Norway Suffers Butter Shortage

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This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.

Audio Transcript:

Marco Werman: It's a time of uncertainty in Norway too, but we're not talking about the economy. Norway is suffering from a butter shortage, and it's threatening to spoil Christmas. Butter is so scarce in the Scandinavian nation right now that it's selling for between $10 and $20 a pound. That's four times the normal price. Norwegians take their holiday baking very seriously, so this butter shortage is especially bad news this time of year. Thor Englund works for an environmental NGO in Oslo. Thor, from what I understand the shortage was caused by a diet craze, which is kind of counter-intuitive. What's going on there right now?

Thor Englund: Well, there are two causes I guess. The first reason, this summer has been the rainiest summer on record here in Norway, and less sunshine has created a feed shortage for cattle, and less feed for Norwegian cows means less milk and less butter produced. So the second reason is the Atkins low carb diet. A lot of Norwegians have replaced their low fat diets with low carb, high fat diets. So sales of high carb food like bread, pasta and things like that are really down, but then sales of fatty products like butter and bacon, they're through the roof, so a butter crisis is pretty much inevitable here.

Werman: As a result of this, butter is now very expensive. Did I read more than $10 for two sticks of butter?

Englund: Butter is hard to come by. I mean I went to my local store this morning and there's no butter. There's plenty of margarine but no butter, so some people are selling butter online.

Werman: Like auction sites, like eBay?

Englund: Yeah.

Werman: I've also heard about butter getting smuggled in from Russia.

Englund: Yeah, there was a car that was stopped on the border from Russia a couple of days ago, and they had stuffed the trunk with 200 pounds of butter.

Werman: So what is this going to actually mean for the Christmas holidays in Norway? I mean, butter is kind of key to the holidays. What will people do?

Englund: So the butter shortage comes at a time here in Norway when a lot of people are baking cookies and cakes for Christmas, and traditionally here in Norway, it's not a proper Christmas celebration unless you have seven different types of cookies and cakes. It's called [Speaking {Norwegian,}] which simply means seven kinds. So unfortunately most of these are made with butter, so many Norwegians will have to go without these treats for Christmas, and I mean, it's a textbook first world problem, but for a lot of people it might legitimately ruin Christmas.

Werman: What are you planning to do Thor? Do you feel like you're going to be missing something?

Englund: I feel like I am going to be missing something, but then there are worse problems in the world. And there are some indications that some stores might get butter in before Christmas.

Werman: People are starting to tweet where the butter locations are. Well Thor, I guess I should wish you a merry Christmas anyway, but best of luck with your butter shortage and make it a leaner, meaner 2012.

Englund: Thank you very much. Unfortunately there isn't much that Americans can do about this. I mean if you have relatives in Norway you can try mailing some butter maybe. I'm not sure if that would actually work, but thank you very much.

Werman: All I want for Christmas is a stick of butter. Thor Englund speaking with us from Oslo. Thank you very much.

Englund: Thank you.