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Why Denmark’s supermarkets are not going to run out of goods

Denmark experienced a rush of panic-buying on Friday and over the weekend, but people now seem calmer following government moved to reassure them. Is there any point at all in stocking up on some goods?

Why Denmark's supermarkets are not going to run out of goods
People shopping at a supermarket in Copenhagen. Photo. Martin Sylvest/Ritzau Scanpix
According to Rasmus Vejbæk-Zerr, who owns the franchise for the Meny supermarket in the Copenhagen suburb of Hellerup, the only item for which there is currently a shortage is alcohol gel hand sanitiser. 
“Supplies in Denmark are now being concentrated on the hospitals, so now we don't have any of this alcohol gel to sell to our senior clients,” he told The Local. “There is no supermarket that has any 80 percent hand sanitiser to sell: it's sold out everywhere in the country. 
In the initial stages of the panic buying, the supermarket struggled to maintain stocks of some other products, but supplies have since returned for normal. 
“For a short while we had a problem with yeast and toilet paper, which are not really emergency things, but the supplies of those products are now back.”  
On the weekend, Vejbæk-Zerr decided that if anyone bought two bottles of hand sanitiser at his supermarket, the second would be priced at 1,000 Danish kroner, and the sign he posted up in his supermarket went viral, with more than two million views on his Facebook page.  
“We do this with some other products, just not as drastically, where you get one at a reduced price and the second at the normal prices,” he told The Local.  “So I decided to make it really dramatic, with a glint in my eye, to make people understand. People needed to stop and think, 'maybe I can make do with just one'.” 
The 1000 DK price marker was put up over the weekend. Photo: Rasmus Vejbæk-Zerr 
Since the first spate of panic buying, the Danish government has worked hard to reassure citizens that there is no risk to basic supplies. 
Food Minister Mogens Jensen told a press conference on Tuesday that the government was working hard to ensure that cross-border trade was continuing as normal. “Goods are flowing freely across borders, and as long as we continue to trade as we usually do, there will be no trouble providing supplies,” he said. 
At the press conference, Peter Høgsted, chief executive of the Coop supermarket chain appealed to customers to shop normally. 
All of Coop's 3,000 supermarkets are fully stocked, as are its warehouses, while food producers both in Denmark and internationally continue to produce food, he said. 
Peter Høgsted, chief executive of Coop, assured Danes that his supermarket's supplies were not threatened. Photo: Scanpix 
According to Louise Aggerstrøm, private economist at Danske Bank, supermarkets are taking on more people to ensure they will not face staff shortages if employees become sick or go into quarantine. 
“I know that the supermarkets are hiring massively because of this. They are basically hiring as many people as they can. Those are the only people that are picking up workers now.” 

Vejbæk-Zerr said that companies in the food logistics change were keeping some employees at home, so they could be brought in if those working become sick. 
“A lot of companies are already working in two-team shifts, so that if someone gets sick, another team can take over,” he said. 
“The companies are very well aware that the food industry had to go on like normal, so my supermarket is stocked up like never before. There's no shortage of food, and there's no sign that there will be a shortage of food.” 

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Why does Denmark produce so much cheese?

From Danbo to Danablu and the Danish feta that can't be called feta - Denmark produces over four hundred thousand tonnes of cheese each year and exports it across the world. So why is Danish cheese so popular, and what are the country's best-loved cheeses?

Why does Denmark produce so much cheese?

Cheese-making is a serious business in Denmark. In 2021, the country produced a total of 454,500 tonnes of cheese and Danish cheese has won awards at the World Championship Cheese Contest.

The tradition goes back to the Viking era and today, the country’s climate and pastoral land make it ideal for producing cheese (ost). About three quarters of the country’s milk production is turned into cheese, butter and milk powder.

Not only is cheese popular in Denmark, where it’s eaten with pretty much any meal and snack (can you even have a bolle [bread roll] without ost?), it is also eaten around the world in countries including South Korea, New Zealand, Canada, Nigeria and even France.

