OMG! Refrigerated dairy cabinets in Finnish supermarkets are full of different kinds of milk products!
Finland is a country of milk and milk products. Amazingly, milk consumption per person is the largest in the world. An average Finn drinks 3,4 dl of milk every day. In addition, they eat 0,6 dl yogurt and 73 g of cheese a day. In Finland, 81 % of grown-up people drink milk and 66 % of the population drinks it daily. Men drink more than women. The prevalence of milk in the Finnish food culture is partly due to a very prominent and decades-long advertising campaign by the milk industry.
The role of milk in the Finnish food culture is also based on historical facts. While Finland in the 19th century imported much of its grain, it exported milk, butter, and other milk products. In fact, milk production is still the most important source of livelihood in rural areas. In Finland, Ostrobothnia and North Savo are the most important milk-producing areas. Practically all milk sold in Finland is domestic.
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Today in the stores the milk cartons are color-coded according to fat concentration. Non-fat and low-fat milks (0 and 1 % fat content) are the most popular milk types; their cartons are typically light blue. The dark blue milk carton contains more fat, usually 1,5 %. Full-milk products are usually in red cartons. Their fat percentage is about 3,5 %. The color-coding applies also to low-lactose varieties.
All milk, except organically produced brands, is supplemented with vitamin D.
In addition, some milk brands include extra milk protein and calcium. This doesn’t affect the taste but may benefit for example older people.
Moreover, Finland has a long historical tradition of encouraging the younger generation to drink milk. All schools in Finland serve a warm meal free of charge daily. The meals include milk, fermented milk (sour milk), or water whichever drink the pupils want. Most of the schools serve lactose-free milk, although lactose intolerance is less common in Northern Europe than anywhere else in the world. Despite the lower prevalence of lactose intolerance, the dairy isles in Finnish grocery stores are littered with low-lactose and completely lactose-free products.
Oat milk, soy milk, and almond milk are good substitutes for those who avoid animal-derived products. However, using them in cooking requires some experience. They don’t take heat the same way full milk does. Of actual milk products, my personal favorite for cooking is Valio’s Kiehu maitojuoma; it is almost impossible to burn. If you like lattes or cappuccinos, the Finnish brand Planti has a great oat milk product for those.
- Country, regional, and global estimates for lactose malabsorption in adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Lancet Ganstroenterology & Herpatology, Vol 2. issue 10, p. 738-746, October 01, 2017.
- Miksi suomalaiset juovat enemmän maitoa kuin yksikään toinen kansa? (Why Finns drink more milk than any other nation in the world?), an article in Apu magazine.
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