UCPH FOOD - a part of the food science history in Denmark

Episode 1

Episode 2

Episode 3

Episode 4

The food science in Denmark began at Frederiksberg

In Denmark, the modern history of food science begins with the establishment of the Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University (RVAU) at Frederiksberg in 1858 – which today  is a part of the University of Copenhagen. The RVAU employed researchers/teachers who, through research, dissemination and education, paved the way for a huge export adventure of butter and bacon at a time when Denmark was struggling to keep up the export of cereals.

One of the key researchers was Niels Johannes Fjord, the Niels Bohr of food science in Denmark. Fjord was extremely energetic and set up his own experimental institution, where he and colleagues from the RVAU developed brilliant solutions to problems that were crucial to Denmark’s economy and helped to create the foundation for the Danish welfare system. Fjord’s research became incredibly important when falling prices and high international competition in the grain market meant that Denmark had to majorly reorganise its agriculture. Butter and bacon became the new gold for the country’s export earnings. The question is whether today we are facing a similarly radical shift in food production?

The challenges of climate, human demand and the UN’s sustainability goals are forcing us to question our current food production. Perhaps we are on the threshold of a new revolution, having to come up with solutions to feed an increasing population in a sustainable way.

Professor of Food Chemistry Leif Skibsted from UCPH FOOD is the host who shows us the past of Danish food science and draws threads right up to the present. It is the Department of Food Science at the Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University which has today become the Department of Food Science at the University of Copenhagen, UCPH FOOD.

Below you find the textversion of the content:

Episode 1

Featuring

Leif Skibsted (Professor of Food Chemistry, Department of Food Science, University of Copenhagen, UCPH FOOD)

Anna Haldrup (Head of the Department of Food Science, University of Copenhagen, UCPH FOOD)

Egil Waagner Nielsen (Dairy Engineer and Associate Professor Emeritus, The Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University)

Grith Lerche (PhD in agriculture, former curator at the National Museum of Denmark with a focus on agriculture)

Anders Juel Møller (Former Associate Professor and Meat Researcher at The Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University)

[Leif Skibsted]

Today you can walk into any supermarket and buy a litre of milk. I can bring the milk home, put it in the refrigerator where it will not expire for many days and still taste fresh and retain its nutritional content. It is a simple part of our everyday lives. This is largely due to efficient agriculture, the industrialisation of food production, and food science. Food science is an important part of Denmark’s history. Today there is a great focus on food waste. We must preserve our food. This was also the case in the 19th century during food science’s infancy. But we will get back to that in a bit.

[Leif Skibsted]

My name is Leif Skibsted and I am a professor of food chemistry. I work here at the Department of Food Science at the University of Copenhagen on Rolighedsvej in Frederiksberg. It is here food science got its start. But what exactly is food science?

[Anna Haldrup]

Part of it is that we need to have enough food and one of the objectives of food science is to ensure this. That includes how we process and treat the food. It must be healthy and safe to eat. And then the final element is the taste.

[Leif Skibsted]

Mankind has always needed a way to store food, from abundance to shortages. That is the background for food science. Food science must be able to preserve food, package them so that they can be transported over distances and stored. A banal example is this packed lunch. The modern food science emerges in the 19th century in connection with urbanisation and the beginnings of industrialisation. Simultaneously in Denmark, is there a need for innovation in the food production, because the world is changing, even for the Danish food products.

[Egil Waagner Nielsen]

It was primarily the cheaper grain that came to Western Europe from the United States and Ukraine and this was thanks to the development of the means of transportation: railroads across America and the steamships. This meant that grain prices during the majority of the 19th century had a declining trend.

[Leif Skibsted]

Denmark thus faced a revolution in agriculture that came to determine its direction right up to the present day.

[Egil Waagner Nielsen]

Because of the strong industrialisation in England and the growth in urban populations, there was a great demand for butter and pork. This meant that during the 19th century, grain prices fell slightly while pork and butter prices were soaring. This put pressure on the Danish farmers who could no longer live by selling grain from Denmark. More and more instead switched over to milk production, pig production and export products from pigs and milk.

[Leif Skibsted]

The question is whether we are facing an even greater revolution in food production today. Nearly 1 billion people are starving and the world’s population will grow to 10 billion by the year 2050. There is a need for innovation and we need to be able to produce more food with the same resources that we have today without damaging the climate and changing the whole foundation of humanity. There is a great need for food science and there is a great need for innovation in order to produce food in the future.

[Anna Haldrup]

We need to able to produce much more food and avoid waste and, in general, reduce the carbon footprint from our food consumption. This is huge challenge for us, along with the food industry, and it means that consumers will eat some different things in the future.

[Leif Skibsted]

In the middle of the 19th century, there were 180,000 farms in Denmark and 80% of the population lived in the country. The next 100 years were the heyday of the independent farmers. There was a need for innovation and there was a need for education to bring Denmark into the Industrial Age and ensure stable food production.

[Grith Lerche]

The self-managed farmers, they hungered for knowledge. They could attend the folk high schools in the winter when there was nothing to do in the field. The farmhands went to the folk high schools and expanded their horizons and views and discovered a much larger world.

[Leif Skibsted]

The first agricultural schools in Denmark were established in the 1830s and the first folk high school opened in 1844. Nevertheless, the Parliament did not believe that the educational foundation was good enough and decided to create what became the Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University. They purchased the mansion Rolighed (Tranquillity) in Frederiksberg and built the Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University, which opened in 1858.

[Grith Lerche]

150 years ago we had reached a point where a higher level of scientific knowledge was needed to develop our agriculture so we could make more and better food.

