Land O’Lakes Gets Rid of the “Butter Maiden” from Its Packaging

updated Apr 17, 2020
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New packaging from Land O' Lakes
Credit: Courtesy of Land O' Lakes

Although it was quietly announced a month ago, the new packaging from the Minnesota-based, farmer-owned Land O’Lakes cooperative has just started to roll out to grocery stores. For anyone familiar with the yellow boxes of butter from the nearly century-old company, the biggest difference is obvious: The “butter maiden” illustration of a woman in Native American dress is gone. 

According to Beth Ford, the president and CEO of Land O’Lakes, the change was made to better reflect “the foundation and heart of our company culture,”and that “nothing does that better than our farmer-owners whose milk is used to produce Land O’Lakes’ dairy products.” In addition to removing the illustration, the boxes will add some copy, including “Farmer-owned,” and “Since 1921,” along with photos of the farmers in the co-op.

Credit: Courtesy of Land O' Lakes

The Minnesota Reformer covered the change in depth, including interviewing Robert DesJarlait, the son of the Ojibwe artist who had done a 1950s redesign of the package, and who said he was both proud of his dad’s work and glad that the illustration had been removed. “Today it’s a stereotype, but it’s also a source of cultural pride. It’s a paradox in that way.”

Certain sports teams, schools, and packaged goods hold onto their Native American mascots despite outcry from both the social science and Indigenous communities about the damages they inflict. Adrienne Keene, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, Brown University professor, and blogger at Native Appropriations, noted to the Reformer that Land O’Lakes was not the only company to have had this kind of problematic messaging. And while she was happy to see this change from such a large company, she also thought Land O’Lakes could have done more to explain their reasoning behind the modification. “It could have been a very strong and positive message to have publicly said, ‘We realized after a hundred years that our image was harmful and so we decided to remove it,'” Keene explained. “In our current cultural moment, that’s something people would really respond to.”