Icelanders choose chicken over lamb Skip to content

Icelanders choose chicken over lamb

For the first time, Icelanders bought more poultry than lamb and mutton over the last 12 months. Sheep has been the most popular source of meat in Iceland since the settlement in 874, but Icelandic consumption habits appear to be changing.

“We chicken farmers thank consumers for this warm welcome,” Matthías H. Gudmundsson, head of the Association of Chicken Farmers in Iceland, told Fréttabladid.

Jóhannes Sigfússon, head of the Association of Sheep Farmers, said he is not surprised that chicken has become more popular than lamb and mutton.

“Consumption of mutton was almost abnormally high in Iceland. There is a very strong tradition for consumption of mutton but it is not realistic that it will continue forever,” Sigfússon stated.

Between August 1, 2006 and July 31, 2007 Icelanders bought over 7,198 tons of Icelandic poultry – 96 percent chicken – and during the same time 7,161 tons of Icelandic lamb and mutton – 88 percent lamb.

“It shows how eating habits in Iceland are changing,” Gudmundsson said. “In 1995, when fresh chicken could be sold here for the first time, the consumption measured five kilos for each Icelander in one year, but 42 kilos of mutton. Now people want light meat and white meat is on the rise.”

Sigfússon said he believes that the globalization of the Icelandic community plays a part in this fact, pointing out that more and more people move to Iceland who don’t eat mutton traditionally.

Sigfússon also pointed out consumption of fish is decreasing in Iceland, where it used to be eaten almost every weekday. “Chicken is pushing out fish [more than lamb], I think, especially among young people.”

Neither Sigfússon nor Gudmundsson believe consumption of poultry will increase more on the cost of lamb; they say a certain balance between the two types of meat has been achieved.

The type of meat which is produced the most in Iceland is still mutton – about 8,650 tons last year as opposed to 7,400 tons of poultry – but a large part of it is exported. The sale of mutton dropped by one percent year on year, while the sale of other meat products increased by up to 21 percent.

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