[Leif Skibsted]

I am standing in front of the Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University as it looks today, now a part of the University of Copenhagen, as the Faculty of Science. However, the building I am standing in front of is not the original Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University building, but you can come with me into the inner courtyard and see what the Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University looked like when it was finished. Here we are surrounded by the buildings where from 1858, students could study to become a Veterinarian, Surveyor, or to receive an MSc in Agriculture and from 1863 could receive an MSc in Forestry and MSc in Horticulture. The Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University was an academic institution, but from the outset the education and research were meant to take place in a strong and close collaboration with the business community and have a practical purpose in mind.

[Grith Lerche]

People were brought in from the University of Copenhagen and the College of Advanced Technology and wherever they could find teachers, so that they could come teach and conduct research.

[Leif Skibsted]

What role does the new Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University get then?

[Grith Lerche]

It is quite fascinating what happens when you gather a lot of scientific skills into a higher education, while always having utility in mind. It was not a theoretical education, it was not basic science, but there was always a utility value. This means that theory was taught, but there were real problems. You had to have the knowledge in order to understand the context and to understand the contexts you also had to conduct some experiments. The experimental activity has always been consistent in much of the work done here at the Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University.

[Leif Skibsted]

One of the teachers who has crossed this courtyard many times was Niels Johannes Fjord, who could be called the Niels Bohr of food science.

[Egil Waagner Nielsen]

Niels Johannes Fjord was rather brilliant, in the middle of the provisional period in the 1880s, he was granted a large sum for the construction of the experimental laboratory standing over there: “Fjords experimental laboratory”. One of the Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University teachers who suddenly found himself with such a large experimental laboratory. Storch was employed there as a laboratory provost and he conducted some very groundbreaking experiments to cultivate pure lactic acid bacteria for sour cream. Along with the pasteurisation of the cream, it helped significantly in securing the quality of the butter. Fjord played a major role by travelling around and giving lectures in the country about the new experiments. When Fjord conducted experiments and the results were there, few months would pass before he travelled around the country and gave lectures on the new results.

[Leif Skibsted]

At the dairies?

[Egil Waagner Nielsen]

The dairy boards quickly set up local dairymen’s associations and it was most likely there, but it was also the Royal Danish Agricultural Society that held many of the lectures, where Fjord lectured and presented his findings. It made a tremendous impact and it is also shown by the fact that a few years after Fjord died they erected the statue that stands over there.

[Leif Skibsted]

Fjord worked as a schoolteacher in Aarhus, but was persuaded to continue his studies as an engineer at the College of Advanced Technology in Copenhagen. After the final exam, he was immediately employed at the newly built Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University in Frederiksberg where he taught Physics, Meteorology and later Mathematics. Fjord was the type of person that made things happen and he quickly became involved in experimental work at the Danish manor houses that faced great challenges in the production of butter.

[Egil Waagner Nielsen]

It was quickly discovered that if you wanted to make good quality butter in the manor dairies, then you should be able to cool the milk. Before you got the centrifuges, the milk had to stand for at least half a day to separate the cream, before it could be skimmed off. In that half day, especially in the summer, the milk could go bad. That was what happened in the farmhouses that had no cooling. It was at the manor houses that they discovered that you should cool. So he suggested that they should build houses with thick walls and thick spaces between the walls, that you could fill with dry peat moss, as insulation.

[Leif Skibsted]

Fjord’s colleague, Thomas Segelcke, also made great contributions to the Danish dairy industry. Such great contributions that he is called the father of the Danish dairy industry.

[Egil Waagner Nielsen]

The manor dairies had dairy workers who did nothing but attend to the milk and butter. There was an old tradition where many of them were raised down in Holstein, for care and cleanliness. But then Segelcke entered into the picture in 1860, hired by the Royal Agricultural Society to be counsellor for the manor dairies. He travelled around and taught the dairy workers to use thermometers and make notes. You could say that Segelcke worked to introduce scientific methods in the manor dairies. They produced such a good quality butter, much of it was sent to England, especially before the loss of Holstein in 1864, and much of the Holstein butter was sold in Copenhagen.

[Leif Skibsted]

This is where research and technology matures in Danish food production.

[Egil Waagner Nielsen]

Yes, you could say that.

[Leif Skibsted]

And this was on the large farms?

[Egil Waagner Nielsen]

Yes, until the cooperative dairies appeared in 1882 and then quickly expanded during the 80s, it was at the large farms, especially the manor houses. Whereas on the small farms you only had relatively few cows, small milk production and milk and cream often had to be collected for several days to get enough for a churning. You had too small portions and thus it had to be collected over a longer period of time you could not get the same quality as you could at the manor farms with a large daily output, with ice cooking in the milk cellars.

[Leif Skibsted]

So it was mostly for local consumption?

[Egil Waagner Nielsen]

Yes, the farmers brought whatever they did not use on the farm to the market towns and sold it to local merchants, who then sold it on. But the prices for a farmer’s butter was significantly lower than those for manor butter.

[Leif Skibsted]

And then the cooperative movement started?

[Egil Waagner Nielsen]

Yes, the first cooperative dairy started in 1882 and was a consequence of the invention of a continuous centrifuge in 1878. This made it possible to collect and treat a large amount of milk in one place. In the past, when you had to set the cream to rise in flat vats that had to stand overnight, there was not much incentive to gather milk from many of the small farms to large enterprises. But when they got the continuous centrifuge, there was suddenly the basis for treating large quantities of milk in a short time.

[Leif Skibsted]

What could the continuous centrifuge do?

[Egil Waagner Nielsen]

It could separate the whole milk into skim milk and cream in a matter of seconds, where it would otherwise require at least half a day of setting the cream to rise before the it could be removed by hand skimming.

