Here's Why Americans Are Eating Butter and Chicken in Record Amounts

It's an odd sign of a nation shifting toward healthier diets.

butter health diet trans fats
Willy Blackmore is TakePart’s Food editor.

On the whole, chicken Kiev is the dish that best describes Americans’ diets in 2013. The preparation of chicken breasts stuffed with clumps of herb butter, then breaded and fried in more butter, didn’t take on Korean-taco-like food-fad status last year, but according to two recently announced consumption numbers, we as a nation passed a couple of milestones in 2013. Americans ate more chicken than beef for the first time in 100 years, and our butter intake hit a 40-year high.

Both shifts, it turns out, are the result of a population that is increasingly concerned with healthy eating.

Swapping beef, with its many cardiovascular-health-related implications, for leaner chicken, a trend that’s been developing since the 1980s, is one thing. But reaching for the butter in the name of good health? If you’re among the segment of the population that opts for olive oil or coconut oil rather than butter, congratulations—you live in a bubble. For many Americans, eating healthier involves moving away from margarine and trans fats toward butter.

At least that’s how the folks at the American Butter Institute are looking at the jump in per capita consumption to 5.6 pounds per year, up from a low of 4.1 pounds per year in 1997.

“Consumers are changing their perception of food and looking for healthier alternatives. They’re moving away from highly processed foods and artificial ingredients,” Anuja Miner, the institute’s executive director, told the Los Angeles Times.

With the Food and Drug Administration moving toward an effective ban on trans fats, used to mimic the more expensive fat in many processed foods, it’s a trend that will likely continue in the coming years—unless, that is, food companies turn to palm oil instead.

So while pouring on the olive oil may help you to live longer, don’t be afraid of cooking with a bit of butter. Certain things, chicken Kiev chief among them, just aren’t the same without it.

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