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What can we learn from the Danish Model?

Lockdown has been a struggle at the best of times. However if there’s one good thing that’s come out of the COVID-19 crisis, it’s that people have been finding novel ways to reconnect with the world around them.

One of the areas of life this has affected concerns how we relate to and choose our food, with more people spending time cooking, growing their own produce and reducing their food waste.

As lockdown begins to ease, our habits will have to adapt again. However, we can learn from these experiences and take forward practices that help us to live more sustainably.


Today, our food system is virtually faceless, making it difficult for us to gain a deeper understanding about our relationship with food and the world we are a part of. However, this is slowly changing in pockets throughout Europe where organic foods are increasingly taking larger shares of the market, and nowhere is this more present than in Denmark where over half of the population buy organic food every week.

Success in the Danish organic sector has derived from a range of factors including high quality produce, producer innovation and a growing consumer awareness of the interconnection between food choices, individual health and environmental health. Nevertheless, all of these factors are underpinned by strong government action.

Over the last three decades, the Danish government has subsidised the switch from conventional to organic farming, supported research in this sector and set its own standards for organic labels that producers take pride in attaining. For example, the Danish red ´Ø´ is widely understood by the public to signify the food they are purchasing meets high organic standards. Moreover, the use of state-employed inspectors ensures that expectations for organic certifications are standardised across all organisations, and can therefore be relied upon.


The government have even created Bronze, Silver and Gold Organic Food Labels that eateries can achieve depending on how much of their menu is organic. The public can then use an app to find the highest rankers, and therefore base their choices for meals out on their moral values, rather than what’s the most convenient.

This has been coupled with the creation of a new food culture called New Nordic Cuisine, which is based on the principles of natural and sustainable food that upholds animal welfare. These principles align well with organic values, and have therefore popularised more sustainable food choices throughout society, from your cosy café to your Michelin star restaurant.

What’s more is that strong partnerships have been created between stakeholders through the Danish Food Cluster. This network of public-private partnerships between producers, companies, authorities and universities fosters collaboration and innovation. It is also a place where parties share a common goal and can hold each other to account, resulting in a strong sense of trust in organic produce among the public.

Success all comes down to trust; the belief that what you are buying is truly better for the planet, because it is truly organic.


So what can we learn from the Danish model?

We learn that more sustainable food choices are not only made by individuals, but can also be promoted by the actions we take as a society. We can choose organic foods, support sustainable food cultures and encourage our politicians to support organic farming.

If we collaborate as we strive for more sustainable ways of living, we will achieve it through the most inclusive and efficient means.



Cover picture: Organic food continues to take an increasing share of the market in Denmark
(Kaad-Hansen, 2020)


Food Nation. 2019. Organic: A vision and a mindset in the Danish food cluster. [no place]: [no publisher]. Available from:


Kaad-Hansen, L. Facts and Figures about Danish Organics. [Online]. [Accessed 17 September 2020]. Available from:


[no name]. ‘The organic way’: the Danish model of organic food. [Online]. [Accessed 17 September 2020]. Available from:


Pekala, A. 2019. Market analysis of organic foods in the Nordic and Baltic countries. Copenhagen: Nordic Council of Ministers. Available from: