Dairy Price Hikes Spark Discussion on Industry Structure

The price of dairy products has risen 16% over the past year, well above inflation rates. At the same time, Auðhumla, the parent company of MS Iceland Dairies, which buys almost 100% of all milk produced in Iceland, reported record profits last year and an increase of ISK 4 billion [$29 million, €26.5 million] in operational profits between years. The CEO of MS Iceland Dairies told RÚV production costs have also risen and there is little real profit in the industry.

In Focus: Iceland’s Dairy Industry

Dairy consumption in Iceland is 60% higher than the European average, according to figures from MS Iceland Dairies. With inflation and rising food prices across the board, the increase in the cost of dairy products is felt strongly by local consumers.

The CEO of MS Iceland Dairies, Pálmi Vilhjálmsson, says that the company’s operational surplus is less than 1% of the company’s gross income. He stated that profits were small in the industry and that equipment costs were high relative to the production of other food products, and that rising prices of grain, fertiliser, electricity, and oil affected dairy prices.

Rafn Bergsson of the Icelandic Farmers Association says cow farmers have absorbed many of these rising costs and that further price hikes would be needed to improve their income and working conditions. Dairy prices are set by a government committee, and Minister of Food, Agriculture, and Fisheries Svandís Svavarsdóttir says there is reason to review that system, which may be out of date. “If neither consumers nor farmers benefit from the arrangement, where does the profit lie?” Svandís stated. She called on intermediaries to take responsibility for the situation instead of taking advantage of monopolies to raise prices for consumers.

150 Cattle Taken by Authorities in Abuse Case

icelandic cows

150 cattle have been removed from a farm in Borgarfjörður by the authorities on November 14 and 15. After repeated demands by authorities that their owner improve their conditions, authorities have finally been forced to confiscate the cattle after it became clear the farmer in question would not cooperate.

Both police officers and representatives from MAST, the Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority, were at the scene, reports RÚV.

Read more: Further Animal Abuse in Borgarfjörður

The owner in question is said to have a long history of mistreating his animals. Sheep and horses have been previously taken from the farmer to be slaughtered, as they were too maltreated to be rescued.

Some cattle confiscated in the latest episode will likewise be slaughtered, but many of the cows will be allowed to live and given new homes.

Ellen Ruth Ingimundsdóttir, district veterinarian for Southwest Iceland, stated that such cases are very difficult for all involved: “It’s a long and difficult story. We decided that it was no longer possible to give deadlines that weren’t met […] We don’t take animals from people just because we want to. We need to follow the law and we need to do this in consultation with locals so that it doesn’t hurt the animals. That’s why it has also taken a long time.”

Ellen additionally thanked those farmers who will be receiving the remaining cows, which are headed to barns with better pasture and conditions.


Beef Production in Iceland Reaches All-Time High

Eyjafjöll - Undir Eyjafjöllum Kýr á beit

Icelandic farmers produced nearly five tonnes of beef last year, an all-time record for the country. The most-produced meat was lamb, at 9,388 tonnes, with poultry a close second, at 9,294 tonnes. The data on meat production for the year 2021 was recently published by Statistics Iceland.

Beef production in March of this year was 4% higher than in March 2021. However, pork production was 8% lower than a year ago and poultry 3% lower. Incubation of broilers (chicken raised for meat production) was 10% lower in March 2022 than in March 2021.

Lamb production has been steadily decreasing since 2017, when 10,619 tonnes were produced in Iceland. Poultry production, on the other hand, grew by 200 tonnes between 2020 and 2021. Pork production has fluctuated, though overall increased, over the past decade, with local farmers producing 6,580 tonnes of pork last year.

Horse meat production has been slowly declining since 2012, with 831 tonnes produced last year.

In Focus: Iceland’s Dairy Industry

There is a famous cow in Norse mythology named Auðhumla. According to myth, she played a key role in the creation of the world – milk from her udders fed the first giants and she freed the first god, Búri, by licking on a salt block. Iceland’s first settlers not only drank milk, they used […]

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Of Cows and Courage: New Picture Book Celebrates Heroic Heifer

A new picture book celebrates the heroic feats of a brave cow and the kindness of strangers, RÚV reports.

