In Wisconsin, a Fight for the Right to Serve Margarine

A dozen lawmakers want to repeal decades-old pro-butter law
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 21, 2011 9:58 AM CDT
Real butter, or not? (Answer: not.)   (©Veganbaking.net)

(Newser) – There’s a battle going on in Wisconsin: margarine vs. butter. Any restaurant, prison, or school that substitutes margarine for butter without a specific customer request is subject to a fine of $100 to $500 and up to three months in jail. But the decades-old law is rarely enforced, and now 12 legislators are sponsoring a bill to repeal it, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports. The odd law has its basis in the late 1800s, when margarine colored to look like butter was banned from sale or use in the state (which just so happens to be the country's No. 2 butter producer), leading to a thriving “oleo black market” and smuggling operation.

The ban was lifted in 1967, but substituting margarine for butter has remained a crime. It’s “silly, antiquated, and anti-free market,” says Rep. Dale Kooyenga, who claims that butter is three times as expensive as margarine and says that the state would thus save quite a bit of money by serving prisoners margarine instead. But one dairy owner says butter is actually just twice as expensive, and adds, “Everybody should eat butter—prisoners and school children included. I'm not going to say everybody must have butter. Everybody should have a choice.” (Read more margarine stories.)

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