[Leif Skibsted]

And this is an invention that was made in Scandinavia?

[Egil Waagner Nielsen]

Yes, it was L.C. Nielsen at the Maglekilde Machine Factory in Roskilde who developed the first continuous centrifuge. At the same time, Delaval in Stockholm also developed a continuous centrifuge, but based on another principle. The patents for the two types came within the same month.

[Leif Skibsted]

It can’t be that difficult to make butter, many will probably say. You take some cream. A little bit of buttermilk to sour it. And then you whip it. Voila, now we have butter. Before the butter is processed further, it is salted. Not too much, but a little is needed. To improve its shelf life and to make it taste better. Appearances are deceiving. In order To make butter of a high and consistent quality so that it could be exported abroad, especially to England, required a high degree of standardisation. You needed high quality milk. You had to be able to collect the cream by centrifugation and then the butter had to be churned. The original process also included whipping. Not with a hand mixer, as demonstrated here, but with a hand operated beater.

[Grith Lerche]

The fact that they got together and formed cooperative dairies meant that you got milk into the dairies from many different farms. In the beginning, unfortunately, there were some scandals because they were mixing milk from many cows. If there are tuberculin bacteria in the milk from one cow, then it is mixed in along with everything else. And that caused some problems.

[Egil Waagner Nielsen]

If there was just one livestock that had an infectious disease, it could be spread to the entire supply chain. Fjord was called upon to investigate and he went to work on the experimental stations around the country. He could quickly show, together with the veterinarian Bernhard Bang here at the Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University, that you could prevent the spread of infection by heating the skimmed milk. It was quickly implemented in the 1880s as the dairies learned of Fjord’s results and introduced the pasteurisation of the skimmed milk fed to pigs. This reduced the spread of infection. It was the most important work Fjord did then.

[Leif Skibsted]

The decisive breakthrough for Danish butter exports to England came at the end of the 19th century. The butter export was a golden nugget for Denmark and there were others who also wanted to profit from this business opportunity.

[Leif Skibsted]

When did the Lur brand appear?

[Egil Waagner Nielsen]

The Lur brand arrived around the turn of the century. It was brought about by the export of butter from Siberia, it was Hjerl Hansen who had a large dairy empire in Siberia and he exported butter to England. It was sometimes sent through Copenhagen and so in England is was perceived as Danish butter. This is why they worked on introducing a national brand, the Lur brand.

[Leif Skibsted]

That still exists.

[Egil Waagner Nielsen]

That still exists.

[Grith Lerche]

The different dairies could have their products evaluated and could receive diplomas. When they began to sell butter to England in large casks, and we sent lots of butter over to England, it was the Lur brand Danish butter. It was slightly sour, lightly salted butter and it was pasteurised, so the quality of the Danish butter was raised.

[Leif Skibsted]

The English population was hungry for bacon and butter. From 1864 to 1914, the Danish pig population increased fivefold. Milk production at the cooperative dairies now provided a good background for animal production. The new products thus replaced the former grain exports from Denmark.

[Grith Lerche]

When you make butter you get buttermilk and skim milk as by-products. This the farmers got back. What do you do with it when you cannot sell the grain and get milk back, then you give it to the pigs. Then they started to develop a pig production sector and at the same time in 1888 our export to Germany stopped because of swine fever and the like. They did not want live pigs and they wanted pigs that were fatter.

[Leif Skibsted]

More bacon.

[Grith Lerche]

Yes, more bacon. Then the Danish began making what the English wanted and that was bacon pigs. This meant that we developed a Danish landrace of pigs, to suit the English. They got butter, bacon and eggs, all exports to England exploded.

[Anders Juel Møller]

And Denmark was quite adept at making the feeding and breeding more efficient and it happened rather quickly. An extra rib was bred into the pigs; they became more cigar-shaped than the old more square pig type. As the old Professor of Animal Husbandry Hjalmar Clausen said: “We are striving for a cigar-shaped bacon pig.” There was an extra rib on the pig that he boasted of.

[Grith Lerche]

The manner in which we exported pigs was what was half pigs, whole sides were sent to England and then they could cut them for bacon over there. At our export slaughterhouses, started in the late 19th century, there was a lot of waste, heads, feet, even sirloin, now I don’t call it waste, and hearts and offal and so on. There was a whole lot of liver and some clever people in Denmark discovered that we could make it into liver pâté. That happened in 1847. The same year Carlsberg came out with his first pilsner. Meanwhile Beauvais displayed their French liver pâté on Strøget. It was realised that liver pâté, the fine seasoned product, could be sold. It then became our Danish folk liver pâté and it worked well, as we have sandwich and packed lunch culture. The workers in factories could not go home to a hot lunch like they could on farms, but they could take their rye bread open-faced sandwiches with them for lunch. It was sanctioned and positively backed up by medical science, which was also developing. They were beginning to take an interest in proteins, calories, vitamins and so on. The doctors could see that there were A vitamins, B vitamins, iron and all the good things in liver pâté and it therefore fit well with the Danish food culture. It was a side effect of the pig exports.

[Leif Skibsted]

Now we are back to food waste. In the 19th century, a lot of attention was paid to preventing food waste. Denmark has always been known for its ability to utilise waste products from food production. The pancreas from pigs was used for insulin production from the early 1920s and the forerunner of Novo Nordisk had a very profitable production when insulin was discovered. Similarly, Christian Hansen, a Danish pharmacist, used calf stomach to produce rennet, which is a prerequisite for modern cheese production. Christian Hansen founded a company that became a global producer of starter cultures for fermented milk products and butter manufacturing.