In October 1987, it looked like Sæunn the Cow’s life was quickly coming to its end. Known then as Harpa, she and two of her compatriots were being led to slaughter in the Westfjords village of Flateyri when she decided to take fate by the reins and make a daring escape. Rushing toward the sea, Sæunn flung herself into the fjord of Önundarfjörður and swam three kilometres across it. Many cows would have simply given up mid-swim or turned back around, but not her. Instead, she paddled on and, reaching the shore at Valþjófsdalur farm, was met by a friendly couple who rechristened her with a name befitting her feat (Sæunn, ‘sæ-’ meaning ‘sea’) and gave her safe haven for the rest of her days.

Screenshot from a 1987 program on RÚV about Sæunn’s sea swim to freedom

Sæunn’s story has now been memorialized in a picture book written and published by Eyþór Jóvinsson, a bookseller and filmmaker who lives and was raised in Flateyri. The book, Sundkýrin Sæunn (‘Sæunn the Swimming Cow’), is illustrated by Freydís Kristjánsdóttir.

Eyþór was only two years old when Sæunn made her great escape, but the story of this “Fjord Hero” quickly became the stuff of local lore and is very dear to him, not least because there’s a twist—Sæunn was pregnant when she swam across the fjord, which Eyþór thinks likely contributed to her tenacity. To make the whole adventure even more narratively perfect, Sæunn gave birth to her calf on Sjómannadagur, the Fishermen’s Day holiday. Her calf was given an equally seaworthy name: Hafdís, or ‘Sea nymph.’

Stories of Sæunn’s exploits made her famous not only in Iceland, but also travelled as far as India. The couple who adopted Sæunn after her escape received letters from all over the world, thanking them for their kindness and sometimes including donations. (Conversely, the farmers in Flateyri were known to have received some threatening letters for having attempted to slaughter the cow.)

Sæunn ended her life on the same beach that she came ashore on the day of her amazing swim. “She was old and very ill, so the farmer led her to the seashore. She was buried with a view of the fjord and the sea that had saved her,” explained Eyþór.

Sundkýrin Sæunn is available in bookstores around Iceland and is perhaps preamble to even grander horizons. Eyþór says he hopes to one day make a film about Sæunn, so her fame will once again go global.

Icelandic Cows Escape for Night-Time Adventure

cows escape

A herd of cows at Hvanneyri farm managed to open the door to their cowshed earlier this week, slipping out for a night-time romp in the snow. As the weather worsened, the herd returned to the shed, where they were found the morning after safe and sound. Hoofprints and tracking devices painted a clear picture of the night’s rowdy activities.

“The approach to the cowshed was somewhat amusing yesterday morning,” a Facebook post on the Hvanneyri Farm Facebook page begins. “By the entrance there were many traces of cattle traffic, but outside no cattle were to be seen. Inside the cowshed all was calm, the cows either lay in their stalls or ate hay at their leisure. All was as it should be, except for one thing, the door through which the cows go out during the summer was wide open and snow had blown in.”

“The cows went out early this year,” the post continues. “They had somehow unbelievably managed to unlock the door and lift the door up and had run out into the night.”


Evidence in the form of hoofprints showed that many cows had run gleefully in circles around the shed and other installations at the farm. “But the amazing thing about the cows’ adventure is that every single cow had returned before morning,” the post continues. As the night progressed, the weather worsened, and the cows didn’t ignore it, returning to the warmth and safety of their shed.

The cows all have tracking devices that alert their caretakers when any one animal is unusually active. “This morning there were over 50 cows with a notification on the computer, and on the movement chart it was clear that they had opened up at midnight and been out until about five or six in the morning. This has been quite an adventure for them, but luckily they all found their way in and no one was injured in the hullabaloo,” the post concluded.