Lewis Road Creamery has teamed up with Southern Pastures LP and Hokitika-based Westland Milk Products to offer a top shelf butter, made with grass-fed milk, to US markets.

"'Artisan", produced by Westland at Hokitika, was launched this month in premium stores in California and Texas with a heavy emphasis placed on the grass-fed model.

Southern Pastures executive chairman Prem Maan said the future of New Zealand dairy was in high-value branded goods, not commodities.

"That is how we will get top dollar back to our farmers for producing the best dairy in the world," he said in a statement.

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Maan said local producers had "for too long" watched their Irish counterparts capture premium markets.

"We decided that it was time for us to get off the sidelines and play our own game," he said.

Artisan butter is the first product from New Zealand Grass Fed Milk Products LP (NZGFMP), a venture established between Southern Pastures and Westland Milk Products and was developed specifically for Lewis Road Creamery.

Lewis Road is half owned by Southern Pastures.

"Consumers in export markets like the US will pay a premium for a traceable set of standards that meet their high expectations," said Peter Cullinane, founder and chairman of Lewis Road.

Cullinane, who is also chairman of NZME, publisher of the Herald, said customers also want to know that animals, people, and the environment are being cared for.

To that end, NZGFMP only accepts milk that meets Westland's "10 Star" premium standard, which covers milk quality, animal welfare and human health issues, environmental sustainability and climate change mitigation.

"The first thing American consumers notice is the deep golden hue that comes from grass-fed cows, it's completely different to their own white local butter," Maan said.

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Early this year, Southern Pastures, New Zealand's largest dairy farmland fund, became a shareholder in Westland Milk Products through a deal to supply 4 million kg of milksolids to Westland's milk collection from its nine Canterbury dairy farms.

This week, Westland said a decline in global prices for dairy commodities, especially butter, had driven the this season's predicted payout range to $6.10-$6.50, down from a previous range of $6.50-$6.90.