[Egil Waagner Nielsen]

It was the laboratory provost Storch who had the greatest impact on fermentation in dairy products. When they conducted experiments in 1890, after the success with the pasteurisation of the leftover skim milk, they wanted to see if they could pasteurise the buttermilk used in butter. It was immediately successful, as it had a much cleaner taste, but it also destroyed the fermenting bacteria and then you had to add fermenting cultures. Storch made some groundbreaking studies of which bacteria soured the butter and gave it a good taste. He worked with this until he died in 1918. The first report Storch published in 1890, about the cultivation of bacteria and which bacteria it was, Lactococcus, already had a tremendous impact because he recommended that the cream should be pasteurised and then certain cultivated lactic acid bacteria should be added. They quickly wrote about it in "Mælkeri tidende" (dairy magazine) and the dairies immediately began to call for cultures and at once there were companies, including Christian Hansen, who at the time only made rennet, started to produce lactic acid bacterial cultures, that they sold to the dairies. At the same time, the dairies found that the milk that acidified itself and had been handled in a sterile manner produced a good taste. That’s why there were many dairies at that time and far up in time that continued grafting the self-fermenting milk every day into the boiled milk, thus preserving the lactic acid bacterial culture. It was Storch’s great work to find out which bacteria it was and how to maintain them. This was what Christian Hansen and other companies around the world took up and it is what formed the basis for Christian Hansen to become the company that produces half of all bacterial cultures used in dairies around the world.

[Leif Skibsted]

Before establishing an education for dairy engineers at the Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University in 1921, it was the Agronomists who were taught how a dairy production should be run.

[Egil Waagner Nielsen]

Segelcke was a professor of dairying until he died in 1901. He taught dairying to agricultural students, as there was no dairy education at that time. This was continued by Segelcke’s successor Bøggild until they established the dairy technology degree in 1921, where you could then get a special dairy education at the Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University. Many of the Agronomists trained before that time also worked as consultants in the dairy industry and as teachers at the dairy schools. It was only after 1921 that there were people trained specifically for the dairy industry from the Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University. But the dairy training started in 1858 with Segelcke.

[Leif Skibsted]

Where were they employed, this new kind of graduate?

[Egil Waagner Nielsen]

The first few years, only 2-4 were trained each year and they were primarily employed as teachers at the dairy schools, in Dalum and Ladelund, and as consultants for the dairy industry. It was not until later in the 40s that there were dairy graduates who went out into the dairy production as the manager of the dairy.

[Leif Skibsted]

The end of the 19th century was the period in which industrialisation took off. Agricultural production, and in particular, dairy production, became more efficient. It was here that the foundations of modern agriculture modern food production and our welfare society as a whole were laid.
This was a revolution that had its starting point here in Frederiksberg on the Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University.
The best thing the farmers and agriculture could produce was a uniformed product. This ensured good and stable exports and a good and stable income for Denmark. But in the 20th century it perhaps went a bit too far. The uniformity that we valued so highly may have gotten out of control. Join us in the next episode where we dive into the 20th century and follow threads right up to the present day.

[Outtro]
We want a green and gorgeous future

Episode 2

Featuring

Leif Skibsted (Professor of Food Chemistry, Department of Food Science, University of Copenhagen, UCPH FOOD)

Anna Haldrup (Head of the Department of Food Science, University of Copenhagen, UCPH FOOD)

Egil Waagner Nielsen (Dairy Engineer and Associate Professor Emeritus, The Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University)

Grith Lerche (PhD in agriculture, former curator at the National Museum of Denmark with a focus on agriculture)

Anders Juel Møller (Former Associate Professor and Meat Researcher at The Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University)

Grete Bertelsen (Associate Dean of Education, The Faculty of Science, University of Copenhagen)

[Leif Skibsted]

The Earth reached its Overshoot Day in December in 1987. In 2018, the Earth Overshoot Day had already been reached in August. This means, that by August we had used the resources that should have lasted the year out, if the Earth were to be able to recuperate what was consumed, for the coming years and future generations. Simultaneously, the population is growing and growing, and demanding more and more consumption. We are about to saw off the branch we are sitting on. There is a need for drastic change, especially in the way we produce food and in food science.

[Anna Haldrup]

We need to be able to produce more food, avoid food waste, and reduce the carbon footprint of our food consumption. This is a big challenge for us, along with the food industry, and it means that consumers will have to eat some other things in the future.

[Leif Skibsted]

From the middle of the 19th century up to the 1940s, industrialisation was gaining momentum and many new solutions were revealed by natural science. Legislation should then have followed, but here there was a certain inertia. One problem you still had in agriculture and dairies right up to the 1960s was the spread of diseases from animals to humans.

[Egil Waagner Nielsen]

The last major epidemic we had in Denmark was in Gladsaxe, where 2,400 people became ill with streptococcus pyogenes pharyngitis, of which 24 died.

There were many epidemics of this kind, but the one in Gladsaxe gave rise to the introduction of a milk scheme. There used to be 313 dairies in Copenhagen back then. Small dairies that got their milk directly from the farmers, and sold the raw milk. The epidemics led to the new milk scheme, where the majority of the small dairies were closed and only 13 dairies remained, and in Copenhagen they imposed the mandatory pasteurisation of milk.

The peculiar thing is that it was not until 1967 that a general directive was introduced for the whole of Denmark, declaring that all cow’s milk should be pasteurised. After 1942, it became possible for municipalities to impose pasteurisation in their health requirements.

