Danish meat giant releases range of plant-based products

Danish Crown, Europe’s biggest producer of pork and Denmark’s largest beef processor, has released a new range of plant-based, vegetarian products.

A file photo of Danish Crown's factory near Horsens. The company is to enter the plant-based meat alternative market in 2022.
A file photo of Danish Crown's factory near Horsens. The company is to enter the plant-based meat alternative market in 2022. Photo: Henning Bagger/Ritzau Scanpix

The new products are to compete for market share with traditional meat – the company’s primary source of revenue.

But the company has now plans to cut down on its meat production, Danish broadcaster DR writes.

“Of course we are a butcher’s, but we are also a food producer, so when consumer demands change, we change with them. If there’s a market opportunity, we’ll be there too,” CEO Jais Valeur said to DR.

The company expects to sell its vegetarian products for “a large figure in the tens of millions (of Danish kroner)” in 2022, with that rising in the future.

There are no plans to reduce its meat production and sales currently, but that could change depending on market forces and the success of the plant line, Valeur told the broadcaster.

“If plant-based food grows as explosively as some people think it will, then it will replace something else and it will be the best product that wins,” he said.

“If just under 10 percent of Danes eat vegetarian, it could well become 10 percent of our business, which could well become worth billions [of kroner, ed.] in turnover if we are successful with it,” he also said.

An expert praised Danish Crown for taking a step towards plant-based food, while a charity said the company was missing a chance to cut emissions and take a genuine step by cutting meat production.

“It’s hugely important that the existing food industry also gets on board (with switiching to more plant-based food). That will push development forward much faster than if it was new start-ups alone driving it,” Jørgen E. Olesen, a climate researcher from Aarhus University and former member of the UN’s climate panel, said to DR.

Criticism – and some qualified praise – for the company came from environmental NGO Greenpeace.

“The problem is that they do not take the next logical step and say that they will cut back on their meat production. It is a genuine and good initiative but I think it’s incredibly problematic that they are not seizing this as an opportunity to really transform their business,” the charity’s campaign leader Kristine Clement told DR.

Valeur told the broadcaster that “it’s not the case that we want to have many pigs at all costs, but as we see the market at the moment, we believe production of pork can be maintained at around the level it is today while also having room for plant-based production.”

READ ALSO: Danish government to serve vegetarian food only twice a week

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Denmark loses ‘feta war’ with EU

Denmark has lost a case at the European Court of Justice over its farmers exporting cheese outside the EU labelled feta, a protected designation of origin for Greek cheese.

Denmark loses 'feta war' with EU

Feta has been a protected designation at European level since 2002 and in 2005 survived a challenge from Denmark and Germany. But Denmark continued to let its producers label their products feta when they exported outside the 27-nation bloc.

That prompted the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, to turn, with Greek support, to the court.

“By failing to stop the use of the designation ‘feta’ for cheese intended for export to third countries, Denmark has failed to fulfil its obligations under EU law,” the court said in its ruling.

It said Denmark should have stopped use of the designation and ordered it to comply quickly.

If Denmark doesn’t, the Commission can turn to the court again to seek financial damages. The court said, nevertheless, that Denmark had cooperated sincerely over the case.

In addition to being manufactured in Greece, cheese can only be labelled “feta” if it has been made in keeping with the traditional recipe and method. 

Greece says feta is part of its heritage because it has been making the cheese, made with both sheep and goat milk, for 6,000 years. Around 120,000 tonnes of feta are produced in Greece each year.