Icelandic consumers call for factory farm alternative

The Association of Organic Consumers in Iceland has criticised the country’s agriculture industry at a conference this week. One of the group’s board members said in a speech that it is all-but impossible to buy chicken, pork and eggs which were not raised intensively on factory farms.

Oddny Anna Bjornsdottir told guests at the conference this week (which is a part of the Green April campaign) that Icelandic consumers have almost no choice at all when it comes to organic meat and dairy products. While organic lamb is available in specialist health food stores, farmers markets and very occasionally in the supermarkets; there is nothing else on the market, she said.

The conditions and upbringing of Icelandic farm animals have been in the headlines recently like never before and Bjornsdottir puts it down to a national awakening among consumers who increasingly want to buy products from animals with a free range and organic background. Only two slaughter houses in Iceland are certified to process organically reared meat, reported.

Bjornsdottir believes that Icelanders have fallen into the same trap with agriculture as they did with many other environmental issues in the past: the assumption that a small nation of people living in a large and unpolluted country automatically means that serious environmental/agricultural problems do not exist in Iceland. She says, on the other hand, that this is changing slowly; despite the fact that the country is far behind its neighbours when it comes to factory farming.

To illustrate the problem, Bjornsdottir points out that very nearly all chicken meat in Iceland comes from intensively reared, caged birds and the same goes for 85 percent of eggs. Even the 15 percent free range eggs fall short of organic standards and usually come from barn birds.

She named five producers of organic lamb and three more who plan to start this year. There are three organic beef producers. Organic pork buyers will need to go direct to farmers, she says; as 90 percent of the country’s pork meat comes from just three factory farms.

Chicken is available in small amounts from the producers of ‘free range’ eggs; but even they are not ‘free range’ enough.

The pressure is mounting from concerned consumers and a shift in the market appears to be in the air.