BUSINESS

Canada Faces Butter Shortage In Time For Holidays, Thanks To Shift From Margarine: Group

11/24/2015 08:42 EST | Updated 11/25/2015 04:59 EST

A Maritime dairy group is warning Canadians they could face a butter shortage just in time for the holidays.

Dairy Farmers of Nova Scotia says ramped-up production nationwide may not be enough to prevent a shortage in the coming months, which it says is due to a shift away from margarine.

"There's a move in the health sector — and I'm not a nutritionist — away from trans fats and more towards sources of fat," the group’s general manager, Brian Cameron, told CBC Nova Scotia, adding that demand for butter has been growing at 2 or 3 per cent per year in Canada.

So far, there is little evidence that a butter shortage is affecting prices. StatsCan’s latest data shows butter prices up just 0.6 per cent over the past year, below the overall rate of inflation, at 1 per cent, and well below the rise in overall food prices, which were up 4.1 per cent in October, compared to a year earlier.

And dairy farmers are evidently reacting. StatsCan data shows butter production in Canada was up 17.7 per cent this August, compared to a year earlier.

"It's a catchup game," Cameron said. "Our boards and other boards in Canada are sending strong signals to producers to have their cows produce more milk."

But even as Canadians consumer more butter, they’re drinking considerably less milk. This creates a problem for the industry, because skim milk is a byproduct of butter.

"We're trying to put in place other things to find a home, if you will, for all the skim milk that's left over when making butter and cream," Cameron told CBC.

He said if it comes to having to dump milk, the industry will do it in an environmentally friendly way.

The shift away from margarine is just one way that Canadians’ food consumption is changing as healthier options become more popular.

Canadians are eating 31 per cent less pork and 19 per cent less beef today than they were in 1999, recent data showed, in part because consumers are shifting away from fattier foods and red meats.

Changing demographics and an aging population also contributed to this trend.

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