An introduction to Organic beers in Finland

beers in Finland - overall beers in Finland

Let‘s start by defining organic. Wikipedia puts it that way: „Organic farming is an alternative agricultural system which originated early in the 20th century in reaction to rapidly changing farming practices.“

What we, the consumers, understand as Organic, is usually that Organic farming is a more natural way of farming that doesn’t allow certain pesticides, herbicides or other chemicals. When we buy organic we buy, or possibly buy, a product that is “cleaner” than a comparable product produced with so-called conventional methods.

Organic is basically a way of farming that is, if labeled organic on the product, bound to rules and standards. Those standards are defined by institutions / authorities and are publicly available to check. For example the EUs Regulation on organic production and labeling of organic products can be downloaded at EU-LEX.

Besides those international or national minimum standards (as I call them) there are those defined by other certification authorities like for example Demeter. Demeter is currently the largest certification organization for biodynamic agriculture. Besides Demeter there are other authorities around, for example Naturland, Bioland or the Soil Association. Each of them have their own set of rules and regulations but they all have in common that they have much stricter rules and standards that must be filled to be certified.

Finland and organic

Generally, organic or “luomu” as they call it in Finnish isn’t that much of a topic in Finland. The Finns claim that they have the cleanest food in Europe (it’s true: http://www.luonnosta.fi/2017/04/finnish-food-is-cleanest-in-the-world/) and that organic products imported from other countries have higher residual amounts of pesticides or chemicals than those produced with conventional methods in Finland (unverified: the above mentioned report does not list organic residues per country, it just states that organic has generally much residues than conventionals).

While the statistic about cleaner food actually is true the underlying belief is wrong: that Finnish products are free of residuals, or that they are “just as good as organic”. The Finns may use less agrochemicals than most other countries (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agrochemical ), but they still use them (see for example https://www.luke.fi/ruokafakta/en/field-crops/use-of-pesticides/). Agrochemicals are chemicals after all. They are artificially produced, rely often heavily on crude oil and need to be carried around for hundreds of kilometers. Just because the Finns spray their grain fields with pesticides just once instead of twice like in Middle Europe it’s still “dirtier” than unsprayed organic grain crops.

Labels please

In Finland products produced can come with one of two labels. First one is a key with the Finnish flag. This one marks products or services that are produced to at least 50% in Finland. Then there is the Hyvää Suomesta -swan. The swan marks food products that are entirely produced in Finland with Finnish ingredients. With those two labels it is pretty easy for the consumer to distinguish between products from Finland or abroad and their derived quality.

On the other hand the organic labels are not that common yet, except the EU green leaf. The amount of available organic products is a small fraction of all products available. While organic is seen in Germany as the possibility to escape the “cheap price spiral” and the mass production of substandard foodstuffs the Finnish producers don’t like the bureaucracy that comes with it. Instead of applying the organic label they try all kinds different things and try to create stand-alone brands that are somehow more natural but don’t need the bureaucracy. It’s kind of sad to see them taking tiny steps and trying to do it all alone while the big companies simply jump on the “higher price higher gain” bandwagon and grab the market share just like that.

What about the beers?

As stated above the products available in organic quality are only a fraction of the whole offering. It is basically the same with beers. While writing this article there was only one organic beer from Finland in our database.

Of course we only have beers in our database that we reviewed, so let’s take a broader view. When visiting the Alko website (the Finnish monopoly for strong alcohol and best sorted beer webshop in Finland) today we find 805 beers in their selection. Of those 337 are Finnish. But how many are organic? Thanks to the handy filter at the site I can choose to see only the organic beers – all 30 of them. Of those 30 whole 12 are Finnish. So sadly only 3,7% of all beers in Alko’s selection are organic, and of the Finnish beers an astonishingly low number, namely 3,5% are organic. That pretty much says it all about organic beers in Finland.

Organic beers in Finland - overall beers in Finland

I sure hope to see more products, especially Finnish beers go organic.

Dominik Jais's picture