But­ter short­age leaves France in a churn


PARIS— It is hard to imag­ine a coun­try where but­ter is taken more se­ri­ously than it is in France.

It is a sta­ple of sauces and bak­ing alike. With­out but­ter, or beurre in French, the crois­sant would be a leaden mass of flour, and the jam­bon-beurre sand­wich miss­ing a cer­tain some­thing. So an empty but­ter shelf in France is like a dry baguette: deeply dis­con­cert­ing.

But with a slump in Euro­pean dairy pro­duc­tion and a surge in world de­mand, that is ex­actly what some French are en­coun­ter­ing in stores.

In truth, the short­ages, though no­tice­able na­tion­wide, have been spo­radic, and France gives no ap­pear­ance of grind­ing to a halt. But in a coun­try that by some mea­sures con­sumes more but­ter per head than any­place else, that is a fine point.

And so French news out­lets are giv­ing ad­vice on how to re­place but­ter or churn your own.

On­line, shop­pers shared pic­tures of empty shelves, and jok­ers ran fake ad­ver­tise­ments of­fer­ing small amounts of but­ter for lu­di­crous prices. In­evitably, a #Beur­reGate hash­tag popped up.

Last year, France con­sumed about 18 pounds of but­ter per capita, ac­cord­ing to statis­tics from a com­ing re­port by the In­ter­na­tional Dairy Fed­er­a­tion. That is over twice the Euro­pean Union av­er­age, and more than three times the fig­ure in the U.S.

It is un­clear how long the short­ages will linger. The gov­ern­ment ar­gues that pro­duc­tion tra­di­tion­ally picks up in the win­ter, but the in­dus­try coun­ters that de­mand also in­creases to­ward Christ­mas.

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