What is the ‘fat manure’ plaguing Danish coasts this summer?

Several Danish coasts have been plagued by a brown algae this summer called 'fedtemøg', directly translated as 'fat manure', which rots on the edge of water and causes beaches to smell.

What is the 'fat manure' plaguing Danish coasts this summer?
Algae is a sign of oxygen depletion in the water. Photo: Henning Bagger/Ritzau Scanpix

The brown algae has been seen on the coasts of Fyn in particular, but according to the Danish Fishing Association, it has also been reported in Aarhus, Bornholm and Vejle Fjord.

Stiig Markager, professor at the Department of Ecoscience at Aarhus University explained to TV2 Fyn that solid surfaces such as stones and ropes are covered by a “furry coat” of algae.

“At some point, they become loose and turn into a lot of brown slime that lies on the water and eventually drifts onto the beach and rots and smells”, he said.

The reason there is so much fedtemøg around, could be because of a lot of rain in February, followed by a very sunny Spring.

“Many nutrients came out of the water from the streams, just as we entered Spring with lot of hours of sunshine, so the algae started to grow,” Markager explained.

He stressed that it is not toxic, but signs of an unbalanced marine environment with too many nutrients. The solution he said is to reduce agricultural emissions.

Since the end of June, Greve Municipality has cleaned the beach twice a week to get rid of the greasy manure.

“It is effective when you remove it. But there is a lot of fat manure, brown algae and seaweed in Køge Bay. So if the wind changes direction, the beach is covered again after two hours,” the chairman of the Climate, Technology and Environment Committee in Greve Municipality, Hans-Jørgen Kirstein, told newswire Ritzau.

After it is all collected by a machine called “Fedtegreven”, environmental samples have to be taken and then it is driven away – in Greve’s case to a local farmer who can use it for manure.

“It’s fine, it comes away from the beach, but the smell is a nuisance for those who live there, and problems with seaweed flies”, Hans-Jørgen Kirstein said.

He would like alternative solutions for controlling the fedtemøg to be looked at. Greve Municipality removes about 9000 tons of the fat manure every year on a stretch of almost six kilometres.

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Denmark to ban caged egg production by 2035

Denmark is to follow a rule banning new cage egg farms from next year with a total ban on the farming method by 2035.

Denmark to ban caged egg production by 2035

In a statement, the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries said that is would ban new cage egg farms from next year.

A full ban will come into place following a 12-year transitional period to “ensure proper conversion of production”, the ministry said.

“We wanted to phase out cage eggs as soon as possible. But we have a genuine responsibility to producers of cage eggs,” the agriculture minister, Rasmus Prehn, told news wire Ritzau.

The 12-year transition will avoid instances of expropriation by giving farmers time to fund and make the switch, according to Prehn.

Supermarket Lidl chose to remove cage eggs from its shelves as long ago as 2015, according to broadcaster DR. Other supermarket chains including Coop and Dansk Supermarked have since followed that decision, meaning most supermarkets in Denmark no longer stock eggs from hens in cages.

The EU banned battery cages in 2012, but hens can still be kept in larger cages, termed “enriched” or “furnished” cages, for the production of eggs, in line with the EU directive that banned battery production.

Production of cage eggs in Denmark has fallen from 61 percent of total egg production in 2010 to 13 percent in 2021, according to DR.

That is an underestimate in comparison to the ministry press release, which states that seven producers of cage eggs in Denmark were responsible for 17 percent of Denmark’s total egg production last year.

While most supermarkets have stopped selling cage eggs, they are still often used by restaurants, catering businesses, food factories and pharmaceutical companies, the ministry states.

“Cage hens live – as the name suggests – their whole lives in small cages with limited space to flap their wings. Denmark is in many ways a forefront country within agriculture, and this must also be the case when it comes to animal welfare,” Prehn said in the press statement.