The Making of Danish Bacon

Danish Bacon

The Advantage of Danish Bacon

The chief advantage of the Danish bacon over that coming from other countries is its uniform quality. While in London, the writer visited the Smithfield Market and was shown sides of bacon from various countries.

Though in some instances better sides could be found in consignments from other countries, in no case did the product from any other country exhibit such marked uniformity of quality and finish as that from Denmark.

Uniform methods of breeding and feeding were practiced by the farmers in all parts of Denmark. The spirit of the people has a favorable influence in this as in other lines of work.

In Ireland there is a marked tendency for each farmer to work for his own interests regardless of results; in Denmark the cooperative spirit prevails.

Dairy By-Products Improve the Bacon

Another factor that affects the uniformity of the bacon product is that dairy farming for the purpose of butter production prevails in all parts of the country. Thus every farmer has a regular supply of skim milk and buttermilk for his pigs.

These creamery by-products, all of which must be Pasteurized before leaving the creamery, are invaluable in the feeding of pigs for bacon purposes. The prevailing custom in all parts of Denmark is to confine to small pens all pigs intended for slaughter.

Breeding stock, especially brood sows, is given some exercise, but it is limited as compared with the practices of other countries.

Sending the Pigs to Market

The attention of farmers in all parts of Denmark is concentrated on the growing and finishing of pigs that will grade well in the markets, as the prices paid are regulated in accordance with the quality of the product obtained.

As a rule the pigs are marketed at six or seven months of age, weighing from 160 to 200 pounds' live weight. The aim is to have them uniform in size, with an even thickness of fat, which should be three-fourths to one inch in depth along the back.

Cooperative Packing Plants

The fat should be a clear white. The flesh should be firm in all parts and should contain a high proportion of lean meat to fat. Through the cooperative packing plants, which are owned by the farmers themselves, all profits are divided.

The farmers have an excellent opportunity to follow their pigs through the slaughterhouse and to have faults pointed out by experts. In this manner they have learned many valuable lessons, so that at the present time they are very well informed concerning the influences of the different seeding stuffs on the quality of the carcass.

Each farmer is entitled to a report on each lot of pigs marketed. If he has made any changes from the rations previously used, he can ascertain whether or not they are desirable.

Through the aid of these cooperative plants and a strong desire for more knowledge the farmers of Denmark have become known as the most intelligent producers of swine in the world.

Uniformity of Excellence

One of the most remarkable features of Danish bacon is its great uniformity of excellence, very few really bad sides of bacon being put upon the market. The Danish sides are characterized by a light shoulder, a light neck, good length, and a large proportion of lean meat. In addition to this the sides are well trimmed and placed upon the market in a very attractive form.

  1. How do the Danes maintain this uniformity in their product?
  2. How do they produce such lean bacon ?
  3. To what extent can they increase their output?

It was with these questions before me that I sailed in a Danish steamer from Harwich, on the east coast of England, and landed in Esbjerg, on the west coast of Denmark, one fine morning in July, says a writer in the Canadian Grocer.

For a person not familiar with the Danish language, it is no easy matter to collect information, though one who knows what he wants can take in a good deal through his eyes in spite of the fact that his ears are of comparatively little use. However, through the aid of interpreters, I was able to pick up a few points here and there which are not without value.

The question regarding uniformity is very easily answered. One has only to look over the hogs of the country and the methods of marketing to understand very thoroughly how it comes that Danish sides of bacon resemble one another very closely.

There are three classes of hogs in Denmark. First, there is what is called the "Danish hog.” In color, bone and general conformation of body it strongly resembles the Yorkshire, though perhaps the shoulder is nearer to that of the Tam- worth.

The neck is light, the jowl is also light, and the snout long and somewhat coarse, while the ears are large, thick and drooping. It is claimed for this hog that it is more vigorous and an easier feeder than the Yorkshire.

Next, we find the large Yorkshire, which is imported from England, bred pure at certain centers and used for crossing on the native pigs. The breeders of Yorkshires on their farms, and in return for this they receive some financial aid from the Government to help defray the expense of importing.