[Leif Skibsted]

It was, among other things, a sluggishness in the legislation that hindered a safe milk production and supply right up to the middle of the 20th century. The question today is whether politicians are working fast enough on climate issues. Politicians set up UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, so it is also the politicians who must create the framework for us to solve the climate issues. After World War II came a period where Denmark apparently expected other industrial products than food, would be the mainstay of the Danish economy. Of course, there was continuous development of the industry and technology, but not much was invested into food research.

[Egil Waagner Nielsen]

Until about 1950, almost all milk was transported by horse-drawn carriage, so there were limits to how far you could drive and therefore there was a dairy in every other or third village across the country. When they then began to motorize the inland milk transport, first with tractors, later with trucks and even later with tankers, it became economically viable to collect milk in larger units and thus make better economic use of the machinery. You could run the centrifuges and pasteurisation machines several hours a day and that was the driving force for the disbanding of the many dairy cooperatives.

[Leif Skibsted]

The production of meat has always been important for Denmark as an agricultural country.

[Anders Juel Møller]

Yes, especially the pig production. Pig production has clearly been the most important. Of course, we have also produced veal for export, mostly to Italy, but not beef; there we have Australia, New Zealand and the United States, all major beef producers. Pig production is today by far the largest and it has always been by far the most important. In order for the pig to grow quickly, which is what it was all about, they had to be efficient, have high growth and low feed consumption. This requires protein feed and the correct amino acid composition in order to be efficient. The average small and medium-sized farms had about 10 sows and delivered about 100 pigs for slaughter per year, it was down on that scale. Only much later in the 1960s and 1970s that you started to get significantly larger and specialised farms, where they focused solely on pigs, while others focused on cows and thus the various farms specialised.

[Grith Lerche]

It then scales up in a completely different way. And from the consumer’s point of view, when they go too far with specialising, people start digging their heels in.

[Anders Juel Møller]

In terms of research, the Danish Meat Research Institute is established in 1955. It is Mogens Juul who starts it and later, Wismer-Pedersen, a professor here at the Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University, takes over. Mogens Juul was Director and Wismer-Pedersen was employed as a researcher.

[Leif Skibsted]

At the research institute in Roskilde?

[Anders Juel Møller]

Yes, it was around 1955. The problem with the quality was that the pigs had to be transported to the slaughterhouses, the small slaughterhouses and sometimes they had exhausted their glycogen repositories at the time of slaughter, and it was also not sufficiently broken down into lactic acid and thus the pH level did not go down. They ended up with a pH level of over 6 and this was a major quality issue at the time.

[Leif Skibsted]

There is a shift in the 1960s where more and more people are moving to the cities. There are fewer people living in the country and can work in agriculture. There are fewer hands to perform the work of food production. Here comes chemistry to help.

[Grith Lerche]

With chemistry we can spray so you can fight weeds and won't have to transfer oats as many times and deliver fertilizer, NPK fertilizer as it is called.

That is to say, instead of making a rotation, where you, for example, grow grain on one field, root vegetables on a second field and let a third lie fallow and then rotate so that the soil is properly processed, you could go away from that and instead add fertilizer and keep growing the same thing on the field and control by yourself

[Leif Skibsted]

The production of inorganic fertilizers from the middle of the last century by a chemical process is an example of research that has had a huge impact on our society without any thought about the consequences. Around 1955, there were 3 billion people on Earth. Had it not been for inorganic fertilizer, the population would have stagnated around 3-4 billion. Today we are almost 8 billion. Inorganic fertilizers and other chemicals also proved to threaten groundwater, lakes and streams. It is a textbook example of how we need to think holistically about sustainability. Inorganic fertilizers allowed us to produce on a large scale without using as much labour. But inorganic fertilizer also gave the international community some problems, that we did not discuss at the time. It is also an example of the need for interdisciplinary research. Only by working together across the traditional subject boundaries will we be able to achieve solutions that are truly sustainable. Now we are faced with the challenge that we must produce as much food in the next 50 years as mankind has produced since it left the hunting and gathering stage and up to today. There is a demand for a circular economy, especially from young people, including from our own students.

[Demonstration]

We want a green and gorgeous future.

[Leif Skibsted]
From the mid-1960s, the farms get bigger and bigger, the dairies are merged and the slaughterhouses are merged.
From the old days, we consider standardisation itself as a quality measure. We choose to produce cheap bulk rather than high quality, particularly with regards to meat products.

[Anders Juel Møller]

In the beginning, you saw that it was a large production that was focused on in Denmark, not quality goods like dried hams from Italy, but we delivered the hams to Italy. In Denmark, it was mostly canned hams that were produced, not high quality products.

[Leif Skibsted]

Were the Danish consumers satisfied with the quality of Danish meat products?

[Anders Juel Møller]

The Danes love to eat cheap foods and are therefore easy to satisfy, for example, when you talk about hot-dog stand hot dogs, those are not high quality when compared to sausages from Germany, which have a completely different taste. But in this respect, Danes have been quite satisfied with our normal frankfurters.

[Leif Skibsted]

What about industrially farmed chicken?

[Anders Juel Møller]

Industrially farmed chickens were criticized. It was discovered that due to streamlining, the chickens had to grow as quickly as possible and reach a slaughter age at 7-8 weeks.

[Leif Skibsted]

The food industry thus produces bulk and food research is at a low point. But politicians see that there is a lack of a proper food education.

[Grete Bertelsen]

It was Mogens Juul and others who acknowledged that there was a need for a specific food science education and therefore considered how it should be and finally got permission to create the education and that it should be at the Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University. It started in 1971 with an intake of about 30 and has existed since then.

