We’re Facing a Butter Shortage Right Before the Holiday Baking Season

close up of butter on blue background
Apparently There’s a Butter Shortage Now, TooNatalie Board / EyeEm - Getty Images

Supply chain issues have ravaged grocery store aisles for the last few years, as COVID-19-related shutdowns led to stalled production facilities and panic-buying. Now, there’s a greasy yet delicious new addition to the shortage list: butter.

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Based on data from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the New York Post reported earlier this month that “the amount of butter held within U.S. storage facilities in August fell 10 percent month-over-month.” Butter stores were also down 22 percent compared to the same time last year.

What Does This Butter Shortage Mean?

Well, folks who plan to make loads of biscuits, mashed potatoes, and cookies during the holiday season might find it harder to get butter at the supermarket. (Or, they will have to pay more for it.)

In fact, prices for butter have already soared by a whopping 24.6 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Why Exactly Is There a Butter Shortage?

It’s essentially a domino-effect. Dairy farmers are facing higher costs, which leads to less milk production and less butter being churned. On top of all that, labor shortages are making it hard to keep up with the demand.

Tanner Ehmke is a lead economist at CoBank, where he specializes in dairy and specialty crops. Back in June, Ehmke reported that “churns are slowing production due to tight U.S. milk supplies and short staffing at plants.”

And, it appears to be an issue we’re facing across the U.S. According to the USDA’s report, distributors in the west are running “reduced production schedules,” and therefore cannot keep up with the amount of butter that is apparently needed this year. In the Midwest and Northeast, the fate of butter is the same. Supply is “very tight to unavailable.”

So, bakers—you’re probably wondering what this might mean for you ahead of the holiday season. After all, butter is the essential ingredient in a large quantity of baking recipes.

Well, let’s start with some decent news. Dairy processors are obviously aware of the issue and they’re testing various solutions. “We want to run the assets we have harder when we can get more milk off farm,” exclaimed Joe Coote, chief executive of the Washington-based dairy company Darigold Inc, while speaking with The Wall Street Journal.

There are also tons of recipes that use butter alternatives, and they’re (almost) as tasty as the original version. But if you’re keen on using the staple ingredient, you always have the option of buying now, and freezing it for when you really need it. Or, how about making your own butter? Now, that’s a thought!

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