Wisconsin residents will have access to Irish butter

MADISON — Wisconsin residents who love Irish butter will soon be able to buy it in their dairy-obsessed home state, thanks to a creamery's workaround to a decades-old state law.

Old World Creamery of Sheboygan announced Thursday that it will import Irishgold butter from Ireland, process and package it — then have the company's five state-licensed butter graders rate it. That will allow Irishgold to be sold legally in Wisconsin, which bans the sale of any butter that hasn't been graded for quality.

Residents tired of crossing state lines to load up on Irish butter filed a lawsuit against the state last month over the law, the only of its kind in the U.S.

"This will be a big day for Wisconsin residents who love the rich taste of Irish butter," Steve Knaus, Old World Creamery's managing partner, said in a news release announcing the workaround. Knaus said the company will import the butter in bulk and grade it both before and after packaging. He said the plan was in the works before the lawsuit was filed.

Jake Curtis, the attorney for the residents suing the state, applauded Old World's efforts, but said his clients would press forward with their lawsuit. Curtis called the ban "irrational" and said it inhibits access to all international butters.

"This story illustrates the extreme measures retailers have to go through," Curtis said. "Only in Wisconsin."

The lawsuit characterizes the law as a "government-mandated taste test." But Knaus said he appreciates that Wisconsin's law holds butter to high standards.

Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protections spokesman Bill Cosh has said his agency has to uphold state law, but that enforcement "has been limited to notifying retailers of what the law says." Irish butter does sometimes appear on grocery store shelves around the state.