Sacré Bleu! There's a Butter Shortage in France

No matter what country you live in, it's hard to dive into the season of baking when the grocery store shelves aren't brimming with butter. (Photo: MasterQ/Shutterstock)

It's good to know Americans aren't the only ones who panic and hoard certain foods when there's a shortage. In years past, there have been shortages of canned pumpkin, turkey and eggnog right before the holidays, and then there was the Velveeta disaster — right before the high holiday of nachos and queso, the Super Bowl.

Those shortages ended up being mild; there was more hoarding out of fear than a true shortage. And right now, the French are reacting to a reported butter shortage in much the same way.

France is the world's biggest consumer of butter per person, according to Bloomberg, and the shortage in the grocery aisle has the butter-loving French in a tizzy.

It's not that there isn't any butter. Rather, it's that the butter isn't in the stores; it's leaving the country. According to a spokesperson for the French milk-producers' federation, retailers won't accept any increase in price, so the country's dairy producers are selling to other countries.

Pictures of empty shelves fan the flames

The New York Times reports that the shortages in stores are sporadic, but some shelves are bare. Photos like this one are popping up on social media. People see that some stores are out, and if their grocery has butter, they stock up.

Over the past year, dairy production has gone down in Europe, which is aggravating the situation. That's after a glut in 2015, when butter consumption increased both in France and globally, likely because fats aren't as taboo as they once were. As a result, butter prices have increased dramatically, from $2,800 a ton in April 2016 to $8,000 a ton this past September.

Why not raise prices?

homemade butter
Homemade butter will have to do if store-bought butter can't be found. (Photo: Africa Studios/Shutterstock)

So, if people are hoarding butter, and the grocery stores could increase their inventory by paying more for it and passing the increase along to consumers, why aren't they? Because France sets butter prices once a year when supermarkets and producers negotiate. The price is locked in, and grocers are refusing to pay more than the agreed-upon price, reports BBC News. The price can be renegotiated next February. So yes, this shortage could be over in a matter of months, but not before the holiday season when baking, bechemel and big meals call for beaucoup de beurre.

Looks like it may be time for French cooks to learn how to make their own butter.