Don’t Have a Cow But There’s a Major Butter Shortage

Here's what you can do about it.

September 22, 2022
Photo by Mark Weinberg

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 percent 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.

What's your favorite butter-free bake? Share in the comments!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • brita pruitt
    brita pruitt
  • brandyk
  • Caroline Sloat
    Caroline Sloat
  • Smaug
Anabelle Doliner

Written by: Anabelle Doliner

Staff Editor


brita P. October 7, 2022
I just discovered this trick. One can whip heavy whipping cream that has a minimum of 45 percent fat. Eventually it will turn into butter and buttermilk.
Smaug October 7, 2022
A very expensive way to get butter, though. A principle you run across here and there though; when agitated against each other fat molecules will stick together- something to do with stripping bonds allowing others to form between the molecules (sorry, my last chemistry class was 50+ years ago and I'm sort of vague on it). This, for instance, has much to do with the formation of huge fat balls in sewer lines. Also a factor in ice cream making.
brandyk October 3, 2022
Thank goodness I order from my local farm. Their newsletter said they were committed to keeping butter and cream in stock for all the extra shareholders they have received. For some dishes, only real butter will do!
Caroline S. October 3, 2022
I discovered a general shortening scarcity in my local dairy case when I shopped this past weekend. Lots of choices of butter brands, but virtually no margarine. The prices for the substitute led me to consider spending an extra dollar to buy a pound of low-end butter and think through how I would approach holiday baking this year.
Smaug September 27, 2022
Maybe it's only here, but other oils aren't doing well either. Drought in Europe has created a worldwide shortage of olive oil, and prices of other products such as vegetable oils and Crisco are already through the roof. Haven't checked margarine or coconut oil, but probably just as bad. Fortunately I have 8 lbs. of butter frozen, but that won't last forever.