Fermented-milk products in Denmark 🐄

There are many dairy products in Denmark, and it can be hard to choose between them. This article tries to provide some explanations and data to help make choices when it comes to milk, creme, yogurt and the like in Denmark.

Fermented-milk products in Denmark 🐄
Photo by Stijn te Strake / Unsplash


There are many dairy products in Denmark, and it can be hard to choose between them. This article tries to provide some explanations and data to help make choices when it comes to milk, creme, yogurt and the like in Denmark.

Processing milk into different products

Raw milk can basically go through 3 different processes:

  • Skimming: producing skimmed milk and cream
  • Fermentation: resulting in different types of fermented-milk products, including yoghurt
  • Coagulation: producing cheese and lactoserum

The rest of this article will be split between the main kinds of end products.


Milk collected from cows in dairy farms is (after some extra steps -- cooling, analyzing, resting) put in a centrifugal skimming machine, where skimmed milk is separated from creme.


Creme is then (re-)added to skimmed milk up to the regulated % fat in order to produce the different grades that can be found in Denmark, listed in the table below.

Dansk English % fat
Skummetmælk Mini milk 0.1%
Minimælk Mini milk 0.4%
Letmælk Semi-skimmed milk 1.5%
Sødmælk Whole milk 3.5%
Gårdmælk Farm milk 3.5-4,5% (non-regulated)

Sødmælk (whole milk) was the most popular until skimmed milk was introduced to the Danish market in the 1970's. Letmælk hit the Danish shelves in 1972, and the rest followed during the growing trend from the 70's to the 00's to fight overweight issues in the population.[1]


The difference between the different types of cream lies essentially in the difference in fat content.


  • Double creme = thick creme. 48% fat
  • Piskefløde = classic cream used for cooking. It's the only one that can be whipped (pisket) to make whipped cream, hence its name. 38% fat
  • Madlavningfløde = cream with added flour so that it can be used also for cooking with a lower fat content. 18% or 8% fat
  • Kaffefløde = coffee cream (most popular among older generations). 9, 10 or 12% fat

The exception is when creme is thickened with the effect of lactic acid bacteria.

  • Creme fraiche = acidified crème. Can be found in 38%, 18% or even 9% in its "fraiche" version (EU-rules requires a minimum of 18% of fat for a creme to be called creme fraiche[2])


Churning cream and cooling down the result creates butter.

  • Smør = Butter. Found salted (saltet) or unsalted (usaltet) in supermarkets.
  • Kærnemælk = Buttermilk or churned milk. Initially the by-product of butter production, most modern buttermilk is nowadays produced industrially by acidifying skimmed milk with a lactic acid bacteria mix (Lactococcus lactis or Lactobacillus bulgaricus plus Leuconostoc citrovorum which simulate the naturally occurring bacteria in the old-fashioned product). High in protein, low in fat and has a sharp taste. 0.5% fat.
  • Koldskål = Cold buttermilk soup. It's a thick lightly sweetened buttermilk with vanilla, sometimes lemon. The Danes eat it during the summer with dry biscuits as snack, dessert even for dinner.



Cheese is made by coagulation of milk triggered by the addition of lactic acid bacteria and/or rennet (østeløbe in Danish, présure in French) which is a complex set of enzymes produced in the stomach of cows.

The four PGI cheeses of Denmark

Although cheese may not be as big as in other countries like France, Danish cheese deserve their own article. It is at least worth noting already that 4 Danish cheeses have obtained the Protected Geographical Indication label from the EU (BGB-mærke -- Beskyttet Geografisk Betegnelse)[3].


  • Danbo: most popular cheese in Denmark with an average consumption of 12 pieces per household per year[4]. Aged semi-soft cow-milk cheese found in the form of rectangular blocks, linked to the way it is fabricated: the curd is cut in tiny cubes but is left with the whey and is pressed like that in one giant rectangular cheese; then it is cut again in small blocks and left to mature with a bacteria culture on the outer surface.
  • Danablue: Danish blue cheese
  • Esrom: Semi-soft cow-milk washed-curd cheese.
  • Havarti: Trappist-style pale yellow semi-soft cow's milk cheese

Fromage frais / friskost

friskost From left to right: kvark, hytteost, rygeost

Friskost is a common term used to designate types of cheeses that is neither pressed nor refined in storage cellars[5]. 3 of the most popular are:

  • Hytteost: cottage cheese. Fabricated out of low-pasteurized skimmed milk, varmed up and cut into dices after coagulation.
  • Kvark: fabricated out of high-pasteurized skimmed milk coagulated with lactic acid bacteria and without rennet, a lot of whey is then removed, resulting in a low fat (1%) and high protein (12%) fresh cheese that is good for baking (helps create a good gluten network) or to make herbal dips.
  • Rygeost: smoked cheese. Made out of high-pasteurized sødmælk or skummetmælk. Smoked primarily with straw.

