste. This seems like a lot of trouble to go to when you could just buy skim milk. By the way, you want to search for "traditional buttermilk"; what is called "buttermilk" today is the cultured product.
posted by Tanizaki at 6:40 PM on November 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

you have a good relationship with a butter manufacturer who will provide you with the buttermilk.

This is EXACTLY what the OP says s/he has.
posted by mollymayhem at 6:42 PM on November 30, 2012 [8 favorites]

You are right- I overlooked that. Then to answer the question more briefly, for the reasons already stated, the buttermilk is just another form of skim milk. So no, it has no fat content or nutritional advantages over whole milk.
posted by Tanizaki at 6:50 PM on November 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Unless there's a typo involved here, you're considering drinking something that tastes like ass absent a pancake to surround it only to save two bucks.
posted by phunniemee at 6:55 PM on November 30, 2012 [9 favorites]

Response by poster: Tanizaki... I'm not sure what part of my post led you to believe that I did not have a solid understanding of what buttermilk is. I have made my own butter and drank the buttermilk. I have also purchased buttermilk directly from my farmer, for $1.00 a pint. That is what he charges for it... Not what I simply estimated I would spend. Your comment about Salmonella, E. coli, and Listeria are not surprising. Most people are unaware that raw milk from a responsibly operated farm is actually much safer than eating raw spinach or even peanut butter, so your misconception about the level of risk associated with raw milk is a common one. And cream being basically an emulsification of fat and water is exactly why it is so nutrient dense. Most of the vitamins in milk are fat soluble. If you are under the impression that saturated fats are an undesirable thing to have in one's diet, I highly recommend reading Sally Fallon's Nourishing Traditions.

And phunniemee... I actually don't mind the taste. I have a slight preference for regular whole milk, but that's probably just because it's what I'm used to.
posted by lmpatte2 at 7:01 PM on November 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Mod note: Folks, this is not the place for debate. Answer the OP's question if you can; if you can't, please move on.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 9:50 PM on November 30, 2012

I buy... milk... for $10/ gallon... farmer has been offering raw buttermilk for a fraction of the price... I could definitely learn to love the taste for $1.00 a pint

Not sure I'd call that a "fraction of the price," unless the fraction is 4/5. A buck a pint is $8 a gallon, which seems pretty expensive considering the highest-value parts of it have been removed.
posted by jon1270 at 2:29 AM on December 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: The USDA National Nutrient Database has this information. From that database, this .pdf lists the nutrients of dairy products. It's pretty long, but the food item is identified in the top-left corner of each page. Search for "Milk, buttermilk, fluid, whole" to find traditional, non-cultured buttermilk.
posted by Houstonian at 5:03 AM on December 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

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