Butter, it could be said, is back in a big way. In fact, looking at trends in consumption you can say it’s bigger than ever. That’s thanks in large part to a renewed interest in indulgent food and a lessening stigma toward the dairy product that was once the patsy for so many medical conditions. But while we’re eating more butter than ever, prices and supply aren’t necessarily reflecting that boon to industry.
According to Food Navigator, a few of Europe’s dairy production industry groups are reporting that the price of butter is growing at what might be considered an alarming rate for anyone looking to layer their own puff pastry in the near future. Currently butter is selling for about £4.95 per kilo (that’s about $2.89 per pound to us Yanks), a sharp 17 percent rise from the record-setting £4 per kilo mark it hit just last October. Market reports cite a cutback in milk production to inflate what was seen as a low price for that product which, along with increased demand for exported milk from Europe to other parts of the world, contributed to a short supply. Butter producers and buyers are now feeling the repercussions of that correction.
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Oddly, American butter prices actually took a dip around the end of 2016, but have climbed slowly the past few months, landing at around $2.10 per pound. It should also be noted that EU butter prices took a major dive a couple of years ago, so some experts are saying the current skyrocketing prices are really just the market catching up with what would be normal inflation.
Butter consumption in the U.S. is rising, so demand is high. The same goes for the EU and UK where they’re citing the Great British Bake Off effect ushering in a rise in home baking, as well as a resurgence of butter as a pseudo-health food after consumers globally have eschewed processed foods (i.e. margarine) in favor of more natural alternatives. That “alternative,” in this case, being good old-fashioned butter.
The price hike could have far-reaching implications for commercial and home bakers alike, as producers of everything from cookies to snack cakes to pie crusts and restaurants serving steak with Béarnaise might soon have to adjust their prices to keep profit margins from shrinking. In the meantime we hope this doesn’t create some kind of black market butter trade, but if you do happen to find a few kilos that “fell of the back of a truck” you could whip up some mango-habanero or kimchi-miso compound butters to fully enjoy your haul.