Butter vs. Margarine: The Results!

I have gotten so many e-mails and comments about this, so I must say I’m a little nervous to report these results! I mean, they’re not bad or anything, but it’s not quite as exciting as we were all hoping… If you missed the introduction to this experiment, go HERE to read about it.

Above: Left = Butter; Right = Margarine; Notice how the butter melted MUCH more quickly than the margarine... read my comments on this at the end of the post.

I began with the butter and margarine in the back yard. Mostly because I wanted to prevent the neighbors from thinking I’m crazy. There was little activity all morning, and since it was in the 90s that day, the butter and margarine started melting around noon. I figured this was okay – melted butter and margarine are still edible. In the early afternoon, I spotted this guy checking out the margarine. I had to photograph him through our back screen door, so I apologize for the fuzziness.

I’m guessing there were more squirrels involved in the feast, because when I went outside later that day to check on the plates, they were not quite as full.

I decided to leave them there overnight because there was still plenty left on the plates. This was probably a mistake, because around 5:00 am the sprinklers came on. Luckily oil and water don’t mix, so I didn’t lose any butter or margarine – I just had soggy plates. The butter/margarine was hardened on the bottom, and the water had pooled on top. That morning I drained the water off the top of the plates. A few hours later, there were ants all over the “butter water” on the sidewalk, but not much going on with the “margarine water”.

Late morning, the margarine plate looked like this...

...and the butter looked like this:

There was definitely less butter than margarine! I decided to move the plates to the front yard to see what happened. I caught this guy eating the butter – I took this photo through the living room window and he saw me and ran away, but this is just seconds after he was eating the butter:

I was gone most of this day, but when I returned late that afternoon I noticed a lot of insects in the butter and not much going on with the margarine:

Above: Margarine

Above: Butter

This guy must have been here for a while, because he eventually just got himself stuck as the butter started to harden towards the end of the day!

Finally, by the end of the second day, the butter was almost fully eaten and the margarine was only about half eaten. There were lots of insects stuck to the butter plate in various places, but only a few leaves and maybe one or two insects on the margarine plate.

Here’s what I learned from this experiment:

  • Margarine is dark yellow when it melts, whereas butter is more of a pale yellow. This must have something to do with the preservatives and “fake” ingredients in the margarine being more difficult to break down.

  • The animals tried both snacks, but the butter definitely got eaten more quickly. The margarine ingredients (listed HERE) included salt and buttermilk (among many other things), so there are still some “real” ingredients that tasted good to the animals.

  • The margarine melted much more slowly than the butter (see photos at beginning of this post). This must be because of all of the fake ingredients that are added into the margarine.

  • I’m really glad I used paper plates, or I would have had melted oil all over my sidewalk!

You can't really tell from the photo above, but the margarine was thick and most of it was leftover, whereas the butter plate only held a thin layer. I think I need to try this again in the fall, when it’s much cooler outside and the sticks of butter and margarine won’t melt. This will be a more accurate experiment, because I can do a better comparison of what’s leftover at the end of the day. SO, maybe I’ll try it again in few months – after all, I still have another stick of margarine in my fridge, and I won’t be using it for anything else!


  1. Interesting experiment. We have a severe dairy allergy in our home, so butter is not an option for us, but neither do we eat anything fake. So Earth Balance with olive oil is what we have settled on, but don't use it for anything other than toast, etc. I find that coconut oil works like butter in most baking applications. Anyway, I realize that butter is more "natural" than margarine, but I also wonder if dairy is a food meant for humans. I wonder if the hormones in dairy products, while natural, may be responsible for some of the illnesses we tend to experience. I know many people are concerned about added and engineered hormones, but even when dairy is totally unaltered, the cow is producing enormous amounts of hormones just to sustain that kind of lactation. Is that a totally off-base concern?

  2. Wow, this was an outstanding experiment! Thank you for posting. Very outstanding indeed! Makes me happy to know my choice 20 years ago to use butter (in moderation) instead of margarine was wise. I buy organic butter too. Sarah brings up a modern day issue with the GMO's, but moderation is still a big determining factor too, Your home has diary allergies, ours can't tolerate coconut or any tree nut for that matter, So we are both lucky in having choices to use to the best of our needs.
    Outstanding post. Great photo journalism Ann!

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