As we enter prime baking season, one essential ingredient may be harder to come by — and more expensive — than in years past: butter.
According to a recent report from The Wall Street Journal, the quantity of butter in cold storage recently hit its lowest level since 2017, thanks to a combination of worker shortages and lowered dairy outputs across U.S. farms. As a result, the price of butter has skyrocketed, climbing 24.6% in the last 12 months. As the demand for butter increases during the holiday baking season, these tight supplies (and their accompanying costs) aren't going anywhere.
A recent Market News report from the USDA suggested similar trends. "In the Northeast and West, cream demand is strong and spot availability is limited. Butter makers in these regions say this is contributing to reduced butter production," said the report.
Meanwhile, buyers who bring butter to the marketplace "are concerned that record high butter prices will cause retail demand to soften."
With so many pies, cookies, and cakes to bake this season, how should home cooks prepare for these butter-related shortcomings? Start by increasing your butter's lifespan by storing it in the freezer: Frozen butter will stay good for at least several months, if not a whole year.
Alternatively, you could always turn to recipes that, in lieu of butter, rely on a different type of fat — coconut oil, olive oil, and neutral-flavored vegetable oils are all strong contenders. From butter-free versions of pumpkin bread to gingerbread cookies, we promise it won't take long to find a new holiday favorite.