Your Butterball turkey was already in danger this season. Well, now your butter is too.
Across the United States, the price of butter is skyrocketing as supplies tighten, according to a new report from The Wall Street Journal. It’s especially concerning as we head into the time of year when bakers hide in their kitchens, baking cookies, cakes, pies and other holiday treats.
While overall August grocery prices are up 13.5% over the past year, the cost of butter has risen nearly double, a whopping 24.6%, over the same period. And in July, the amount of butter in cold storage was at its lowest level since 2017. None of these statistics are good news for the home bakers among us.
A number of factors have contributed to both butter shortages and high prices. Dairy farms saw lower milk production in the first half of the year, thanks to a smaller dairy herd and higher prices for farmers. Typically, milk production is growing at 1.5-2.5% per year, but until June of this year, milk production was actually down by 1%.
On top of that, labor shortages at processing plants have made it even harder to keep up with demand. Some butter makers have had to reduce or stop production, said Tanner Ehmke, an economist at agricultural lender CoBank. WSJ. And due to the lack of staff, some companies are experiencing a 5-10% drop in production this year compared to pre-pandemic years.
Of course, these challenges then trickle down to the price of butter. At the end of August, the average price was $4.77 per unit, the highest since at least 2017, The Wall Street Journal Noted. With butter being a key ingredient in cooking and baking, whether on holiday or not, consumers mostly had to bear the higher prices.
Some, however, have found workarounds for this problem. Kristi Peterka, who recently started selling homemade baked goods, told the newspaper that she stocked up on butter when she saw it on sale, even enlisting her parents and in-laws for the to help get around store limits. To that end, she now owns about 40 pounds of butter.
If you no longer need it because of the shortage, at least now you know where to turn.
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