Worldwide Butter Shortage?

The first sentence of this article is:

The soaring popularity of a fat-rich fad diet has depleted stocks of butter in Norway creating a looming Christmas culinary crisis.

Except it’s not a fad diet. It’s not going to go away, I predict. I eat lots of butter because I discovered it made my brain work better than a similar amount of pork fat. Pork fat made me sleep better. Desire for better sleep and a better-working brain are not desires that come and go. I haven’t even mentioned the conventional benefits (e.g., weight loss). The article continues:

Norwegians have eaten up the country’s entire stockpile of butter, partly as the result of a “low-carb” diet sweeping the Nordic nation which emphasizes a higher intake of fats.

“Sales all of a sudden just soared, 20 percent in October then 30 percent in November,” said Lars Galtung, the head of communications at TINE, the country’s biggest farmer-owned cooperative. . . .

Butter is now selling on Norway’s top auction website, with a 250-gram piece starting at around $13 (8.28 pounds), roughly four times its normal price.

At the Beijing store closest to me that sells butter, I seem to buy more butter than all other customers combined. Chairman Mao noticed the value of pork fat. What happens when the Chinese realize the value of butter?

Thanks to Dave Lull.

22 Responses to “Worldwide Butter Shortage?”

  1. Q Says:

    Fwiw, I restarted sld a month or so ago with butter. Appetite suppression is very very good. Butter is available a lot of places – I can get it at he work cafeteria for free – I get three pats and eat them with nose plugged in the bathroom. Taste is gone in 2 minutes. Little or no stomach nausea.

    Have not been weighing myself but hunger is down a lot, which for me is the main reason for doing sld. Attention and time management.

    My other experience is that butter gives me an energy high similar to coffee, but more at the 2-3 tbsp level. Not as pleasant as coffee, a little weird feeling.

  2. JohnF Says:

    I think you’re making too big a deal about Norway’s butter shortage. The market for dairy there is very messed up with virtually a central planner by virtue of a state granted monopoly and very, very high tariffs*. Essentially it’s Norwegian law that the vast majority of food has to produced inside the country and almost everything imported is taxed to the point where it’s economically unfeasable to import.

    Due to their crappy system they’re left without any mechanisms to adapt decently quickly to any increased demand for things like butter.

    - They can’t import butter to make up the shortage, as it’s simply too expensive and there’s no regular channels to do so.

    - The farmers making the butter have no incentive at all to increase production, since there’s only one buyer who’s already decided how much to buy in advance.

    - The monopolist dairy processor has no idea what’s going on in stores as the price is pre-negociated. And most likely do not pay any attention what so ever to what the grocers say, if they say anything.

    Absent these issues, the Norwegians could very simply either have ramped up their internal butter production or imported more to make up the shortage. It’s a failure of planning, rather than production not being able to deal with a massively increased butter demand.

    The bump in demand itself is somewhat artificial since it’s largely fueled by people worrying they won’t have any butter for christmas, and hence stockpiling, rather than people actually consuming more butter on average. I don’t know how much the average consumtion has gone up, but I would guess it’s just a few percentage points and the rest is a consequence of people reacting to media coverage and poor flexibility in the supply system.

    * In Sweden it’s becoming common for organized crime to smuggle *groceries* to Norway, rather than drugs, due to the dysfunction and high prices of the Norwegian food market.

  3. Ed M. Says:

    There is no shortage of butter, there is a shortage of free trade.

    See Angus at Kids Prefer Cheese:

    http://mungowitzend.blogspot.com/2011/12/mars-needs-women.html

    –Ed

  4. Tom Says:

    This has been a concern of mine. With the growing paleo community praising grass-fed butter, how long before demand overwhelms supply?

  5. Kim Øyhus Says:

    Our farmers here in Norway could actually have delivered the butter needed, but were prohibited from doing so through regulations with quotas.
    So in this particular case, it was a failure of state socialism, not capitalism.

    I agree that this is probably going to continue for a long time, so I better learn making my own butter. Currently I am eating some specially imported French butter.

    One of the really bad things about this, is that the shops now sells large amount of margarine, which is really detrimental to health, since it is made of chemically modified plant fats, something we are not built to handle well.