Fermented milk products / Surmælksprodukter

Milk can also be fermented with certain types of lactic acid bateria to make yogurt. Among fermented milk products, in most countries (e.g. in the EU) the term yoghurt is restricted to semisolid fermented milk product obtained by the action of two specific lactic acid bacteria (Streptococcus thermophilus and Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus) when added to heat-treated milk[6]. Other products bear other names and are grouped in the category of "other fermented milk products" (surmælksprodukter).[6:1]

Yoghurt originates from the Balkans, where milk was traditionnally fermented with acidic cultures available in the region. It was first introduced in Denmark in the beginning of 1965[7], where it had some added strawberry and was marketed as a breakfast product. Since then, many variants of fermented milk products have been introduced: the difference in taste comes from the acidic culture used and in the fat content.[8]


The below table attempts to give an overview of difference between them:

Name Base milk Specific ingredient(s) / process Comment
Cultura (Arla) Sød eller letmælk Fibres, Lactobacillus Casei F19 and others Fresh acid taste, rich in fibres
Tykmælk Sødmælk Creme and a bit of kærnemælk -
Ymer Sødmælk The whey is removed Thicker, higher protein content
Ylette Letmælk Same as ymer Same as ymer but lower fat content
Kefir Sød- or letmælk Saccharonyces yeast fungus + lactic acid bacteria culture from Caucasus Light, foamy texture with a special aroma
Yoghurt Naturel Letmælk - Light acidity
Greek yoghurt Skummetmælk Creme, greek bacteria culture Soft round taste, thick and creamy
Skyr Skummetmælk Islandic bacteria culture Sharp taste, thick and high in protein
A38 (Arla) Skummet-, let-, or sødmælk Lactobacillus acidophilus It's a range of products, with creamy consistence and plain surface

Statistics and sustainability

Types of dairy cows in Denmark

There are about 570,000 dairy cows in Denmark (and 250,000 meat cows)[9]. They are separated essentially in 4 different races[10]

Rank Dansk % of dairy cows in DK[9:1]
1 Dansk Holstein 70%
2 Dansk Jersey 12%
3 Rød Dansk Malkekvæg 6%
4 Dansk Rødbroget Holstein 1%
- Combination of 2 or more of the above <1%

A cow weighs typically 400-600kg, produces 20-35 liters of milk per day and eat 50-70kg of food daily[10:1]. The Danish Holstein (and Holstein breeds worldwide in general) are known for the very high milk yield (production). The Danish Jersey is smaller, but its milk contains 15% more proteins and also more vitamins, etc.


Here are the statistics from 2019, according to the industry association[9:2]:

Product Consumption (kg/capita)
Skummetmælk + Minimælk 40.9
Letmælk 21.2
Sødmælk + Gårdmælk 17.0
Yoghurt 14.2
Kakaomælk 7.2
Fløde 5.9
Creme fraiche 2.8
Other liquid milk product 12.1
Total 121.3


Product Climate footprint (kgCO2e/kg of raw product)
Mælk, kærnemælk 1-2
Yoghurt, ymer, tykmælk and similar 2
Fromage frais <3
Skyr 4
Cream and creme fraiche 4
Refined cheese 12

Milk products that have the least climate footprint are milk and kærnemælk.
Yoghurt, ymer, tykmælk and similar have about the same footprint as milk. The footprint of skyr is though relatively higher. This is due to the higher amount of milk required to reach skyr's high protein content. The same goes for cream and creme fraiche, that have a high fat content. Fromage frais has a footprint of just under 3 kgCO2e/kg of raw product. It's therefore a good alternative to refined cheese, which have roughly a four times bigger footprint.


  1. Arla, Hvilken mælk er sundest?, https://www.arla.dk/artikler/hvilken-malk-er-sundest ↩︎

  2. Spis Bedre, Syrnede mælkeprodukter, https://spisbedre.dk/artikler/syrnede-maelkeprodukter ↩︎

  3. EU, Quality Schemes Explained, https://ec.europa.eu/info/food-farming-fisheries/food-safety-and-quality/certification/quality-labels/quality-schemes-explained ↩︎

  4. Mejeri.dk, Danbo, https://mejeri.dk/produkter/mejeriprodukter/ost/danbo ↩︎

  5. Arla, Hvar er friskost, https://www.arla.dk/artikler/hvad-er-friskost/ ↩︎

  6. P. Behare et al., Yoghurt: Dietary Importance, in Encyclopedia of Food and Health, 2016 ↩︎ ↩︎

  7. Arla, Cultura med ny kultur, https://www.arla.dk/om-arla/nyheder/2004/pressrelease/cultura-med-ny-kultur-758974/ ↩︎

  8. Mejeri.dk, Yoghurt, https://mejeri.dk/produkter/mejeriprodukter/yoghurt ↩︎

  9. Landbrug og fødevarer, Mejeristatistik 2019, https://lf.dk/-/media/lf/tal-og-analyser/aarsstatistikker/mejeristatistik/2019/mejeristatistik-2019.pdf ↩︎ ↩︎ ↩︎

  10. SEGES (Landbrug og fødevarer), Fakta om mælkeproduktion, https://www.seges.dk/da-dk/fagomraader/kvaeg/tal-og-fakta-om-kvaegproduktion/maelkeproduktion ↩︎ ↩︎

  11. Coop, Madpyramiden, Mælkeprodukter, https://madpyramiden.dk/brug-pyramiden/madpyramidens-3-lag/midten/maelkeprodukter/ ↩︎