Butter Shortage and the Importance of Maximising Yield

Sugar Versus Fat Debate

For decades, there has been heavy debate as to whether sugar or fat is the primary culprit behind the obesity epidemic. Previously, fat was regarded as the enemy and was associated with various inaccurate myths. I’m sure you’ve heard all of them: fat makes us fat, leads to heart disease, contributes to diabetes and many more.

However, in recent years the negative impact of sugar has been a hot topic in the health industry. This has led to governments worldwide turning to sugar and soda taxes as a means of reducing sugar intake.

This article looks at the importance of maximising yields in butter production, and how pigging (product recovery) systems can help.

Butter Shortage Looming

Low fat “healthy” spreads are now out and good old-fashioned butter is back on the table. But, there’s a massive problem – Europe is in the throes of a butter shortage.butter production and pigging

The price of butter has skyrocketed over the past year, with the EU (in particular France) taking the biggest hit, as much as 90%-100% compared to the previous year. Wholesale UK butter prices have also soared significantly year on year to record highs of £4,225/tonne, according to analysts Mintec.

Similarly, in the latest Global Dairy Trade (GDT)  report, the price of butter increased considerably by 17% in quarter two to $5,768 USD/MT 2. This is the highest price achieved so far for butter since GDT’s formulation in 2008.

While dairy price volatility isn’t unheard of, however the recent increases have resulted in record high prices for butter, cream and milk. What’s more, the surges in prices for these commodity products are having knock-on effects on other items too. For instance, butter is vital in pastries such as croissants, pain au chocolat and good old fashioned pasties, in fact it makes up almost a quarter of the ingredients. Therefore, they’re seeing price increases as well.

What’s Causing the Price Hike?

Butter shortages (and inflated butter prices) pose a risk of downtime of production lines. So, why exactly are we on the brink of a butter crisis?

One of the biggest factors contributing to the butter shortage is a result of the oversupply crisis, which saw milk prices plummet to unsustainable levels. The crisis, which began in 2015 was triggered by a number of factors that contributed to milk supply booming. This included the abolition of the EU milk quota regime, a slowdown in demand for milk in China and Russia opting to ban EU food imports.

Because of these factors, milk output grew extremely quickly. Combined with a favourable season, this led to a stockpile of skim milk powder (SMP) that rapidly built, crashing commodity prices throughout the world. This resulted in a significant reduction in profitability on milk which meant many UK and European farmers were plunged into debt and out of business.

To offset the oversupply, the EU intervention program was introduced which saw a substantial volume of SMP removed off the market to stabilise prices. In the latter part of 2016, a further EU reactive subsidy package was introduced to encourage farmers to scale back on production. This saw farmers being offered financial incentives to reduce their milk production.

The Current Situation

Currently milk supplies have begun to stabilise, however production is still lower than anticipated and failing to meet demand. But, why are we exactly facing a butter shortage? The answer is surprisingly simple. Butter is essentially the fat of the milk; therefore, not enough milk means not enough butter.

At the same time, butter is considered a relatively lower priority production option among farmers who instead prioritise cheese and cream production. For instance, from April 2016 to April 2017 UK butter production witnessed a 9.2% decline in output. This is a much greater decline than that of cheese and liquid dairy production.butter pigging technology

Transition from Low Fat Spreads to Butter

Although supply factors have contributed to the inflated butter prices we are experiencing, there are also demand factors which have played an instrumental role. In fact, there’s been a steady demand for butter and dairy-based spreads in recent years. This is due to popular TV cooking shows, which promote the use of butter and cream. A change in the health message surrounding saturated fat is also believed to be behind the increasing demand.

As consumers seek to limit and reduce their intake of trans fat, this has resulted in the decline of processed foods such as margarine and spread in favour of more natural alternatives. In this case, butter is that alternative.

Pigging Systems for Butter and Dairy Products

With the cost of commodities such as butter and cheese rising, recovering as much product during the manufacturing process instead of wasting it becomes ever more valuable. After all, what dairy processor or producer wants to throw perfectly usable high-priced product down the drain? Especially as there are also high costs incurred for the treatment and disposal of dairy waste. So, it’s important to maximise yields and reduce as much waste as possible.

That’s where pigging (more accurately described as ‘product recovery’) comes in. The primary function of a pigging system for butter and other dairy products is to recover valuable product that would otherwise be sent to waste. Specially designed for hygienic (sanitary) applications, pigging systems utilize a flexible projectile called a ‘pig’ to push out the residual product (it’s usually pushed by either water, air, nitrogen, carbon dioxide and other products). The product, in this case butter, can then continue to be processed, used, packaged or sold. This limits waste significantly and also provides an opportunity to gain cost savings.

High Product Recovery RatesHPS process pig

HPS’s pigs have a robust, highly efficient and unique design, which means they can achieve extremely high recovery rates of up to 99.5%, which is a benchmark for the process pigging industry. Because they maximise product yield and reduce waste along with boosting productivity and efficiency, pigging systems deliver a high return on investment (and often pay for themselves within a year of installation).

As well as recovering valuable product, a pigging process after each product transfer will also clean the lines. Therefore, it provides a better foundation for cleanliness following each product run, which means that often a similar product being transferred will not require a CIP process. This is because the pig itself removes nearly all residual product.

Commonly, in many hygienic applications a CIP process is used to flush out the pipework of product, which then sent down to the drain. The process uses a substantial amount of water, chemicals and energy. However, the pigging process can significantly reduce water consumption as the necessity for a lengthy flush out is reduced.

Find Out More

HPS pigging solutions recover up to 99.5% of product from the line – it’s not a myth its a fact. You can see this in action on our pigging system demonstration videos page.

Alternatively, for further information about increasing product yields and reducing waste through pigging and product recovery solutions, please contact HPS.