  6. Jahed Says:

    Poor bastards, my heart goes out to them, I can’t imagine being without Kerrygold!

  7. dearieme Says:

    “…eat them with nose plugged in the bathroom. Taste is gone in 2 minutes”: one could easily mistake that for some sort of obsessional food puritanism. Why not just enjoy some butter on your potatoes, on your veggies, on your steak, on your toast?

  8. Lisa Wainer Says:

    On my way to work today, I stopped to buy some butter from a local supermarket (in the UK) – and they had run out! I hope this is just a coincidence … :)

  9. charles Says:

    Seth.. Have you ever experimented with Cream instead of butter?

    Easy to drink a lot of it.

  10. Seth Roberts Says:

    Have you ever experimented with Cream instead of butter? Easy to drink a lot of it.

    No, but I switched from adding half and half to my tea to adding cream. I agree, it’s worth trying. There is a practical problems: In Beijing, where I am now, I cannot get enough cream. I have to go to up-scale supermarkets to get butter. Even those supermarkets don’t have much cream. There is also a theoretical problem: It’s unclear why butter and cream should have different results.

  11. Joe E O Says:

    Wow, I can’t believe how BUTTER (and only butter) controls my insane hunger. I have been trying to lose weight via IF [intermittent fasting] – which has work great in the past but have been having a tough time with hunger….3 or 4 tablespoons of butter seems to do the trick.

  12. Seth Roberts Says:

    Joe E O, that’s very interesting. You write:

    Wow, I can’t believe how BUTTER (and only butter) controls my insane hunger. I

    What else have you tried?

  13. Joe E O Says:

    What else have you tried?

    In addition to adding butter to my diet I have tried the following:

    1) Elimination of Wheat – very effective. Starting in 2008 – I have mostly eliminated wheat from my diet (not 100% compliant). This has lead to an 80 lbs weight loss. I have been “stalled” for about a 18 months because of can’t seem to manage my hunger. See Dr William Davis’s blog “Wheat Belly” for details.

    2) Vitamin D supplementation. Somewhat effective. I started the Vitamin D supplementation before I eliminated wheat. I don’t recall the effect on my hunger – but made a significant increase in my quality of life. (I am sure I was significantly Vitamin D deficient)

    2) Higher Protein/Lower carb/Lower Fat i.e “Body Builder diet” (think veggies and lots of egg whites/chicken breast/pork loin ) Not effective

    3) Fiber supplementation (Oat Bran, acacia fiber) – Not Effective

    3) Coconut oil – Not particularly effective by itself – seems to work when used with butter.

    4) BCAA supplementation – Effective (Expensive and inconvenient)

  14. Seth Roberts Says:

    Thanks, Joe, that’s very helpful information.

    Could I ask some more questions? What was your starting weight (before giving up wheat)? How tall are you?

    When you say you’ve been “stalled for 18 months”, you mean you want to lose more weight but you haven’t because you get too hungry? At what weight are you stalled?

    I understand that eliminating (most) wheat from your diet allowed you to lose 80 pounds. I gather that at some point you started to eat much more butter. When was that? How much butter do you eat? What effect has the butter had on your weight? I understand it has reduced your hunger. But has it also reduced your weight?

  15. Maria Says:

    Seth, I find your blog very interesting. I am sure you’ve answered this question somewhere, but I couldn’t find it. Is there anything specific about the type of butter you eat? I mean, is it raw, pastured-raised, is it sourced locally, is it organic or is it similar to standard (American) pasteurized grocery store butter?

  16. Joe E O Says:

    Ouch….you want me to admit how morbidly obese I was? I am 5′ 10″ and at my heaviest I was 320 lbs (man that hurts). I am currently at or about 240. I need to lose 40 more pounds. I generally do not track my weight on a daily basis.