[Leif Skibsted]

When the new education started, Denmark exported a great deal of food. Food exports were greater than pharmaceutical exports, which no longer the case today. We produced food for 3 times the population of Denmark. Wasn’t it strange that there was no food education or research?

[Grete Bertelsen]

Yes, I think so too. And therefore it was really good that they finally decided that it should be created.

[Leif Skibsted]

However, the establishment of a new education in food science was not enough. The Danish Technical Research Council conducted an international evaluation of food research in Denmark in the 1980s. They came to the conclusion that there were too many small units that lacked resources. It was recommended that the research be organised in larger units and that new resources be added. It ended up with DTH and the Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University joining forces to establish a unified research centre, which would also manage the education in food science. It became the Danish Centre for Advanced Food Studies. The Danish Centre for Advanced Food Studies was backed up by a research programme that provided a half a billion kroner of the so-called FØTEK funds to support the centre and renew Danish food research. Many had probably dreamed of establishing a true food university, just as they have in Holland. But it was not the time for creating new universities. Instead they established this centre without walls, Danish Centre for Advanced Food Studies.  

[Grete Bertelsen]

It was a decision by Bertel Haarder as far as I remember. The reason for it was to get KVL to work closer with DTU. Both in terms of research and in terms of education, as it was decided to combine the chemical engineering with a specialisation in food with the bromatology (food science) programme. Then you had to make sure that the students in the two programmes were in both locations.

[Leif Skibsted]

At that time, had people become accustomed to the title Bromatologist?

[Grete Bertelsen]

Yes, until it was thought that a new title should be created, which there was a lengthy discussion about, and it ended up being called a Food Science MSc.

[Leif Skibsted]

The Danish Centre for Advanced Food Studies, including the research school Food Denmark, only lasted for a few decades. After that food research spread across a number of the Danish universities. Here, the research is taking place independently of each other, though there is still collaboration around the educational programmes.

[Leif Skibsted]

Through all of these changes in food education, we currently have some of the best educations in the dairy field and food sector in general in the world. How can they help solve future problems? And which problems should they solve?

[Grete Bertelsen]

There are a lot of problems they have to help solve. First, they must help to ensure that enough food is produced for the population we have. It is a huge challenge. And I believe our food candidates along with our agronomists are some of those who can solve that challenge. They must also be able to produce food or help the food to be produced in as climate-friendly manner as possible because there is no doubt that we also have climate challenges, so that is also an aspect. Then they also have to help ensure that the nutritional composition of the foods we produce is optimal in relation to the needs we have as humans. There are many challenges that they can help to solve.

[Anna Haldrup]

We have an incredible task in producing sustainable food. It is important in our education for the students to know what sustainable food production is and to be able to compare the sustainability of different foods and how to improve it. It is also in all our research, how we use by-products, how we develop new food that are more sustainable. I see this as a completely essential part and it has become clearer as we have always had sustainability in our education and our research, but it is just a much bigger part now.

[Leif Skibsted]

The Danish pig production began as a derivation from the new milk production when the cooperative movement emerged, as the skimmed milk was sent back to the farmers as pig feed. That is no longer done. Is pig production still sustainable?

[Anna Haldrup]

Pig production in Denmark is quite sustainable, because everything is used; we are really good at using all parts of a pig. The calculation of Danish pig production is actually quite sustainable compared to other pig productions. But not to say that you should just eat pork, it is quite clear that plant-based foods are more sustainable than meat.

[Leif Skibsted]

Now the pigs are not fed the whey from the cheese production and butter production, i.e. the skimmed milk from butter production, but the protein comes from South America, especially soy. Denmark is the world’s largest exporter of pork, not the producer. That is China.

[Leif Skibsted]

Can you say that this production is sustainable seen in this perspective?

[Anna Haldrup]

No, importing soy from South America is really crazy even when we are making food from soy and eating soy products. We need to make Danish proteins ourselves and grow it out in the field and grow more food in the field than feed in general. Danish pigs should not have soy from South America. We should be able to do it ourselves by processing our rapeseed, horse beans, or other protein crops so that we can feed the pigs with it instead. In regard to having previously used whey for feed, I can remember that as a child in the countryside I got free whey for the calves, as it was a waste product. Now it has become more valuable for the dairies than the cheese production, so the by-product has become more valuable than the main product. This is the path we should take, using everything that has otherwise been a by-product for sustainable production. One of the new foods that we are working on is this here. Do you know what it is?

[Leif Skibsted]

It looks like soot.

[Anna Haldrup]

Green soot.

[Leif Skibsted]

What is it?

[Anna Haldrup]

It is Chlorella, microalgae harvested from the sea.

[Leif Skibsted]

It tastes green.

[Anna Haldrup]

Yeah, it doesn’t actually taste very good.

[Leif Skibsted]

It just needs to be cooked a little.

[Anna Haldrup]

A lot of it is produced in the oceans and it is super healthy, because it has long-chain fatty acids and lots of proteins.

[Leif Skibsted]

Long-chain unsaturated fatty acids, Omega-3.

[Anna Haldrup]

Yes, what we would otherwise get from fish, but the fish get it from here, because they eat plankton with these algae. It is better that we eat the starting point for what is healthy in fish than eat the fish. Neither does it accumulate heavy metals, as fish do, so there are many good reasons to use microalgae. The problem is that it doesn’t taste very good. We will not get people to eat it in this form. So there is research and development to make it into a food that tastes good. This is where gastronomy and food science come together. Now I will show some examples of waste products. We have talked about whey becoming more valuable than the cheese for the dairy industry, where the whey was actually a by-product or a waste product in the old days, from cheese production. This is another powder. It is blood protein from pig blood. It is also healthy. The problem with pig blood is that it tastes bad due to the iron from the haemoglobin. But here the iron and the red colour has been removed using enzymes from fruit. So it is possible to make a product that you can add to foods. Here is another waste product. It is from the production of beer, where the mash is the waste. It is when you when you have used the malt, from the germinated grain that forms the enzymes that breaks down the starch into sugar which the yeast makes into alcohol, leaving behind protein and fibres that is used as feed. But you can also make a flour product that you can bake with. You can make granola that tastes good. You can use it in your yoghurt in the morning. But on the whole, it is a fine commodity made directly from a by-product of a food production.