The third class is the market hog, or the cross between the Yorkshire and the Danish type. It is claimed that the cross-bred pigs make a better quality of bacon than either the pure Danish or Yorkshire, and the animals which I saw were certainly of a very desirable type.

Of course, a certain number of pure Yorkshire and pure Danish hogs find their wav to market, but the greatest bulk of Danish bacon comes from the cross-breds, as already described.

Another important point in connection with securing uniformity, is the method of marketing. The most important factories of the country are co-operative concerns.

They are located comparatively close to one another, and practically every farmer markets his own hogs. Each man’s hogs are slaughtered separately, and after they are slaughtered, they are graded, and he is paid for his hogs according to the quality of the bacon they produce.

Of course, this means a great deal of work at the factory, but it seems that the results more than compensate for the extra labor. When we remember, therefore, that the Danes do not have the great variety of types of hogs that we have, and that strict account is kept of the quality of each farmer’s hogs when he markets them, it is very easy to understand how they maintain such a high degree of excellence in their bacon.

The second question is not so easy to answer, though the foods used are, for the most part, conducive to producing a large proportion of lean meat. It will be remembered that Denmark is a butter making country, and that practically every farmer who raises hogs also keeps cows and feeds the skim milk to his hogs.

There is, as a rule, a fixed relation between the number of hogs fed and the number of cows kept. Because grain is dear, and because skim milk is a by product, and consequently cheaper than almost any other food at the farmer’s disposal, there is little encouragement for the farmer to feed more hogs than his supply of skim milk would warrant.

In addition to skim milk, barley is largely fed, though other grains are sometimes used, and in some districts, corn is used to a considerable extent. The use of corn, however, is looked upon with disfavor by the packer, and I understand that less corn is fed at the present time than was fed a few years ago.

It is quite probable that the breeding of the hogs has something to do with the amount of lean meat, and the breeding combined with the feeding of skim milk probably constitute the answer to the second question.

It is a noticeable fact, however, that the market hogs are allowed very little exercise. In fact, about the only hogs that are allowed any exercise worth speaking of are the breeding sows, which are given the run of small lots.

Land is too valuable to allow of pasturing, and a hurried trip through the country might give one the impression that there was not a hog in it.

The question regarding the possible increase in the output of Danish bacon is one which does not admit of a definite answer. One can judge merely by what he secs, and by certain indications in connection with this industry in Denmark.

One thing which is very suggestive is the fact that there are a number of factories in Denmark at the present time which have been forced to close their doors, and others are running at a loss, not being able to obtain enough hogs to make their operations profitable.

At the time of my visit, the farmers were receiving about six and a half cents per pound, live weight, for their hogs, and they were complaining very bitterly that the price was too low to admit of profit to the feeder.

When the price declines to the neighborhood of six cents, the tendency is for the farmers to curtail their operations in feeding hogs, and the best authorities I could find estimated the cost of producing bacon in Denmark to be six cents per pound, live weight.

Taking this fact in connection with the insufficiency of hogs to support all the factories, we would naturally infer that it is not likely that the Danes will expand their output to any great extent.

As stated before, there is a relation between the amount of skim milk produced upon a farm and the number of hogs fattened. This fact sends to act as a check upon the expansion of the business of producing bacon hogs; and. as soon as the price declines, feeding operations are naturally curtailed, as previously stated.

Kennedy, W. J., "Making the Best Bacon: The Danes Beat the Irish at Their Own Game," (Excerpt), The Country Gentleman, Vol. LXXX, No. 49, Philadelphia, 2 October 1915, p. 1527.

“The Making of Danish Bacon,” in The Butchers’ Advocate and Market Journal: Published in the Interest of the Slaughtering, Packing, Marketing, Stock-Raising, and Kindred Industries, New York & Chicago: The Butchers’ Advocate, Vol. XXXVIII. No. 12, January 25, 1905, P. 11.

Return to Top of Page

Epicurean Food & Fine Dining
GG Archives

Culinary Articles

Epicurean Topics

Vintage Menu Collections