I have always wondered how farmers in Britain make it so their cows produce cream with 48% butterfat whereas farmers in the USA only get their cows to produce cream with 36% butterfat. What is done differently to get a higher fat cream?

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    Can you define 'heavy cream"? I might simply be ignorant yet in 60-odd years of listening, I've never heard of 'heavy cream'… not though creams featured in many of my mum's recipes as I grew up, nor that I now work in a supermarket and am often asked to promote dairy products. Commented Nov 25, 2023 at 21:56
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    @RobbieGoodwin, "heavy cream" is a common product in American markets. I think the point of the post is to compare the products available in the UK to the ones available in America.
    – The Photon
    Commented Nov 25, 2023 at 23:33
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    @RobbieGoodwin : countries have different standard names for dairy products (and some are the same name with different fat levels across countries). See the ‘dairy’ section of cooking.stackexchange.com/q/784/67
    – Joe
    Commented Nov 26, 2023 at 1:32
  • @ThePhoton; Joe 'Heavy cream' being common in US markets doesn't suggest anything like the point of the post being to compare UK and American products; not even US American products. You might be right but with no evidence, how is that more than speculation? Who here doubts that if seeing the dairy - or any other section - of SE or anywhere else matters, it was the OP's duty to explain that in the exposition? Please also note, how farmers in Britain make their cows produce cream with 48% butterfat, while US cattle produce only 36% butterfat has nothing to do with the Question… Commented Nov 27, 2023 at 21:28
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    @RobbieGoodwin, asking about the distinction between farmers in Britain and the USA is exactly how OP clarified their question. Sometimes you have to read between the lines.
    – The Photon
    Commented Nov 28, 2023 at 17:11

3 Answers 3


The percentages of fat in dairy products aren't the result of a natural process; whole, untreated milk is centrifuged, and dairy farms choose what portion of each layer goes into what products. Because Britain has a tradition of double cream that's half butterfat, the farms make sure to separate some of that out.

Americans do not have this tradition, so the dairies sell them lower-fat cream, since that's more economical for the dairy.

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    but certain cow breeds like jersey do produce fattier milk
    – WendyG
    Commented Nov 27, 2023 at 17:44
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    Sure, but that's not the reason for the difference in fat content of packaged dairy.
    – FuzzyChef
    Commented Nov 27, 2023 at 21:43

In the UK, double cream has the highest fat content among creams available commercially, usually around 48% fat content or even higher. It's called "double" because it's made by skimming the richest part of whole milk, containing a higher butterfat content than whipping cream or heavy cream found in the US.

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    Double cream does not have the highest fat content. Clotted cream has to have 55% butterfat content and usually has more.
    – mmmmmm
    Commented Nov 27, 2023 at 12:42

Removing water concentrates everything else in the milk from the cow, which would include protein, and minerals,sugars and fat. To remove excess protein,the liquid milk is then ultrafiltered (that's how FairMilk increases protein content in its USA product). They can filter out other stuff too. The end result is a liquid milk with higher fat content than what the cow could manage.

Cream OTOH is lighter than liquid milk and rises to the top in pasteurized milk which hasn't been been homogenized. Cream is easily removed from the top to produce 2% or skim milk and then the cream is formulated to whatever percentage they sell: double fat, whipping cream,heavy cream, half & half, etc.

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