The Suitcase Lady


November 7, 2017, 8:22 pm

French cuisine and butter are synonymous. So it is understandable why a butter (beurre) shortage in France has sent shock waves through the populace. One commentator wryly noted, “It’s a huge problem because croissants are basically just a vehicle for butter and French people are basically just vehicles for croissants.”

The current situation, where supermarket shelves frequently are bereft of butter, has resulted from a confluence of events. For the past year, low milk production due to bad weather has meant low yields for fodder crops, the cows’ dinners. At the same time, the global demand for butter has increased significantly, in part due to the diet police absolving butter of some of its sins and proclaiming sugar the new number one food enemy. As a result, global prices for butter have almost tripled since 2016.

Added to the supply and demand issue is a uniquely French bureaucratic complication. The price for butter between producers and suppliers is set by law each February. The price set last February is lower than the current market price. So the supermarkets are demanding that the producers honor the lower price. They aren’t, and are free to send their butter to other countries’ tables, which is exactly what they are doing.

The butter shortages are felt most acutely in Brittany, the butter eating epicenter of France. This is the home of crepes, butter salted caramels and butter cakes. But the populace there has managed to infuse a bit of humor into the butter debacle. Some artists  have made a satirical film about dealers in a mobile home churning out butter for sale on the black market.

One of the results of my reading about the French butter crisis was learning that the French lead the world in yearly butter consumption at 18 pounds per capita. A quick calculation of my yearly butter intake has convinced me that I am eligible for honorary French citizenship. And my Christmas baking hasn’t even started.

2 Comments for this entry

  • julilly kohler

    Only you cld eat that much and it not show.
    My newest love: goat butter from Carr Valley.
    Not to be missed!

  • eve robillard

    Mary–Ha! I, too, might qualify. (When I was a kid our grandmother insisted on being driven to MI to purchase “oleomargerine.” ) e