Whole Milk


Cows are big news in Iceland these days. Last week the Agricultural University of Iceland released a report indicating that almost USD 20 million a year could be saved if the Icelandic breed of cow is replaced by the more robust red-mottled Swedish species, which dutifully pumps out more milk for fewer krónas.

The Icelandic cow breed is apparently unique because it’s been isolated in the country since Norse settlers brought it with them in the 9th century. Like its people, the Icelandic cow is related to its Norwegian brethren.

No decision has yet been made but inevitably this will get some of the traditionalists up in arms. Lopapeysa-clad farmers, like most small-scale farmers everywhere, are a dying breed here. As is true all over the globe, as technology increases, job creation decreases.

I think we tend to romanticize about the grizzled lopapeysa-clad Icelandic farmer, but times are tough for many of them and the era of the Icelandic farmer is fading as quickly as Kárahnjúkar is churning out aluminum.

Personally, and I’m no milk expert, but the thought of phasing out the Icelandic cow makes me a little sad and I’m not even an Icelander. The loyal Icelandic cow has fed milk and skyr to this country for centuries—if the heifers are still giving its people milk, why replace them.

I mean, okay, I understand the financial argument, but losing the Icelandic cow would be like razing all the turf houses in the country. They’re an integral bullet point in this little country’s cultural history. I guess one solution would be to section off an area in the National Museum and preserve them—alive—forever. Talk about an exhibit worth seeing.

SB – [email protected]

Views expressed here are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Iceland Review.