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Environment and Food

The Danish Government provides the framework for a responsible stewardship of natural resources and food safety, consumers' choice and healthy eating habits. On this page you can read more about Danish policies and expertise in this area.

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Danish food, agriculture and fisheries policy

The Danish Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries provides the framework for development and operation of the Danish food producing sector. The goal is to ensure a strong and competitive sector, characterised by quality and sustainability.

A part of this task is assisting the industry in developing better production methods, improving the taste of the products and the health for the consumer whilst at the same time not forgetting the environment or animal welfare.

The Danish government works to:

  • support research in sustainable and high-technology agricultural production
  • support initiatives for research and innovation in the agricultural sector
  • support development in rural districts
  • support the establishment and operation of organic farming
  • negotiate, administer and disburse the EU agricultural subsidies
  • regulate and inspect in order to, among other things, increase food safety and environmental protection

 A healthy and sustainable industry
180,000 people in Denmark are employed in the agricultural sector and related industries. The Danish agricultural sector must meet a large number of demands; from restrictions on the use of pesticides to protect the environment and ensure the safety of foodstuffs, to the correct use of fertilisers for environmental reasons, or development of new types of products - taking into consideration taste, health, shelf life and climate change, as well as ethical treatment of animals.

High food safety standards

The Danish policy on food safety is designed to maintain high standards to the benefit of the consumers. This is carried out by the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration that ensures the high quality and safety standards of food, advises on healthy eating habits and protects the consumers against misleading marketing of food.

 Use of veterinary medicine and antibiotics
Food safety is closely related to the way we treat our production, both that of animals and crops. The Danish veterinary control is known to be of high quality and Danish legislation is designed to ensure that distribution of veterinary medicines takes place through authorized pharmacies. Treatment of food producing animals may only take place, if the use of the drug is directed against en existing diagnosed infection and aims at improving animal health.

Specific regulations apply to prescription of antibiotics, and the veterinary sector in Denmark uses relatively low amounts of antibiotics as compared to many other EU countries. Although the use of antibiotics for animals increased through the 2000s the trend has now reversed. Some of the tools, which have been successfully used in Denmark, are surveillance, guidelines and restrictions on the use of antimicrobials in general and on the critically important antibiotics in particular.

The work of The Veterinary and Food Administration is done through campaigns and laboratory projects and involves the entire chain of production from farm to fork. Campaigns are directed towards areas where there are suspicion or knowledge of problems or high risks. Most of the laboratory projects are centrally coordinated and have monitoring or control as purposes but screening projects are also a possibility, when an upcoming issue has to be defined. Control activities include; control of medicine, animal health, animal welfare, as well as control of food manufacturers, food businesses and restaurants.

 Inspection at shops and restaurant
Shops and restaurants in Denmark are responsible for complying with food regulations. The inspectors from the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration control how well the enterprises comply with rules and regulations.

All shops, restaurants and other enterprises selling food and beverages to the public are inspected on a regular basis, typically one to three times a year.

At the conclusion of an inspection in food establishments the inspector prints an inspection report, in which the overall result of the inspection is summarized in one of four more or less smiling smiley faces. The inspection reports are to be posted in all supermarkets, at groceries, bakeries, butchers, greengrocers, in kiosks, restaurants, pizzerias, canteens, hospital kitchens and elderly homes.

 Health and nutrition
The Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries is also a key facilitator on nutritious recommendations. The vision is that fewer people should get ill from bad food or unhealthy eating habits.  The work includes campaigns, the control of food supplements and enriched food.

Surveillance and guidelines
In order to preserve the ability to treat serious diseases with antibiotics, focus must be lent on misuse and overuse of antibiotics. Some of the tools, which have been successfully used in Denmark, are surveillance, guidelines and restrictions on the use of antimicrobials in general and on the critically important antibiotics in particular.

Organic food

Denmark has long traditions in organic production of food. In 1987 Denmark was the first country in the world to pass a law on organic farming and to introduce government inspection of the organic production chain. The tight inspection scheme ensures organic food quality at farms, in companies and in supermarkets.

Organic Denmark key facts: 

  • 6% of Danish farmland is organically grown.
  • 8% of food products sold in Denmark are organic .
  • Danish exports of organic food production have seen a growth of 450 %r since 2006 to 2013.
  • 10% of the diary sector is farmed organic and is thereby the largest organic sector in Denmark

The Danish organic controls cover the whole production chain, from organic cultivation in the fields and cow-sheds to the organic products displayed in the shops. With the implementation of the organic law in 1987 the Danish state took charge of the organic control system, which is carried out by the authorities under the Ministry of Environment and Food. The inspections in addition take place in accordance with the organic regulations of the EU.

In Denmark there is a high level of consumer confidence attached to the Danish organic logo, which was established in 1990. This is largely due to the efficient control system instituted by the Danish government on organic products.

Green transition
The Danish government is aiming at a green transition of Danish agriculture and considers organic production a cornerstone in this conversion. In particular the Danish government aims to achieve a doubling of the organically farmed area in Denmark by 2020. . On the demand side Danish government has decided that public institutions are to be front-runners in consuming organic produce aiming to increase the organic share to 60% by 2020.

Information about organic production in Denmark can be accessed here.

Danish agricultural history

Danish agricultural background
The agricultural land in Denmark was in the 16th century owned by the Danish King and the nobility. Tenant farmers cultivated the land and the community jointly participated in the farming. The civil society was excluded the right to own agricultural property. Danish agriculture was dominated by crop and steer production.

During a great part of the 18th century the tenant farmers were forced to remain in their place of birth, and were treated as cheap labour by the landowners.

The beginning of Danish agricultural success
In the beginning of 19th century it became obvious that Danish agriculture needed to boost productivity and laws were imposed granting tenant farmers the right to own property. Half of the tenant farmers now bought farming lots and became owners of their own land.

In the following years an increasing number of tenant farmers were able to buy their own land. Success was further enhanced by increasing grain prices and better possibilities to market their crops, due to the industrialisation progress in the partner countries. Denmark has been successful in turning its small size into an advantage. Exactly because of the size, progress in areas such as infrastructure and electricity was eased. This was of great importance in the transition from manual work to more intensive machinery work.

United to create better products
Around 1880 the Danish agricultural export changed from being grain-focused to manufactured products such as butter, bacon and eggs while small farms specialised in livestock. As one of the first countries in the world, the majority of agricultural production, export and supply of raw materials changed shape and became organised as co-operatives where many small farmers worked together.

This way the farmers shared the production costs and divided the profits. Several large Danish companies, such as Arla Foods and Danish Crown, were founded as co-operatives.

Agriculture today
Agriculture takes up 2/3 of Denmark’s total area, where approximately 40.000 farms operate. Today, more than half of them are employed within crop production while a quarter of the farms have specialised within the production of cattle, pig and other livestock.

Individual farmers own more than 90% of the agriculture production, whereas the rest is owned by companies, local government and foundations.

Since 1990, agricultural production has grown 18% while at the same time the sector has seen a significant reduction in the sector’s environmental impact. Today Danish agriculture produces food for approx. 15 million people equivalent to three times the entire population of Denmark.

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Content responsible
Marie Louise Flach de Neergaard
Minister Counsellor
Phone: +86-10-8532 9987