5 Food Systems Lessons the U.S. Can Learn From Denmark

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  1. 1.
    Cutting Food Waste
    Last year, the Danish government estimated that the country had slashed its food waste by 25 percent over five years. Much of that drop can be traced to efforts by the organization Stop Spild Af Mad (Stop Wasting Food), which started in 2008. Danish supermarkets, even the largest chains, now deliberately discount and market food that is about to expire. They also monitor which types of food are being wasted the most—and order less of it.
  2. 2.
    Dedicating Resources to Organic Agriculture
    The Danish government not only touts the importance of organic agriculture—it’s putting its money where its mouth is. Last February, the government announced a plan to double the amount of organic farmland by 2020 (over 2007 figures)—earmarking approximately $60 million to facilitate the effort and increase organic production. The country’s agriculture minister also committed to boosting the amount of organic food served in public institutions.
  3. 3.
    Paying Food Workers Better
    The fast food industry in Denmark pays its workers no less than $20 an hour—a minimum dictated not by law, but by an agreement between Denmark’s 3F union, the nation’s largest, and the Danish employers group Horesta, which includes Burger King, McDonald’s, Starbucks, and other restaurant and hotel companies.
  4. 4.
    Prioritizing Safe Food
    Denmark has taken measures to monitor, and then protect against, the spread of salmonella in chicken houses—unlike in the U.S., where salmonella in chicken is perfectly legal and about 25 percent of raw chicken pieces are contaminated. While we average more than 1.2 million illnesses a year from this pathogen, Denmark now goes years between reported illnesses from salmonella-contaminated chicken.
  5. 5.
    Treatment of Animals Humanely
    Pregnant and nursing sows in Denmark—where the pork industry is just as concentrated as it is in the U.S.—are not kept in gestation crates. They’re kept in larger stalls with other females. Moreover, farmers don’t use antibiotics for growth promotion in Denmark.