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The Cost of Cream Circa February 2012

For Christmas, I treated myself to a nice Cuisinart Ice Cream maker. I also bought a couple of high recommended ice cream recipe books and thought I would make some homemade ice cream as a treat after some important football game that was being played to day.

So, I went to my local market and just about had a heart attack when I saw that heavy cream was $6.99 a quart! Seven bucks for a quart of cream. So, I ventured over to a couple of other markets and the prices were not much better.

I really was dumbfounded since I bought a quart of cream during the holidays for a wonderful rice pudding I make and it was about $3.50 for the quart.

Meanwhile, every store is all but giving whole, 2% and skim milk away. A week ago, our local Safeway had a gallon of milk for $1.49 if you bought two, but a single half gallon was $1.59. Today, I could get a gallon of milk just about anywhere in Phoenix metro for under $2.50.

While I completely understand that cream and milk are not the same thing and the processing and distribution are different, I am bowled over by the near doubling of the cost of cream in less than two months and the near bargain basement prices for milk.

Is anyone else seeing the same thing in their neck of the woods? Did I miss some story about the great heavy cream shortage of 2012?

Sadly, I am shelving the ice cream maker and the books until cream is a bit more affordable, which I hope will be soon.

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  1. Oh yes, here too. I chalk it up to a couple of factors...one being that cream was inevitably in higher demand during the holidays (all that holiday cookery and whatnot) and that the price of milk is up as well. In fact I am surprised by how cheap milk is in your neck of the woods, I'm in Houston and can't find a gallon for less than around 3.80-4.00 dollars...

    Perhaps heavy cream is a less-than-usually sought after item, more of a niche market (for lack of a better term)? I mean, with how little people seem to do any of their own cooking/recipe making these days...

    1 Reply
    1. re: emmekin

      Thanks, em.

      Yeah, you can get milk here for a song. Even the convenience marts are selling it for $3.00 a gallon.

      I hope the spike on cream ends soon as I really want to break in the new ice cream maker.

    2. I think a quarter of HC in my market (Boston area) runs about $2.20, but I could be wrong. Then again, it's the ultra-pasteurized crap (UP cream is good for fat content, but not flavor or texture - they have to pump it with gums to make up for what the abuse done to it); the better HC is only available by the pint, and is dearer.

      6 Replies
      1. re: Karl S

        I can buy a quart here in the Detroit area for $4.99, occasionally on sale for maybe a buck cheaper.

        Cream might be a holiday loss leader kind of sale item...perhaps that's why the price is comparatively high now.

        1. re: Karl S

          Update: My memory failed me. It's $3.49 now.

          1. re: Karl S

            WTH? Is that on sale? GEEZ, you'd think it would be more expensive--not LESS--in a major metro area such as yours, as compared to central CT. HMMMPH!

            How much is gas up your way, then?! KIDDING...don't even get me started. ;P

            1. re: kattyeyes

              That's the normal price for a quart of the Market Basket store brand. Of the ultra-P kind (meaning with the extra gums they add to all ultra-P heavy or whipping cream these days since people complained that such cream won't whip no more...)

              Gas is running about $3.60/gal.

              1. re: Karl S

                Just filled up the tank. $3.79 and only that "cheap" b/c I paid cash. DISLIKE!

                But back to CREAM, not sure why its price would be so radically different from Boston to central CT...or why it was almost twice the price in Phoenix. Would be very interested to learn why if anyone knows for sure. And the $4.29 I quoted is also the Stop & Shop store brand--nothing fancy/organic or otherwise brand-named. Hmm. Very curious indeed.

            2. re: Karl S

              i've gotten hooked on shaw's farm dairy (in dracut.) they sell fresh, organic, ultra-delicious heavy cream (their cows are right across the street), in GLASS bottles for about $5 a quart. i can't even use supermarket cream anymore, lol.

              $7 for supermarket is crap is criminal. are they union cows or something?

          2. As always, the secret is Costco. Half gallons of 40% Heavy Cream in my area are about $7. UP only in the regular Costco stores, but you are lucky because there is a Costco Business Center in your area (if you are indeed in the Phoenix area), which has non-UP as well.


            1 Reply
            1. re: acgold7

              It is $4.99 a half gallon at the Costco here in Sparks, NV. It is very good quality and lasts long enough in the refrigerator for me to use it up. Compared to the supermarkets that are selling lighter cream at $3+ a pint, it is a real bargain.

            2. The bad droughts of 2011 (plus the bad corn crops of 2010/2011) caused a lot of cattle farmers/milk producers to lower their cattle stock as they didn't have the money or resources for feed.

              High demand, less "resources"...expect meat and dairy to go up quite a bit.

              1. I've never bought heavy cream by the quart, but I'll take a look next time I hit the supermarket.

                Meantime, fellow Cuisinart ice cream maker, might I suggest you try making gelato instead? I make gelato ALL THE TIME...whole milk, touch of cream, eggs, sweetened condensed milk. Don't shelve your Cuisinart--deliciousness is still within your reach! I think my favorite so far is stracciatella.

                1. OK, Seth. I remembered to check the cost per quart of cream on my last trip to Stop & Shop. It's just $4.29 a quart here. Not sure why so much more expensive out your way.

                  So, have you tried making gelato?

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: kattyeyes

                    Not yet, katty. My four-person team at work became a three-person team and guess who got to pick up the slack? :o(

                    I am working on it though. I promise! :o)

                    1. re: Seth Chadwick

                      Oh, boy--the "reward" for doing your job well, I am sure. It's happened to me a time or two, so I completely understand and sympathize.

                      HOWEVER...you really must reward yourself with something creamy, delicious and homemade after hours. It's the least you can do for yourself. ;)

                  2. Do you belong to a Warehouse club? They are all about large quantity and low price. Right up your alley for ice cream making.

                    1. A quart's just under a litre, isn't it? It's around £1.90 a litre here or just over $3.

                      My point for posting is that my favourite ice cream is very simple; half milk, half cream and a handful or two of sugar to taste.

                      Would make it slightly cheaper for you?

                      1. I adjust my recipes so that i use a combo of half and half, cream, and milk if necessary. Half and half is cheaper. Two quarts of half and half is often cheaper than one quart of cream.

                        1. In my neck of the woods (Canada) milk is considered a staple so the grocery stores don't mark it up because if it's cheap, it gets a lot of people into the store. Cream on the other hand isn't a necessity so it's marked up on top of the higher wholesale price. Explains the price disparity a little bit.

                          1. I bought a Cuisinart ice cream maker too and my experience is that it would take a lot of time to go through a quart of cream. I've made variations of the premium vanilla bean ice cream in the recipe section of the manual, but have found that I have to half the recipes in order to get the ice cream to set up. Full batches overwhelm the freezer. Then you have to factor in the time to refreeze the freezer cannister part.

                            So you could technically get away with buying a half pint if you wanted to test that thing out. It doesn't make the cream any cheaper, but it might make the sticker shock a little less intense.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: mtoo

                              how much is designer ice cream these days anyway?

                            2. Over here on the west coast of Canada, heavy cream without additives is $5 for a pint. FWIW, my favorite frozen dessert is a carton of yogurt and some chopped fruit, frozen in the ice cream maker.