OPINION: I have always been greedy with butter. By: LYN WEBSTER
I remember my sister being disgusted with me as a child. I had so much butter on my toast Tracy thought it was slices of cheese. I recall she was much slimmer than me.
With butter prices rocketing upwards in the supermarket I have been forced to revise my policy of not buying butter over $4 for a 500 gram block.
I can make butter using milk and cream from the vat, but the time, effort and cost of raw materials and a preference for the bought stuff makes me realise just how delicious and high quality the dairy food on New Zealand’s supermarket shelves really is.
We are spoiled for choice.
The medical field’s recent revelation that natural butter is indeed good for us, as opposed to the past mantra of heart attack and big bottom causer has suddenly turned what was widely a commodity product, with price to match, into an expensive luxury.
Now I understand why people are complaining when an affordable staple in the weekly grocery shopping list now takes a huge chunk out of the budget.
Luckily butter can be spread a bit thinner.
There is also a method of making butter extender which involves adding oil and hot water and processing in a food processor, which is only worth doing when the price of butter is higher than the price of cooking oil.
You end up with a more spreadable product that goes much, much further and is well worth trying if high butter prices are killing you.
After that terrible time when the milk price dropped below $4 a kilogram of milk solids, I am still scarred by the devastating effect two years of rock bottom milk prices had on my small dairy farming business.
So when I see butter at $5 in the supermarket I can’t help but feel a little bit relieved, but then peeved because I am buying it too.
I must say that during that low period when it looked like all the hard work I had done milking cows over the past 17 years was for nothing, I got the distinct impression that the New Zealand public had little or no sympathy for me.
Many people were quick to say the New Zealand dairy industry had got it wrong and our reliance on commodity products such as whole milk powder (WMP) and butter was a huge mistake.
Instead we should have tried to make and sell more ‘value added products’ – our investment was in the wrong products mix.
As it’s turned out just a year or so down the track, WMP prices bounced back really well and the butter price speaks for itself. So I hope the people with a negative and critical view are now not bemoaning high butter prices in their supermarkets today.
Because in a global world where the hungry population is out of control and resources are scarce, some commodities are going to become luxury products with the price tag to match.
While some people are calling for diets to change, so far there are no nutritious, cost effective alternatives. As a food producer in New Zealand, I can’t help but feel maybe I am working in the right field after all.
Lyn Webster is a Northland dairy farmer.