Your Next Batch of Cookies May Be a Lot More Expensive Thanks to Soaring Prices on This Pantry Staple

published Jan 11, 2022
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Butter spreader methods lined up
Credit: Sarah Crowley
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Our global economy looks a little topsy-turvy these days, but you may not notice the changes until one affects you personally. Case in point: I’ve been reading the news with a detached sort of interest until I learned that butter prices have been skyrocketing, and may only get more expensive. This change will certainly affect my grocery budget and my slight cookie baking addiction. Will it affect your daily life? Here’s what you need to know. 

In a report from The Bureau of Labor Statistics, butter prices increased 3.7 percent in December — although that may sound like a lot, it’s actually on par with predictions. (Butter and other baking items typically see a price boost during holiday baking season). But here’s the sticky bit: Instead of leveling out, the cost of butter is predicted to keep rising.

The latest issue of USDA’s Dairy Market News reported that the continued spike is due to a variety of factors, including a greater demand for milk from other processors, like cheesemakers. Butter exports, factory labor shortages, and delayed shipments are also to blame. In other words: It’s the same supply chain shenanigans we’ve been seeing everywhere

Because butter is made from cream (the fat content in milk), other grocery items made from cream are experiencing a similar shortage, which in turn causes a price increase. Still, the scarcity and cost haven’t stopped home cooks from stocking up; for example, Land O’Lakes’ net sales jumped 12 percent over the past year.

Most consumers aren’t seeing empty shelves in their refrigerated section — yet. But if the current economic conditions continue, butter may become even more of a luxury item. If you can buy butter that’s produced locally, you may have better luck finding a consistently available product, because it requires less steps in the supply chain to reach you. 

Of course, there is also the adage that when one door closes, another opens. Perhaps a nationwide butter shortage is really just an excuse to branch out and bake some delicious new vegan goodies. The next time I head to the grocery store, I’ll be loading my cart with butter and plant-based products, like coconut milk and plant-based butter. That way, no matter what the next few months bring, I know they’ll at least be sweet.