Everything is Better with Butter

Butter and a butter knife

Butter is back! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Attention butter-lovers, butter is back!  As people continue to cut back on fats and oils, they are making real butter their fat or oil of choice.  After years of choosing butter-alternatives like margarine in an effort to lower fat and cholesterol intake, consumers are now cutting the amount rather than the type they are eating and choosing the rich simplicity of the real thing.  Even though the industry forecast predicts a drop in the sale of oils and fats over the coming years, the sale of butter in grocery stores has actually gone up by 2% this year.  This is great news for the dairy industry.

Here in Arizona, this and other changes in consumer spending and appetite helped push the dairy industry ahead of the pack, making it the highest grossing agricultural commodity in 2010.  On its own, this is newsworthy and cause for celebration, but if you consider where this industry was only a year or two ago, it is almost unbelievable.

The global economic crisis that began in 2008 was devastating for the dairy industry.   Dairy producers here in Arizona felt the full force of the crisis on two fronts.  First, as with most industries, the global economy took its toll.  Lending sources dried up, demand decreased, and currency values were erratic.  These kinds of conditions can impact the price and cost of almost everything.   Second, the crisis eliminated demand and dairy farmers across the state and country watched profitable markets dry-up and disappear.  This left the dairy industry here in Arizona in dire straits.

It wasn’t just the economic crisis that made 2008 and 2009 so painful.  In order to understand the significance of the Arizona dairy industry’s recovery, one must understand the other factors involved.  The U.S. dairy industry underwent some very significant changes in the first decade of the new century.  Across the board, production was transitioning from many small milk cow operations to far fewer, much larger, operations.  Over the period from 2001 to 2009, the number of milk cow operations decreased by 33% while the overall milk production increased by 15%.  Decreasing producers while increasing production means advances in technology and efficiency which only comes from increased investment.

Despite all this, the Arizona dairy industry is facing another challenging year with low milk prices and high feed costs for their cows. But our dairy families in this state are a resilient group and are focused on dealing with these latest market challenges.

For some great ideas on why butter makes everything better, check out the recipes on Fill Your Plate.  Remember, buying locally not only supports the local farms and dairy operations that provide Arizona with food security, it also saves you money.

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