Japan is almost out of butter

Japan is experiencing a severe butter shortage.
Where is the butter? – cry Japanese consumers who have been hunting everywhere for the dairy product. The drastic reduction in raw milk production, complicated by hikes in the price of grain as well as changes in the global patterns of dairy product consumption, have caused a serious butter shortage in Japan. Empty shelves in the dairy section of grocery stores across the country have not seen a shipment of butter for days, and stores are posting signs apologizing for the shortage.

An empty shelf at a grocery store with a sign explaining that the management does not know when the next shipment of butter will come.



  1. Holy crap. I use butter a LOT (bread, cookies, etc) and thought this was only a problem at my local store. They stopped stocking anything other than single use butter packets…

    I had better go out and raid their dwindling stock before it`s all gone.

  2. @#3 posted by Porori

    Yesssssss, you do that, horde as much butter as you can! My purchase of butter futures and the, milky yellow, spreading of ‘butter shortage’ messages across the interbutts will ensure my little futures will triple in price before I sell them off in a week! oil was so last month, this month it’s all about butter futures!!! bwhahahahaahahah.

  3. they still use butter in Japan,mostly for specialty baked goods.

    Did you know there is a pejorative in Japanese vulgar speech for dairy eating foreigners. “Buttakussai”
    Literally “Butter- Stinkers”. It pertains to certain products of perspirations (nonenes?) which are acrid to the Japanese nose. You will never hear it among polite society.

  4. #4 Yeah but that doesn’t stop them from eating dairy (ask someone who had to share a tiny, tiny, poorly-ventilated stateroom for an entire week with my lactose-intolerant sister who decided now was the time to drink chocolate milk and eat Brie straight out of the package, no crackers or ANYTHING).

  5. Lactose is milk sugar. Butter is mostly fat.

    It’s the lowfat stuff like skim milk that is total misery for the lactose intolerant.

  6. This would be a knock-on effect due to China’s increasing demand for it.
    Here in Australia we’ve had number of butter shortages (prices went right up), supposedly because the Chinese will buy whatever is available.
    Worryingly, it seems it’ll happen to us to. At least our dairy farmers are laughing all the way to the bank.

  7. Huh. I thought lactose intolerance was well, painful.

    Seems like wanting butter, but not skim milk poses a pretty big problem though.

  8. Hmmm…

    Well, I guess this should make that “guns or butter” question much easier to resolve now.

  9. look up dairy subsidies by gov. the u.s has milloins of #’s of butter in warehouses. i guess there is some law says they can’t sell it outside the u.s. go figure.

  10. Japan has been slowly pushing more and more products with dairy into the market since the 1960’s and most people here regularly eat things with some degree of dairy in them (milky caffe latte coffee drinks, cheesey macmeat burgers, and various types of chocolate being major ones) so I doubt the lactose problem is as bad as it used to be.

    Fun fact: that drink Calpis we all like to snicker at for it’s name is a lactose based soft drink introduced into the Japanese market by a dairy company to woo more people into drinking milk.

  11. 1) This butter shortage has been sucking for a few weeks now. My wife and I actually did stock up. It’s no fun, and a lot of people are upset. The Japanese diet incorporates a lot of Western food now (not just specialty baked goods–the butter on the shelves isn’t going to baking, I don’t think).

    2) A great summertime drink: Vodka, Calpis (sold as Calpico in the US–check your Asian grocer), soda water, ice. Mix to taste, but I like about 2oz of vodka, 1oz of Calpis, and about 9oz of soda. Refreshing and alcoholic.

  12. Surely there’s some aspiring Dr. Seuss protege out there ready to take inspiration from this to write The Butter Battle Book, Part II …

    Quick, everyone load up their Kick-A-Poo Kids!

  13. Food Rationing Confronts Breadbasket of the World

    “Many parts of America, long considered the breadbasket of the world, are now confronting a once unthinkable phenomenon: food rationing. Major retailers in New York, in areas of New England, and on the West Coast are limiting purchases of flour, rice, and cooking oil as demand outstrips supply. There are also anecdotal reports that some consumers are hoarding grain stocks.”

    Call for global action to tackle food crisis

    “The head of the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) today called for global action to tackle the “silent tsunami” of the world food crisis.

    Josette Sheeran, executive director of the WFP, said international action is needed to respond in the same way nations reacted to the boxing day tsunami in 2004. If nothing is done, 100 million people face being plunged into hunger, Sheeran warned.”

  14. Pfft. Lack of rice in California is due to people going crazy and buying up the stock. The idea that Costco somehow has unlimited amounts of rice or that when they run out it is an epidemic is silly.

    California unfortunately grows mostly short and medium grain rice… so sushi and risotto are plentiful, but people who want basmati are screwed.

    I don’t even think it is rice season. I mean, I don’t think they start harvesting rice for another few months.

  15. It doesn’t necessarily matter if there is a fire in the theater. The important thing is to not get crushed at the exits. Unless of course there really is a fire, and there is, in that case you have a choice, get crushed or burn alive. Pick one.

    Knowledge is power. Is there enough food for everyone? What will the climate along the west coast eventually be? Will we be able to grow wheat? What are the chances that a category 4 hurricane will hit New York?

    Those questions seem esoteric today but not too long ago simpler questions like: Is there a housing bubble? Should I sell my Bear Sterns stock? also seemed “silly”. People who listened to the oh-so-reasonable advice of Cramer lost everything.

    There’s a storm coming. You can prepare or not, it’s your choice.

  16. Not only rice, but wheat and corn are also in short supply right now in the US. Bread prices are rising as bakeries face supply problems. Welcome to the New American Century…

  17. I don’t think my Uncle Harry got much butter while he was building the Burma railroad back there in 1944, he was only about 94 pounds when he got home, he never complained much, I bet he thought we ate pretty well ha ha!

  18. err.. I just got back from the grocery store here in Kita-Senju (Northwest Tokyo), and there was no shortage of butter. I specifically went out to check this story… Maybe only the big stores? We still have a tub in our fridge, so I’m not worried yet…

  19. I’d gladly give up butter to live in a country with elephant-shaped urinal-cleaning robots.

  20. I didn’t even notice.

    But then again, I eat vegan in the home, so you know…I wouldn’t have.

  21. Is that sign proclaiming that there is no butter with boxes of sticks of butter sitting all around it? Or is that margarine? And if the shortage is so severe isn’t margarine acceptable?

  22. Margarine is high in trans fats, and tastes funny. It also has different cooking properties which can make it annoying to work with.

  23. I’d just like to drop in and say that in general Japanese milk tastes bad. I did some research after returning from a year in Japan and a lot of people say it’s because it is pasteurized at a higher temperature to give the milk really long shelf life, or because I was buying milk that was reconstituted or both. *yuck*

  24. @Enochrewt – those are all margarines.

    @robofunk – I agree, Japanese milk tastes nasty but it’s because I grew up on skim milk and Japanese milks are usually much higher in milkfat and the stuff that isn’t is processed in all sorts of absurd ways to be low calorie. They also sell a lot of wierd soy blends and whatnot.

    And yeah, WTF with Japanese milk shelf life??? I had a quart sitting in my fridge for a month I had forgotten about and when I went to clean it out it still had a regular milk consistency. x_x

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