Illinois State Fair shockingly reveals butter cow wasn’t made of butter

Butter sculptures have become a major attraction at some state fairs across the midwestern United States, but many fans were disappointed to learn that one famed butter sculpture - in the shape of the cow - wasn’t entirely made of butter.

When this year’s Illinois State Fair came to an on 20 August, a photo was posted to X - formerly known as Twitter - of the state fair’s traditional butter cow being taken apart. However, what people had assumed was a sculpture made only out of butter was not the case at all.

Instead, the sculpture was made out of some sort of frame with butter coated on top. The cow was sculpted by Sarah Pratt, a legacy dairy farmer whose daughter had also sculpted a butter calf for the state fair.

The photo, which was posted by @217Problems, has been viewed over 15m times. Now, people have described the butter cow “scandal” as #ButterGate.

“I feel deceived,” one of the comments began. “It should have been a solid block of butter. If we cannot believe in butter cows, what can we believe in?”

“The disappointment I feel learning that the butter cow is not solid butter is akin to discovering Santa isn’t real,” another user said.

“It’s not solid?! I thought they either carved it from a solid block of butter or had a special cow-shaped mold they like inject liquid butter into!” a third commenter wrote.

According to the Illinois State Fair website, the butter cow has been the “unofficial icon of the fair since the 1920s.” However, people are describing the frame holding up the sculpture as “false advertising” because it was never explicitly mentioned on the website. Rather, the website reads: “500 pounds of unsalted butter are used to sculpt the life-size figure by hand.”

“OK, so who’s joining the false advertising class action lawsuit because…” another comment read.

This Illinois State Fair butter cow is much like the iconic Iowa State Fair’s own butter cow, which actually does disclose the sculpture’s building process. “The Butter Cow starts with a wood, metal, wire and steel mesh frame and about 600 lbs of low moisture, pure cream Iowa butter,” the website reads. “Once inside the 40-degree cooler, layers of butter are applied until a life-size butter cow emerges - measuring about 5-1/2-ft high and 8-ft long. Each year, much of the butter is recycled and can be reused for up to 10 years.”

As upset as this news might make some people on social media, the butter artists themselves say they’ve been asked why it’s not just made of butter. Paul Brooke, the lead sculptor for the American Dairy Association Mideast butter cow display at the Ohio State Fair, told the New York Times that it’s because of sculpting principles.

“It would work without the armatures if you could start with a huge block and just do the whole thing just by carving removal of butter, it would stand,” Brooke told the outlet. Instead, artists are shipped thousands of butter sticks rather than just one big block of butter.

Pratt also told the New York Times that not using a frame similar to the one in the viral photo would “be like taking all of the bones out of a dairy cow and expecting it to stand.” Still, this hasn’t stopped people from still being shocked over the revelation.

“Seeing the butter cow like this… makes my stomach churn,” a comment read.