Bacon gets all the hype, but there are few of us who don’t like butter. It’s the foundation of culinary careers, freestyle raps, and, of course, many, many cuisines, not least French baking. But now a global butter shortage is putting the beloved croissant, among others, in the crosshairs.
The problem is fairly straightforward. The biggest milk producing nations in the world aren’t exporting as much milk, thanks to factors ranging from EU market controls to bad weather. Meanwhile, demand for butter is through the roof. As we all learned in high school economics, more demand and less supply leads to skyrocketing prices. So it is in France and, as Conde Nast Traveler reports, things are getting worse:
…the price of butter in France has skyrocketed, from €2,500 ($2,940) a metric ton in April 2016 to €7,000 ($8,240) over the summer. The shortage—the worst since World War II—is a result of falling milk yields throughout Europe, but especially in France. And since most milk goes to making cream or cheese, and not butter, the effect is especially crippling.
It’s particularly bad in France because butter is a foundation of French cuisine. The French put away, on average, 8 kilograms (about 17.5 pounds) of butter per year, beating even the equally notorious fat-chomping Germans at six kilograms. It’s not just used for baking, but as a condiment, a cooking medium, and as a general staple of the French diet. And as we said, their appetite for the yellow stuff is only going up.
Where does France go from here? Well, as much as the very idea fills them with horror, they might have to learn to cook with fats other than butter, although to be fair, it’s not like olive oil’s cheap right now, either. And while we tease, the cuisine of a nation is an integral part of culture and national identity, something the French are notoriously protective of. And the damage to France’s culinary industry is already unfolding, as bakeries struggle to make the pastries people want. And keep in mind, Christmas, the most buttery time of the year around the world, is on the way.
As butter vanishes from shelves, it might be a tough Christmas for France.