    My weight loss has happened in spurts. I lose twenty or so pounds over 6 or 8 weeks period and then more or less stall for a period of time. When I am losing weight I am in the “zone” – meaning that I am:
    a) managing my hunger (as being hungry all the time is stressful)
    b) exercising vigorously (circuit training with heavy weights)
    c) I am fasting (which I have found it the easiest way to eat less calories)

    I actually misspoke – I have been stalled for less than 18 month – more like a year at this point. The last time I lost weight quickly was in Sept/Oct of 2011 when I went for 269 to 250 in about 6 weeks…l have slowly inched down from 250 to 240 during 2011 (after really working out like a dog over the summer). As I indicated above during 2011 I have been trying different method to control my hunger (the high protein/low carb/low fat diet, fiber supplementation, coconut oil, bcaas) – none of them really worked. I have started using butter about 2 or 3 weeks ago and it seems to be doing the trick as it really kills my hunger and makes fasting “do-able”

    Peace,

    Joe E O

  17. Joe E O Says:

    because sharing is caring…In addition to the above details….

    I have more or less eliminated all corn/vegetable oils and consume a minimal amount of olive oil. This started when I eliminated wheat.

    I have been supplementing with fish oil 3 to 6 grams daily for several years now (See Dr William Davis’s track you plaque program)

    I have tried SLD using extra light olive oil – didn’t notice a difference in appetite.

    Over 2011, I have tended to avoid lots of raw cabbage (which I used to consume copious amounts) as it is a goitrogen – haven’t notice difference in weight.

    As far a hunger goes – after wheat the substance that most stimulates my hunger is Whey Protein powder……

  18. Seth Roberts Says:

    Is there anything specific about the type of butter you eat? I mean, is it raw, pastured-raised, is it sourced locally, is it organic or is it similar to standard (American) pasteurized grocery store butter?

    I’ve tried all sorts of butter, including Amish butter ($11/pound). I have found no difference between the expensive organic pasture-raised butter and the more common Land O’Lakes butter. I’ve never done a careful comparison, I’ve just never noticed a difference when I change butters.

  19. Eric Says:

    Hey Seth,

    My wife has made either hong shao rou (pork belly cooked in soy sauce) or lu rou fan (pork belly chopped super fine w/ mushrooms and a ton of spice, then boiled for hours) 2x per week for a few weeks now. I’ve eaten more fatty pork in the past few weeks than I’ve ever eaten in my life, but I haven’t noticed any extremely dramatic sleep or brain changes. That said, I don’t track either of these things in any rigorous way at all, although I might start doing so.

    Do you think 2x per week is enough to notice something?

  20. Jason Says:

    Joe – Congrats on the weight loss! I’ve been vegan for 10+ years, and a couple of years ago I started to crave raw cabbage. I ate copious amounts of vingered quick pickled mexican cole slaw to satisfy those cravings, until I read about ice chewing, and started taking an iron supplement. After that, no more desire to eat huge quantities of raw cabbage. I’m sure it was the same mechanism that drives some people to chew on ice: anemia induced cravings for crunchy things (theorized to resemble chewing on cartilage) – If your cabbage eating was the result of cravings rather than the result of a conscious dietary choice, or if you still have similar cravings, consider an iron supplement. My bloodwork indicated I was at the low end but within the “normal” range of iron, but once I started the supplement, the daily desire to eat raw cabbage completely vanished.

  21. Seth Roberts Says:

    My wife has made either hong shao rou (pork belly cooked in soy sauce) or lu rou fan (pork belly chopped super fine w/ mushrooms and a ton of spice, then boiled for hours) 2x per week for a few weeks now. I’ve eaten more fatty pork in the past few weeks than I’ve ever eaten in my life, but I haven’t noticed any extremely dramatic sleep or brain changes. That said, I don’t track either of these things in any rigorous way at all, although I might start doing so.

    Do you think 2x per week is enough to notice something?

    No. The effect of pork fat on my sleep lasted just one night. In other words, my sleep Tuesday night depended on how much pork fat I ate on Tuesday, but not Monday. And it takes a considerable amount of pork fat (80 g? 100 g?) to easily notice a difference.

  22. Maria Says:

    Interesting. With all the talk these days about different nutritional properties of different substances, it’s very interesting that you’re getting those good results with standard butter. Definitely a relief to my pocketbook! I find our blog very interesting and inspiring. I’m trying to get into the habit of doing some self experimentation myself.