Butter's popularity has a downside


U.S. butter supplies (known as "stock" in dairy economist parlance) are 40 percent lower this year than at the same time last year. This dip prompted some economists to speculate there might be a butter shortage for the holiday season. NPR Food reports that we can breathe a sigh of relief, as there appears to be no imminent shortage. However, we should expect to pay more for butter in the next several months.

Not only has demand for butter skyrocketed--Americans are now using nearly 50% more than they did in 2000--but rising exports have also contributed to the drawdown of butter stock. The U.S. went from almost zero butter exports to about 10% over the last decade. Part of that increase is due to a recent drought in New Zealand, normally a big butter exporter. U.S. farmers filled that gap, and also found new markets in north African countries like Morocco and Egypt. 

So why isn't a shortage imminent? There are many factors that come into play. One is that people have a price ceiling when it comes to butter, so when the price rises too high demand will decrease. Other variables to consider include Russia's import ban, which could potentialy hold prices down as exporters flood other markets with product. In the final analysis, it looks like we will have enough butter for holiday pies--even if it might cost more. 

Have you noticed higher butter prices where you live? Will high butter prices have an impact on your holiday baking?

Photo of the best way to soften butter, fast from Food52 by Alice Medrich


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