[Leif Skibsted]

I can taste some sugar in here.

[Anna Haldrup]

Yes, there is some left.

[Leif Skibsted]

You’ve added sugar?

[Anna Haldrup]

No, I don’t think so.

[Leif Skibsted]

Interesting.

[Anna Haldrup]

These are some of the new foods that will be made. There are many fish and squid that are not eaten. We will change that. We are going to end up eating “junk fish” and squid from the Danish seas, that you would otherwise have thrown out, because there is plenty of healthy food in it.

[Leif Skibsted]

Good proteins and good lipids.

[Anna Haldrup]

Yes.

[Leif Skibsted]

Food must provide experiences.

[Anna Haldrup]

Yes, it must provide experiences and you should want to buy it and eat it, because it doesn’t matter if it’s healthy if it tastes bad.

[Leif Skibsted]

It should bring together friends and family and gastronomy?

[Anna Haldrup]

Yes, gastronomy and food science are very closely linked. Gastronomy and food science should both help us eat the new foods that are coming out. Make us more food-brave. It is also where you have to say that we should eat some delicious and good food and then not eat as much. Our challenges now are not only that there are mouths that are not being fed, but actually to a greater extent that we are getting too fat. We are eating wrong and too much.

[Leif Skibsted]

Today there are more overweight than hungry people on Earth.

[Anna Haldrup]

Yes there are. And it will probably go even further in that direction.

[Leif Skibsted]

A simple calculation says that if you switch to organic production you lose about a third of the yield. How do you see that with regards to 1 billion people still going hungry?

[Grete Bertelsen]

It’s really a dilemma and I have no precise answer to that. But it is clearly something that you have to consider.

[Leif Skibsted]

One answer is that we have to switch over to eating plant-based foods, which can compensate for it. Do you think this is a feasible way of doing it?

[Grete Bertelsen]

It would certainly take a few years. You also need to constantly think about getting the correct nutritional composition from the diet you have. There are a lot of good components in meat and dairy products. This is to ensure that the population gets a diet that has a proper nutritional composition.

[Leif Skibsted]

One third of the Earth’s population suffers from chronic iron deficiency.

[Grete Bertelsen]

There meat can really help.

[Leif Skibsted]

It is almost the only food where you can be sure to get good iron absorption. Another solution I would like to hear your opinion about is the use of genetic engineering to increase the yield of our foods, GMO.

[Grete Bertelsen]

Some new techniques have been developed, like CRISPR, which is not outright GMO and I am more positive about this recent technology than GMO.

[Anna Haldrup]

Food science does not deal with genetic engineering. There are no food companies that wants to touch it because consumers do not want it.

[Leif Skibsted]

Is that the case everywhere?

[Anna Haldrup]

No. They use it a lot in China, Brazil and the United States. But we do not.

[Leif Skibsted]

Europe, EU?

[Anna Haldrup]

Yes, we do not want it. It could solve many food challenges, but as long as consumers do not want it, it does not matter.

[Leif Skibsted]

Now the European Union has enacted the purview that the milder form, that could be called gene editing, is the same as gene modifying. What do you think about that?

[Anna Haldrup]

I think it is a shame that the EU has equated CRISPR-CAS, which is this gene editing, with GMO. You do not insert new genes into an organism using it, but they have chosen to do so. It is very unfortunate. It would make it possible to avoid pesticides by making our plants resistant to diseases. In this way it would be “organic”. At least it is a much healthier way to do it.

[Leif Skibsted]

We are approaching ecology from behind, in a natural way.

[Anna Haldrup]

Yes, we do. But it cannot be included in the definition of ecology. But perhaps we will eventually need a climate label. It is difficult for consumers to know whether something is sustainable when they are buying it. It might not have been sprayed, but if it was not grown in soil, but on rock wool, then it is not ecological, but it is still very climate-friendly and healthy because it was not sprayed. There is no link between ecology and sustainability, as some believe. There may be a link, but there need not be.

[Leif Skibsted]

How do we then manage the challenges of the future? There must be some agricultural and some food science solutions on the table. It is serious and the youth are demanding a new revolution from us. But businesses, consumers, and politicians must pull together before anything will happen. All segments of society must be involved if we are going to be able to meet the sustainability goals, as set by the UN.

[Grith Lerche]

The way we have made things work in this country is that we have learned to cooperate. That is to solve problems where they are. When something goes wrong, we have to fix it and we have done this by adjusting the productions and finding something else to eat. We have always been prepared for change, we have been curious and right from the start, from Abildgaard’s time, we went out into the world and brought experiences home and refined them and used them for our own production.

[Leif Skibsted]

In the 1850s, Danish agriculture switched from grain production to animal production with a long, sustained effort. This time we do not have as much time to succeed.

[Demonstration]

No earth, no mother.

