The cost-of-living crisis is depressingly, agonisingly chipping away at every single thing we hold dear. From cutting back on car journeys to forgoing meals out, it’s hard to escape the pinch – even in kitchen staples like butter.
The price of Lurpak, one of the UK’s best-selling brands, has risen repeatedly thanks to inflation and the need to pay farmers a fair price for the cream that produces it. Manufacturer Arla Foods has warned the price will continue to rise in the future. It’s not just limited to Lurpak: the price of butters and spreads rose 4.9 percent on average between December 2021 and February 2022, according to consumer watchdog Which?.
“The increase in butter is ridiculous, and really just indicative of general rise of food costs, as opposed to something special in its own way,” says Olivia Potts, author of the upcoming book Butter: A Celebration.
Which is why some people have been seeking out alternatives – including, on TikTok, making their own butter. Footage of double cream being poured into jam jars, protein shakers and stand mixers are becoming inescapable on TikTok’s For You Page. Videos tagged #ButterTok have just over 280 million views, with videos transforming cream into artisanal butter and how-tos on how to churn your own in your home kitchen.
Some of the videos are showing how to make butter out of expediency, but for 33-year-old Emily May, who posts as @sassbakes on the app, producing one of the most-watched videos for making your own butter was an accident. “On Friday, when I’d got back from doing my shopping, I thought: ‘Shit, I haven’t done a TikTok this week – what can I do?’” she says. A baker by trade, she often makes her own butter to accompany items like crumpets.
She decided to quickly make butter for the video, “thinking nobody would look at the video ever, and it would get under 300 views,” she says. “It just went mental.” The video, which shows her pouring double cream into a protein shaker and shaking the device vigorously, has been seen more than 1.4 million times. Her video is more low-tech and less glossy than another alternative, by @filthy_little_snacks, which has been seen nearly two million times.
“Butter is ridiculously easy to make,” says Potts. “It’s just what happens when you split cream – and you split cream by agitating it.” Potts says the protein shake, while a typically 2022 method, has principles that date back way further. “The invention of butter supposedly came about by milk or cream being transported on livestock, and being jostled until the butter split out from the buttermilk.”
“A lot of the people that seemed to be commenting and interacting with it are mums that do the food shop, who are trying to find ways of saving money,” says May. “They’re the ones saying ‘I’m going to try that – and try that with my kids’.”
Among those who was inspired to pick up her own protein shaker was Katie Tradie, who posts as @shit_mums_club on the app. Tradie, a 28-year-old mother from Swansea, saw May’s video and was enthralled. “I had no idea how butter was made,” Tradie admits. At first, she was sceptical that the video was going to be a typical how-to online, where it ended up being fake – or missing out large parts of the process.
But when she saw May churning cream into butter, she was astounded. “It blew my mind,” Tradie says. “I was like: ‘Oh my god’. You know how butter has gone up a lot, I thought I have to try this for myself. If it makes nice butter, then I’m doing this.” Tradie imagined that you needed a factory to make butter, rather than just a protein shaker or stand mixer.
May’s video spread far and wide, with a number of people producing videos in response to her demonstration of how to make butter. And because everything is content, Tradie followed in May’s footsteps and filmed her own butter production. That video ended up getting more than 140,000 views.
Tradie is emblematic of the audience that has discovered butter: 94 percent of those who watch videos tagged with #butter are under the age of 35, according to TikTok’s own internal data. The trend has been “extremely popular” over the last eight days, and is expected to continue to trend for the next week, TikTok says. “A lot of people like it because it’ll save the money in the long run, and it’s also something that people just didn’t know,” says May. “Most people didn’t know that butter came from cream.”
May herself was never taught at school how to make butter, instead coming across it by accident one day while overwhipping cream. “The younger generation just expect things to be in a shop, to pick it up and eat it,” May says. “They don’t know where it comes from or how it gets to that stage.”
That lack of knowledge is something Tradie is determined won’t continue through to her children. “It’s a fun thing to do with the kids to teach them how things are made,” she says. “And it’s good for us to know.” That said, Tradie’s child wasn’t so keen on the taste, though making butter in this way is no different to any other method, according to experts like Potts.
Of course, alongside the self-education, there’s a more practical element involved. With inflation nearing double-digits, and the price of store cupboard staples including butter rising every week, finding a way to reduce budgets and draw down outgoings is vital for many. “Times are getting tough,” says Tradie, “and a lot of us are going down the route of trying to make our own food to just save a bit of money right now, aren’t we?”