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Food with a pedigree is the new black

Information about the origin of a food can act as a stamp of quality if the food has a certain character. Development of more provenance Danish foods will now be given an extra push.

[Translate to English:] Mikrobryg er et eksempel på lokaltproducerede varer med succes. Foto: Colourbox

Would you like to know where your food comes from? Would you prefer to buy a product that has a distinct history? There is a possibility that new Danish provenance products are on the way. In the future, it will be easier for farmers, municipalities, retailers and others to develop and market new food products with a distinct origin or history.

Researchers from Aarhus University are heading a new project in which municipalities and the food sector will collaborate on creating a new atlas of the possibilities for producing food with a distinct character. The project has been granted 13 m DKK from Innovation Fund Denmark.

Denmark already has examples of food with a geographical pedigree or a certain origin. Just think about North Sea cheese (“Vesterhavsost”), microbreweries and Stauning whiskey, to name but a few. There is a gold mine of new possibilities for producing and marketing Danish food with geographic provenance just waiting to be mined – and it is this rich ore of ideas that the new project will map. 

Atlas of possibilities

The aim is to make a detailed map of the physical and sociocultural factors that can lay the foundation for development of new specialties, i.e. food with a characteristic quality that is connected to the place where it was produced, with a special, local history, or made using specific animal breed or plant varieties. The efforts will result in an ‘atlas of possibilities’.

The project will also develop business models for product types and initiate cooperation between municipalities, businesses and farmers with the aim of developing specific products and action plans.

Food with a pedigree has several upsides

There can be many reasons for being interested in the origin or history of a food. The origin or history can have impact on the taste, climate footprint or ethical reflections. A food produced in a certain area or in a certain way can have a special quality.

In some cases, the origin of the food can be a guarantee of certain ethical parameters, such as good working conditions. The traceability of a food can also be important in cases of health problems with a product, such as contamination.

- With this project we would like to address some of the problems that the Danish food sector faces. The food and agricultural sector is losing employment opportunities and agriculture has serious financial problems, says the leader of the project Senior Researcher Chris Kjeldsen from the Department of Agroecology at Aarhus University.

Agriculture is also challenged by EU’s requirements with regard to the aquatic environment and biodiversity. These factors emphasise the need for geographical differentiation of agricultural production.

- Development of specialty products can be a way to meet these challenges because the farmer can adapt his production to specific geographical conditions, create food products with unique qualities, thus creating added value, and contribute to regional employment, says Chris Kjeldsen.

The three-year project, which is called ProvenanceDK, has a total budget of 20 m DKK, of which Innovation Fund Denmark has granted 13 m DKK. The project is a collaboration between Aarhus University, Ringkøbing-Skjern Municipality, Slagelse Municipality/Slagelse Business Centre, Randers Municipality, Randers Regnskov tropical zoo, Coop, Meyers, Hørkram and the regional food development platform Business Region Midtvest.

Food with social potential
  • The market for food and drinks with a distinct geographical provenance is growing.
  • The European market for provenance-marked products has increased from a turnover of approximately 96 billion DKK in 2005 to approximately 119 billion DKK in 2010.
  • The project ProvenanceDK aims to take advantage of this trend to the benefit of food producers, nature and biodiversity.
  • With the ’Atlas of Possibilities’ Danish food producers can get an overview of where there is potential and create added value.
  • The project also aims to develop high quality food products.
  • Increased production of regional products can lead to new regional employment opportunities.
  • Biodiversity and the environment will reap benefits from the project because finding locations with particularly favourable conditions for producing specific food products, so that nature suffers as little as possible, will be taken into consideration.

For more information please contact: Senior Researcher Chris Kjeldsen, Department of Agroecology, e-mail: chris.kjeldsen@agro.au.dk, telephone: +45 8715 7749, mobile: +45 6174 7357