The increase in meat consumption is a reality all over the world, and Finland is not apart from that information. Even though the country consumed 2 % less meat in 2019 in comparison with the previous year, the numbers are around 80 kg per person, putting Finland in the top 15 of the largest consumers of meat in Europe.
Livestock breeding is one of the most destructive activities in the world. An FAO report shows that the carbon footprint of livestock globally corresponds to the discharge of 7.1 gigatonnes of Co2 per year, representing 14.5 % of all greenhouse gas emissions. The whole chain of livestock production is problematic around the world. But in Finland, gladly I can bring some good news.
Finnish beef production is one of the most low-carbon in the world, and the amount of water required is half the global average. So, one way to reduce global problems is to choose Finnish meat. With a monitoring system of animal control, pesticides or antibiotics are not used preventatively in Finland. Quality is based on legislation on issues like livestock living conditions and welfare, hygienic fodder and production. Sustainable meat production seems like not just an obligation by the legislators, but also to ensure full quality in contrast to products coming from South America and other European countries.
Cattle farming is a much smaller activity in Finland as well and likely linked to families and small producers. Still being a very forested country, agricultural land accounts for just 7 % of the territory, and the livestock density of farms is low. Bosgård is one of the companies closely related to this sustainable way of farming, with 250 hectares of land and a production of 25 tons of meat per year. The organic aspect is even more significant, as cattle live freely in pastures. "When animals graze naturally, they feed on aroma rich plants and eat what nature intended. Their meat is, therefore, more aromatic and somewhat leaner on average." says the farmer and owner of Bosgård, Marcus Walsh.
This aspect of meat is essential in Finland, as people tend to enjoy leaner cuts. The feeding with hay and grains (rape or turnip rape, and food industry by-products like brewers' grain and distillers' dried grains) makes the meat richer in nutrients like protein, iron, and vitamins, with less fat. Thinking about biodiversity in meat consumption in Finland, there's no way not to include hunting in these data.
With vast forests and a population of wild animals, Finland has around 200.000 credited hunters, authorized by the government to, in certain places and months, to hunt. Viltgården works under the principle of sustainable hunting, meaning good hunting practices aimed to ensure sustainable exploitation of the animal stock. As game is a renewable resource, it can't be exploited beyond its rate of renewal. "What matters, then, is how many individuals are hunted, the age, gender, structure of the population. In addition to the sustainability of the game population, sustainable hunting includes legality and ethics. In Finland, hunting is heavily regulated by law, and we always make sure that the game we sell is legally hunted," says Matti Korhonen, CEO of Viltgården.
Hunting is mostly a hobby in Finland, so just a small part of the meat obtained from the game bag ends up in commercial trade, most of it is inside the hunter's freezer. There are no official statistics on marketed game meat. The healthy outcome of the meat consumed is likely as important as the sustainability practices and the environmental friendliness behind companies.
Consumers now care mostly about quality - if it's organic cattle, game, or other animal raised correctly - as we tend to eat less meat. After all, consuming meat regularly became an ordinary fact in our lives, but we must remember that food is not just nourishment. Food is good to think, as Levi-Strauss said.
Photo: Victoria Shes on Unsplash