This Is the Only Way to Prevent a Major Butter Shortage Now, Officials Say
You can actively avoid doing this at the grocery store.
With the holidays fast approaching, you're probably thinking about the dish you'll prepare for Thanksgiving or the desserts you'll make when Hanukkah and Christmas roll around. Maybe you even take on the task of assembling the whole spread. But if any of your signature recipes require butter, you'll want to pay close attention, as a potential shortage could lead to fewer sticks and tubs available at the grocery store. Thankfully, officials say that there is something you can do now to keep butter on the table—and in your mashed potatoes. Read on to find out the only way to avoid a major butter shortage.
Shortages are nothing new in 2022.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, shortages were commonplace. Medical masks and gloves were among the first to be in short supply, and later on, hand sanitizer and at-home COVID tests became a coveted commodity. Even today, the supply chain remains disrupted by pandemic-related challenges, affecting all sectors of the economy from food production to the travel industry.
Of course, the most widely-recognized (and infamous) shortage early on in the pandemic was toilet paper. People panic-bought as much of the paper product as they could, stockpiling while the air of uncertainty persisted. Now, officials are saying we can learn from this pattern of behavior to prevent a butter shortage looming on the horizon.
Some experts are worried about a butter shortage.
Inflated prices have been plaguing consumers for months now. Butter, specifically, has seen a 26.6 percent increase from Sept. 2021 to Sept. 2022, Time reported, citing data from the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics.
According to The Wall Street Journal, a labor shortage and issues with U.S. milk production have both contributed to a reduced supply of butter, thus sending prices sky-high, and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) data shows that cold storage stocks of butter are at the lowest levels since 2019. Matt Herrick, senior vice president and spokesperson at the International Dairy Foods Association, cited supply chain issues related to the ongoing war in Ukraine, as well as higher costs for cow feed and labor in the dairy industry, as key contributors to the issue.
While this can seem scary—and a lack of butter would surely put a damper on upcoming festivities—officials say that panicking is actually the worst thing consumers can do.
Buying out of fear is the true threat.
As with toilet paper, panic-buying is what could incite a major butter shortage, Herrick said, per Time. According to Forbes, panic-buying is a "state of erratic behavior" wherein people believe "there's a real or perceived shortage of basic supplies upon which they rely." As a result, shoppers may buy more of a product than they actually need, storing it to avoid the possibility of running out.
But buying and stockpiling more butter than you need could lead to the shortage becoming a "self-fulfilling prophecy," Herrick said. The psychological term is applied to situations where certain expectations or beliefs lead people to act in a way that then makes the expectation come true.
Even though reports of an official shortage have been circulating, Herrick confirmed that the reality is people are just paying more right now. "When folks go to the grocery store, we're not seeing that they don't have butter," he said. "We're seeing that prices are up." So, if you're tempted to hoard butter for your cookie recipe or turkey rub, officials ask that you resist.
The situation may soon improve.
Experts told Time that so long as panic-buying doesn't become an issue, butter should be available throughout the holiday season. In fact, the situation seems to be improving, as butter production is on the rise, according to the USDA. Milk production and cream availability are also trending upward, which could lead to prices stabilizing in the future.
For the time being, however, you'll need to shell out a bit more for butter, Peter Vitaliano, chief economist for the National Milk Producers Federations, told Time. "Whatever [the] shortage situation is going to be, we're pretty much at the peak of it now," he said. "It's going to be easing as we go through the end of this year and into the new year."