Unsalted commercial butter has four risk potential factors that may make it haram to eat: Pork Gelatin, Whey Butter, Lard, and Alcohol. Salted butter is typically considered halal because of the production process which involves separating the cow’s milk and salt.
Table of Contents:
The Four Risk Factors – When is Butter NOT Halal?
When we think of butter, our minds generally go to ‘dairy’, and that seems like a safe bet for the most part. However, commercial butter is subject to some halal risk factors and is not always halal to consume. We will now explore each risk factor in turn.
Does Butter Contain Pork?: Risk Factor No.1 – Pork Gelatin
The raw ingredient for making butter is milk, and the core stages of butter production include the transitions:
Milk → Cream → Butter
After the milk is converted to cream, some manufacturers add gelatin to thicken and stabilize the cream (source). This is especially common for whipped cream. Gelatin is primarily extracted from pigs (which is haram to consume) and cattle (you can read more about when to avoid beef gelatin here).
Thus, if butter is manufactured from cream that contains pork gelatin or haram beef gelatin, then the butter itself is not considered permissible to eat.
Risk Factor No.2 – Whey Butter
Sometimes, the cream used in the making of butter is derived from whey – a by-product of cheese production. Due to the possible usage of animal-derived enzymes (such as rennet, used to make parmesan cheese), cream derived from whey may not be halal to consume. Regarding cheese being halal, the Shafi’i opinion declares (source):
In Sharh al-Bahja, a Shafi’i reference, it states that “cheese is allowed as long as the rennet is obtained from a properly slaughtered halal animal that is only feeding on milk, otherwise the contents of its stomach are najis (impure).”
If the whey used in the butter is not halal, then the butter itself is not halal to eat.
Risk Factor No.3 – Lard for Flavoring
The demand for low-fat butter has increased over the years. However, skipping out on the fat means the butter doesn’t taste as good, or have the same texture.
To maintain the butter’s taste and texture, some manufacturers use a lower-concentration fat source – pig gelatin. Pig gelatin is not halal and therefore the resulting butter is not permissible to eat.
Risk Factor No.4 – Alcohol Inclusion
What’s alcohol doing in butter, you ask?
Well, it’s not normally included in salted butter – unsalted butter is what you typically need to watch out for. Unsalted butter contains natural flavoring, which might be made from Starter Distillate. Starter Distillate, especially the one used in unsalted butter, may contain alcohol such as Diacetyl.
Which Butter is Halal to Consume?
In general, it’s generally understood that it’s best to avoid purchasing commercial butter that does not come with a halal label. This is because even if the ingredients listed on the packet appear to be halal, risk factors such as pork gelatin may have been included in the manufacturing process.
Aside from halal-certified butter, you can look for salted butter that does not contain any halal risk factors (check the ingredients and the process with the suppliers), or even make it.
Salted butter can be made with just heavy cream (be sure to use halal cream!), salt, water, and a mixer. Commercial butter is more of a halal risk because of cost-savings methods employed during the manufacturing process.