Denmark is home to various types of agricultural production. Within animal husbandry, it includes dairy and beef cattle, pigs, poultry and fur animals – primarily mink, all sectors with a major export. Regarding vegetable production, Denmark is a leading producer of grass-, clover- and horticultural seeds.
The Danish agricultural industry is characterized by freehold and family ownership but due to structural development, farms have become fewer and larger. With modern trade patterns the profitability increasingly depends on global market trends. The arable land in Denmark is approximately 2,646,000 hectares, and the number of farms approximately 40,000, out of which approximately one third is owned by full-time farmers.
The agriculture is intensive with 64 per cent of the land area being used for production. This equals production of food for 15 million people. The value of Danish agricultural export, including the agribusiness sector, has risen steadily in recent years and accounted for 16 billion Euros in 2011. The agriculture and food sector as a whole represents 20 per cent of total Danish commodity exports.
The tendency towards fewer and larger farms has been accompanied by an increased animal production using fewer resources pr. produced unit.
The number of dairy farmers is reduced to about 3,800 with an average herd size of 150 cows. The milk quota is 1,142 tonnes. Danish dairy farmers are among the largest and most modern in Europe. More than half of the cows live in new loose-housing systems. Export of dairy products accounts for more than 20 per cent of the total Danish agricultural export. The total number of cattle in 2011 was approximately 1.5 million. Of these 565,000 were dairy cows and 99,000 were suckler cows. The yearly number of slaughtering of beef cattle is around 550,000.
For more than 100 years the production of pigs and pig meat has been a major source of income in Denmark. The Danish pig industry is among the world’s leaders in areas such as breeding, quality, food safety, animal welfare and traceability creating the basis for Denmark being among the world’s largest pig meat exporters. Approximately 90 per cent of the production is exported. This accounts for almost half of all agricultural exports and for more than 5 per cent of Denmark’s total exports. About 4,200 farmers produce 28 million pigs annually. Of these 20.9 million are slaughtered in Denmark.
Fur animal production started in the 1930s in Denmark. Denmark is the world’s second largest producer of mink skin. In 2012, 1525 farmers produced 15.6 million mink skin of the highest quality. Approximately 98 per cent of the skins sold at Copenhagen Fur Auction are exported. Fur ranges as Danish agriculture’s third largest export article. Special attention is given to the welfare of the mink, and regular “Open Farm” arrangements are made for the general public. Two hundred professional producers are responsible for the Danish egg production, which was 66 million kg in 2011. Chickens for slaughter are often produced in units with 40,000 broilers. In 2012, 100 million chickens were slaughtered. In the minor productions of poultry, 13 million ducks, 1.4 million geese and 5.0 million turkeys were slaughtered in 2012.
Organic farming and production has increased dramatically in Denmark in the last 25 years and continues to expand with more than a quadrupling of exports since 2006. In 2012 the export of organic products reached DK 1.2 billion, a 12.3 % increase from 2011. This figure should be seen in the context of a DK 360 billion global market for organic products and a total export from the Danish food and agriculture sector at DK 148 billion that same year. The import of organic products has always been higher than the exports though and reached DK 1.5 billion in 2012. 7 % of the cultivated land is now categorized as organically farmed and 10 % for the dairy industry as of 2008.
Denmark has a high consumption of organic products per capita compared to other European countries, only surpassed by Switzerland. In 2011 Denmark surpassed Switzerland with the highest retail consumption share for organic products in the world. In 2012 the share was at 7.8 %, accounting for a total of DK 5.5 billion.
Organic farming and production is officially a target and focus area for the Danish government in its ambition to effect a so-called green transition (Danish: Den Grønne Omstilling). In this respect it is the official goal of the government to double the area used for organic farming in the country from 2011 to 2020. The rise and increase of organic production has been driven by a plethora of activist groups and NGOs in all levels of production and consumption since the 1970s, a number of governmental institutions and subsidies.