A Land of Milk and ButterHow Elites Created the Modern Danish Dairy Industry

A Land of Milk and ButterHow Elites Created the Modern Danish Dairy Industry

Markus Lampe and Paul Sharp

Print publication date: 2019

ISBN: 9780226549507

Publisher: University of Chicago Press

Abstract

Denmark today is one of the richest, most equal, and happiest societies in the world. This book explores the roots of Danish development beyond its remarkable export success in the nineteenth century, when Danish butter and bacon rapidly gained a strong foothold on international markets, based largely on a large number of peasant-owned cooperatives. These became cornerstones of Danish national identity, and remain at the core of Denmark’s reputation for having experienced a socially and economically balanced path to modern economic growth. This book re-examines the roots of this success, emphasizing that it was only possible thanks to more than a century of agricultural innovation by elites. From the late eighteenth century, large landowners – often immigrants – took advantage of agrarian reforms to import and adapt new practices in crop rotation and animal husbandry from outside the kingdom, initially by hiring specialist administrators and skilled dairywomen from abroad. Then, as international markets integrated after the Napoleonic Wars, this existing cluster intensified efforts to take advantage of increased market access, developing a variety of important innovations, including new techniques for production, breeding, marketing, and information-gathering. The reputation, technologies and institutions established by the elites were then able to spread to much wider segments of the rural population when the steam-driven cream separator, a centrifuge, allowed for the centralized production of high quality butter from dispersed small producers. Peasants then organized in cooperatives, extending export-oriented dairying, and laying the foundations of balanced economic development at the national level.