Could Someone Go to Jail for Selling “Illegal” Butter?

Categories: criminal defense


If you have noticed the Kerrygold brand of butter missing from your local grocery store’s shelves, you are not alone. As recently reported by Fox News, state regulators have forced the Irish butter maker out by asserting that the company’s product violates a law from the 1970s which only permits “Grade A” dairy products to be distributed in Wisconsin. However, the issue is not necessarily that Kerrygold butter is not a “Grade A” product; rather, since Kerrygold is made and packaged in Ireland, it simply is not tested under the grading standards used in the United States. According to a company representative, “Our process of inspecting is a little bit different from the process [in Wisconsin], [but] the standards are universally very high.”

According to Milwaukee Magazine, Wisconsin is the only state to have put a stop to the distribution of this “illegal” butter.

Wisconsin’s Dairy Grading Law

Under the law at issue, all dairy products sold in Wisconsin are subject to onerous testing standards. These include being graded for quality by a panel of experts in 32 different categories, with an overall “A” grade being required for distribution in the state. Under the law, distributing dairy products in Wisconsin that have not successfully completed the rigorous testing is punishable by up to a $1,000 fine and six months in jail.

While the law applies to Kerrygold, the Irish manufacturer, it also applies to local distributors. As a result, Wisconsin residents statewide have reportedly been going across state lines to buy Kerrygold butter (where its sale remains legal) and bringing it back home.

Although the penalties for distributing illegal butter are not as severe as those for distributing controlled substances, the consequences of selling Kerrygold butter in Wisconsin are enough to have Kerrygold and local retailers choosing not to stock the product. Kerrygold is reportedly working with Wisconsin dairy regulators to develop a method for importing its product into the state again in the future. Until Kerrygold figures out a way to obtain a “Grade A” rating for its imported butter (or the law changes), residents must continue to go across state lines to buy the product.

Can I Bring Kerrygold Butter into Wisconsin?

Since the law focuses on distribution of non-Grade A dairy products, individuals who buy Kerrygold butter in another state and bring it into Wisconsin for personal use would not appear to be in violation of the law. However, buying Kerrygold butter out of state for purposes of selling it to others could potentially lead to liability under the statute. Will the police prosecute you for selling “illegal” butter? Maybe, maybe not. But, you should not find out without first speaking to an experienced attorney.

Disclaimer: This Article Is Not Legal Advice.

Never rely on an article for legal advice as the law frequently changes, information may not be accurate, there may be exceptions to a rule, and reliance may be detrimental. Always consult one of our experienced attorneys for competent, current, and accurate legal advice.

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