In 2021, Denmark exported a total of 401,845 tonnes of cheese, making it one of the top cheese exporters in the world. The biggest importer of Danish cheese was Germany (94,419 tonnes), followed by Sweden (52.924 tonnes) and the UK (42,905 tonnes). 18,097 tonnes of cheese was exported to Japan and 5,657 to the United States.

What types of cheese does Denmark make?

The different types of cheese in Denmark can be hard to distinguish and there are a lot of them. You can quite easily end up with a fridge full of strong smells that you weren’t expecting. 

Danbo, often called ‘Denmark’s national cheese’, is the most produced and consumed cheese in Denmark. It has Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status, meaning it can only be made in Denmark to specific Danish standards.

Danbo is sold under various trade and brand names, including LillebrorGamle Ole, and Riberhus. Lillebror (meaning Little brother) is very mild and often sold in childrens’ packs, whereas Gamle Ole (meaning Old Ole) is matured for a long time, which means it’s strong and smelly. Caraway seeds are sometimes added to this cheese.

Esrom also has Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status and is made from pasteurised cow’s milk. It is semi-soft with small holes and is pretty pungent.

Havarti is one of the most famous Danish cheeses. It’s a bit like a cheddar in that the taste can be mild, but the longer the cheese is stored, the stronger it gets. 

Danablu is a Danish Blue soft blue cheese, similar to Roquefort. It has a strong aroma and a sharp and a little salty taste. Danablu is often used in America to make blue cheese dressing for salads and blue cheese dip for chicken wings. 

A dairy farm in Klemensker, Bornholm has twice been named world champion in cheese making. Photo: Morten Juhl/Ritzau Scanpix

Mycella is a veined blue cheese made from pasteurised cow’s milk on the island of Bornholm and is similar to Gorgonzola. It goes well in a salad or cheese platter or even crumbled on top of an open sandwich.

Blå kornblomst, meaning ‘blue cornflower’, is a creamy blue cheese with a mild, slightly salty taste. The cheese is white to yellowish with blue tinges and is made from pasteurised cow’s milk on North Jutland.

Danish rygeost, meaning ‘smoked cheese’ is mild, light and smokey. It originates from 19th century Funen, with some believing it dates back to the Viking Age. 

A dish of potato, monkfish and smoked cheese.

A dish of potato, monkfish and smoked cheese. Photo: Thomas Lekfeldt/Ritzau Scanpix

Vesterhavsost, meaning ‘North Sea Cheese’, is a semi-hard cheese with a slightly salty taste as it is ripened in the sea air of North Jutland. It’s referred to as the Danish version of Gouda. 

Fyrmester or Fyrtårnsost, meaning ‘The Lighthouse Keeper’ or ‘Lighthouse Cheese’, is an extra-mature version of the vesterhavsost, aged for at least 52 weeks.

Samsø cheese is similar to Emmentale and made on the island of Samsø in Kattegat.

Hvid ost, meaning ‘white cheese’, is Denmark’s equivalent to feta cheese but uses cow’s milk rather than the goat or sheep’s milk used in Greek feta cheese. It’s milder and doesn’t crumble like Greek feta cheese because it’s made differently, using something called ultrafiltration.

There have been debates as to whether this actually makes it feta cheese. Earlier this year, Denmark lost a case at the European Court of Justice over its farmers exporting cheese outside the EU labelled feta, something only Greece can do. The cheese is sometimes labelled in supermarkets as ‘salad cubes’ (salat-tern).

There is, perhaps, one thing that unites almost all Danish cheeses: they are sliced using the characteristic ostehøvl (cheese slicer), the quintessential Danish kitchen utensil.

There are two types of ostehøvl: a wire-based type and a version that looks a bit like a trowel, with a raised edge and a gap in the middle for the sliced cheese to pass through.

Cheese vocab:

Blød ost: Soft cheese

Halvfast ost: Semi-soft cheese 

Fast ost: Semi-hard cheese 

Hård ost: Hard cheese

Ekstra hård ost: Extra hard cheese

Frisk ost: Fresh cheese

Ostehøvl: cheese slicer