butter

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

As October nears its end, people start craving caramel apples and spooky-themed desserts. In November, kitchens will fill with the smells of pie, mashed potatoes, and turkey. However, holiday baking plans may be halted with the potential upcoming butter shortage. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Bureau of Labor Statistics are predicting this issue; the USDA reports that there is 22% less butter in storage this October compared to last year. The Bureau reports that the cost of butter is 24% higher than in October 2021. 

What we’re hearing is it has to do with labor shortages. It has to do with the increase in cost that dairy farmers are facing and for that reason, they just can’t manufacture as much butter as they used to or as we’re accustomed to,” stated Kelly Goldsmith, Vanderbilt University graduate school of management marketing professor. [1]

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What is Causing the Butter Shortage?

Despite the frightening prediction, panic buying is not a good option. Instead, Goldsmith advises planning ahead. “If you know you’ve got a big important holiday meal coming up and you’re the one doing the cooking you need to stock the pantry. Think ahead, get your hands on those items you know you’re going to need to cook with.” 

The butter shortage has been attributed to recent labor shortages at processing plants, and the rising costs of feed as well as buying and maintaining dairy animals. Extreme temperatures, droughts, floods, and frequent storms have also negatively impacted milk production. “Such conditions can affect the availability and quality of feed as well as the physiological functioning and reproductive health of dairy cows,” a report from the USDA reads. “Negative environmental conditions also lead to the distribution and resiliency of parasites and pathogens that affect animal health.[2]

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The holiday season is a bad time for a butter shortage but that shouldn’t diminish the celebrations. Making preparations in advance could help evade any upcoming stress. “A lot of the classic holiday dishes require a lot of butter and a lot of flour and a lot of those staple products that we may not use in our everyday cooking… How much butter do you put in mashed potatoes? A ton!” said Goldsmith. “If we learned anything else from the pandemic. Don’t wait until the last minute to do it. Do it now if you can.”

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Healthy Substitutes to Try Instead

Fortunately, there are many alternatives to store-bought butter. One of them is churning your own butter. Other options can be healthier, as well as dairy-free. But the easiest way to ensure you have enough butter is by freezing the amount you will need. Butter freezes well; just keep the sticks in their original packaging in their box, and place them in a sealable plastic bag. Remember to freeze only what you need; panic-hoarding will do more harm than good. (No one has forgotten the run on toilet paper in the beginning of the pandemic.) [3]

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Here are some healthy alternatives to butter:

Ghee – It’s a type of clarified butter with practically zero lactose or casein, which makes it a good choice for people who are allergic or intolerant to dairy. It can replace butter at a 1:1 ratio but it does add more moisture to recipes so other ingredients may need some adjustment. This may still be hard to come by since there is a shortage, though its not typically as popular, so you may find it.

Coconut oil – It can replace butter at a 1:1 ratio but it can add a coconutty flavor, especially if you use unrefined coconut oil. 

Olive oil – Since it’s a liquid, olive oil can’t work in recipes that need the butter to remain solid, like in icing or angel food cake. But it can be substituted at a 3:4 ratio in most recipes, especially those that will compliment the oil’s savory flavor like muffins or pumpkin bread. So if a recipe calls for 1 cup of butter, you can use ¾ cups of olive oil instead. 

Apple sauces, avocados, Greek yogurt, bananas, nut butters – There are many recipes that use these ingredients instead of butter or oil. However, it can take some experimenting because these substitutes often need additional recipe changes to maintain the usual texture and flavor. Many cookbooks and blogs have delicious versions of foods like breads, cookies, cakes, muffins, pies, etc. with these substitutions. It may be worth looking into these recipes before experimenting with your usual go-to. Butter shortages or not, they might be healthier than the typical versions, and may become a welcome addition to the holiday table. [4]

Read: 6 Cast Iron Skillet Bread Recipes That Are Actually Good for You

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How to Make Your Own Butter at Home

You can also make your own butter, and the process is not as daunting as it sounds. You will need only two ingredients and a stand mixer. This recipe by Lindsay D. Mattison on Taste of Home makes about 1/2 pound of butter (or 16 tablespoons or two sticks).

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Ingredients:

  • 1 pint heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Directions:

  1. Combine the cream and salt in a stand mixer with the whisk attachment.
  2. Cover the bowl with a dish towel to prevent splattering.
  3. Gradually increase the speed of the mixer.
  4. After a few minutes the cream should stiffen like whipped cream.
  5. You want to keep mixing until the cream separates into buttermilk and solid butter.
  6. Pour out the buttermilk (which you can use in other recipes) and collect the butter into a ball.
  7. Rinse the butter with water while squeezing out any leftover buttermilk with your hands. (The buttermilk can cause the butter to sour.)
  8. Pat the butter dry with paper towels.
  9. It should stay good for five days at room temperature, one week in the refrigerator, or three months in the freezer. See the original recipe for more details. [5]

Keep Reading: When it comes to heart health, white rice is just as bad as high-sugar foods like candy, study finds.

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Sources

  1. “Butter shortage predicted at big box stores ahead of the holidays.” News Channel 5. Claire Kopsky. October 13, 2022.
  2. The price of butter is sky-high and ‘not going to come down,’ says supply chain expert—here’s why.” CNBC. Aditi Shrikant. October 5, 2022
  3. “Prepare for the Butter Shortage.Yahoo Life. Dennis Lee October 5, 2022
  4. “What Are the Best Substitutes for Butter?Healthline. Brianna Elliot, RD. April 16, 2019
  5. “How to Make Butter from Scratch with Two Ingredients.Taste of Home. Lindsay D. Mattison. October 19, 2022.
Sarah Biren
Founder of The Creative Palate
Sarah is a baker, cook, author, and blogger living in Toronto. She believes that food is the best method of healing and a classic way of bringing people together. In her spare time, Sarah does yoga, reads cookbooks, writes stories, and finds ways to make any type of food in her blender.
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