Thanks to a low-carb, high-fat fad diet craze, there’s a butter crisis in Norway, just in time for the holiday goodie season. The Norway butter shortage has led to a thriving black butter market, astronomical butter bids on auction sites and an outbreak of butter smuggling across the border. Many Norwegians think the butter crisis is absurd, and the issue has been fertile ground for comedians around the world.
In its heyday, the Atkins Diet and its many imitators had millions of Americans choosing a double bacon cheeseburger fried in butter over whole grains and vegetables. There’s plenty of proof that low-carb diets are effective in moderation because they avoid white breads, pastas and rice that have the nutrients processed right out of them. But even the most die-hard Atkins advocates are laying off the butter.
Behind the butter crisis
Now it’s the Norwegians’ turn to embrace the low-carb, high-fat fad diet trend, and they are doing it with gusto. Their enthusiasm has generated unprecedented demand that is being blamed for the Norway butter shortage at a time when the country’s butter supply is already constrained. Bad summer weather seriously dented Norway’s dairy production. Plus, Norway is not a member of the European Union and has strict tariffs on butter imports, which discourages its butter-rich neighbors from easing the crisis.
Skyrocketing butter prices
The butter shortfall amounts to between 500 and 1,000 tons and is expected to last into January. The crisis is alarming Norwegians who hoping to continue a Christmas baking tradition that involves at least seven different kinds of biscuits. Butter prices are skyrocketing. In October, butter prices rose 20 percent, followed by another 30 percent increase in November. Butter has sold on eBay for as much as $13 for 250 grams—about 8.8 ounces.
Comedy and crime
There has been plenty of opportunities for humor with the situation. A Norwegian politician placed this ad on an online auction:
“Real Norwegian butter. Almost unused! Suits any occasion, whether you want to bake or have guests around for porridge. This is a unique product with special qualities. You won’t find it in stores. Be the envy of your friends. Get the smoothest Christmas accessory on your street!”
One respondent was willing to pay 3,000 kroner—about $500. Another offered to pay for the butter in installments. Others have resorted to crime. Last week a Russian man was caught trying to smuggle 90 kilos of butter over the Swedish border into Norway. Customs officials confiscated his precious contraband.
Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert also couldn’t resist grabbing hold of the issue.
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Look on the bright side
The low-carb, high-fat Atkins diet reached its peak of popularity in the early 2000s. Most health-conscious people understand now that any diet based on a single type of nutrient isn’t healthy. And butter, although its 100 percent natural, still packs a wallop when it comes to cholesterol, hypertension and unhealthy weight gain. So perhaps a butter shortage isn’t such a bad thing for Norway, after all.