Is There a Butter Shortage? And What Can You Do About It?

Find out if the newest TikTok trend will actually leave bakers short this holiday season.

A stick of butter with a few slices cut out of it
Photo: Getty Images

Move over charcuterie, there's a new board in town. Butter boards burst onto the TikTok scene and are stealing the spotlight on tables across the U.S. Designed to showcase varying spreads, butter boards are simply swaths of softened butter topped or blended with your favorite flavors, whether sweet or savory. Think herbs, nuts, honey — truly, whatever flavors suit your palate.

As we edge closer to the time of year that is a traditionally popular baking season, we have to wonder: will the butter board trend affect butter supplies, and in turn impact the number of goodies we can make this holiday season? For insights regarding a rumored butter shortage, we spoke to a few experts familiar with the issue.

Can We Expect a Butter Shortage?

"The butter board trend has exploded on TikTok, but it is too early to see any impact in the sales and inventory numbers," Dustin Winston, a commodity analyst with StoneX Financial Inc. concentrated on dairy market insights, told Allrecipes.

"I wouldn't call it a shortage," says Peter Vitaliano, chief economist with the National Milk Producers Federation. "A shortage means market shelves without butter on them."

Though there's not a shortage per se, the cost of dairy products like butter is up, and those higher costs aren't new. Earlier this year Allrecipes reported that dairy production costs are at an all-time high. Combined with lower production levels, we find that we're literally paying the price at grocery stores.

"Weak milk production in response to high input costs late last year and early this year have negatively impacted milk and butter production up to this point," says Winston.

"The price of producing milk has gone up," says Vitaliano. "Dairy feed is at record levels, and farm labor is hard to get." Add in the supply chain disruption and the end result is suppressed dairy production.

That said, Vitaliano adds, "Based on the August milk production report, that may be ending. For the first time in a year, dairy production is well above last year's production levels."

"Record high milk prices are offsetting the higher input costs at the farm level, which is beginning to drive better milk and butter production," adds Winston.

When it comes to dairy products and production, Vitaliano says butter is third in line, behind milk and cheese. He also says that dairy processing plants are getting enough cream to produce butter, and that's good news for bakers.

And there's more good news.

"Butter has pretty much reached its peak, indicating dairy prices are going to start dropping in October," says Vitaliano. "My guess is we'll see dairy prices easing, and retail price inflation start to come down."

"There's no reason for consumers to feel that butter's not available to them," he adds regarding the rumored shortage. As far as pricing, it's all about the way you shop.

"There's usually a brand of butter, either premium or foreign, that's on sale and you can get some good deals," says Vitaliano.

The Best Butter Substitutes

If you do find a short supply of your favorite butter at the grocery store, or you find the prices too high to stomach, rest assured that there are viable substitutions to consider. Depending on what type of baking or cooking you're doing, these ingredients may be good options: olive, coconut, canola, or vegetable oil; shortening; applesauce; Greek yogurt; and even bananas.

Plant-based butter is another option, though costs may be a bit higher. Natasha and Ed Tatton of Bred Made By Ed, an organic bakery in Whistler, British Columbia, recommend Miyoko's European Style Cultured Unsalted Vegan Butter, made especially for baking and "…it tastes and performs so much like traditional fine dairy butter, you won't believe it's made from plants." The couple also likes Nuts for Butter's Salted Original and Unsalted Original variations that are made with organic cashews, are gluten and soy-free, non-GMO, and use no gums or filler.

For baking, Amy Lawrence and Justin Fox Burks of The Chubby Vegetarian suggest Country Crock Plant Butter With Avocado Oil and Earth Balance.

"We make a lot of fruit crisps for dessert, and I always use them [Country Crock and Earth Balance] for cooking the filling and for the oat toppings," says Lawrence.

Of course, if you have the time and the ambition, we have the resources for you to make your own homemade butter if it does get too hard to find or expensive to buy.

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