Episode 3

Featuring

Leif Skibsted, Professor of Food Chemistry, Department of Food Science, University of Copenhagen, KU FOOD

Henrik Siegumfeldt, Associate Professor in the Department of Food Science, University of Copenhagen, KU FOOD

[Leif Skibsted]

Beer is an ancient invention, but in earlier times, in the Middle Ages for instance, there was not much alcohol in the beer. Beer was a source of nutrients and people drank it instead of well water because the well water was often contaminated. My name is Leif Skibsted and I am a professor of food chemistry in the Department of Food Science at the University of Copenhagen. Today I am interviewing my colleague Henrik Siegumfeldt, who is an associate professor in microbiology as well as the Head of Studies for the MSc in Food Science and Technology, so Henrik is also responsible for the overall framework of the master brewer programme.

[Leif Skibsted]

Beer is a relatively simple thing. It consists of water, barley, yeast and hops. When did beer first appear?  

[Henrik Siegumfeldt]

There is some debate about this. The latest publication, which is the most controversial, asserts that it was 13,000 years ago, somewhere in Israel, where containers have been found that clearly were used to process grains in some way and there is then this discussion about whether it was made into a porridge and fermented into beer or whether it was something bread-like, but you can at least see that there are some Neolithic farmers who settled down at some point and began to farm, which involved bread and/or beer. So very old.  

[Leif Skibsted]

So it is when we settle down that we can make beer?

[Henrik Siegumfeldt]

It is said that Natufians were seminomadic, so maybe it was just before they settled. There are some who have argued that beer production was one of the reasons for putting down roots – in order to produce enough grain to make bread and beer, so perhaps it was also a driver for settlement.

[Leif Skibsted]

Beer has also been important in the agricultural communities in Denmark. Why did they drink beer?

[Henrik Siegumfeldt]

There were several reasons, but until we started to produce beer industrially, the beer had a relatively low alcohol content, so at that time it was not only used to get a buzz. There is also the great advantage that beer is boiled, in contrast to water coming from a well that may not have the highest hygienic standard, you never get sick from drinking beer. So you drank some low-alcohol beer that was boiled and therefore sterile.

[Leif Skibsted]

When did they begin to train people for the breweries?

[Henrik Siegumfeldt]

This comes in the 20th century. Scientists, including skilled botanists and physiologists, were employed at breweries, but in Denmark we have the School of Brewing, which was established in the early part of the 20th century as a place where you actually have an education that is specifically designed for working in a brewery. The quality of the beer before they really began researching it was very inconsistent. There was good beer, and there was bad beer, and everyone was able to make some excellent beer. Everyone was also able to make something really, really bad. With regards to the research, they worked on making the bad beer less frequently and making a fine beer more often. You can always make a good beer; it’s just hard to make it again and again.

[Leif Skibsted]

Was it a matter of chance?

[Henrik Siegumfeldt]

When you didn’t know what you were doing it was a matter of chance. But we now know, that by not using certain types of barley that caused problems with filtration or avoiding special types of yeast that caused problems, or by ensuring that the yeast was not infected with bacteria that could cause other tastes – Sarcina sickness for example – then you were able to increase the chance of making a good beer, but again: Even today, with the breweries being as skilled as they are, it still happens that a brew goes wrong for one reason or another.

[Leif Skibsted]

On all farms in the past, there was a home brewery. What did you do in the home brewery?

[Henrik Siegumfeldt]

That is where you made the beer and it was actually a bit difficult to use the grain to make an alcoholic drink. If you choose many of the sugary fruits, like apples or grapes, then you can ferment directly. You just have to crush the fruits and extract the fruit juice and then the yeast can start turning it into ethanol. But when making beer, it is necessary to mash the grain first and to develop an enzyme “amylase”, which then breaks down the starch. And this entire process is what is happening in the home brewery or the brewhouse, so it is actually an elaborate extra step that is required to turn grain into alcohol. 

[Leif Skibsted]

They mastered this on the individual farms? In the Middle Ages and beyond?

[Henrik Siegumfeldt]

They actually did, and the interesting thing was that there were some farms that were better at making beer than others. There was still no industrial production, but you knew that there was a clever wife that brewed better than the others. The major challenge that made it difficult to start large-scale production was that even if you produced some really good beer, it would expire fast. The problem was that if you made an excellent beer, then it wasn’t very good a week later, so you couldn’t send it to other cities.

[Leif Skibsted]

Where did they get the yeast?

[Henrik Siegumfeldt]

Yeast sprinkles down from the sky spontaneously, but it was discovered relatively quickly that you could reuse the leftovers from a previous brew to start a new brew, so this whole idea of reusing and inoculating again was something that came much earlier with beer than, for example, with wine, where they worked for much longer with the spontaneous fermentation that is created by the yeast that sits on the grapes. At some point, they begin to develop a yeast ring. This is a piece of wood with small pieces of wood positioned crosswise and if you dipped it in the beer and lifted it up again, some of the yeast from the beer would remain on it. You hung it to dry, as yeast can tolerate being dried a bit, and the next time you had to make a brew, you put it down in the brew, and then it started again. If it went terribly wrong, then you went over to the neighbouring farm and borrowed a yeast ring from them, to get started again. So already at that time, they had an understanding that something happened, but nobody knew that it was yeast. You didn’t know what it was. You just knew that there was something on the yeast ring that could start the fermentation.

[Leif Skibsted]

In all farmer gardens you also had a hops garden?  What do hops do?

[Henrik Siegumfeldt]

The hops are special because they have a distinctly bitter taste and you may wonder why it has become popular, as it makes it a little harder to accept the taste at first. But hops have a very strong antimicrobial effect on a very small group of bacteria, namely lactic acid bacteria. The vast majority of bacteria in beer cannot grow – this includes, for example, salmonella or a campylobacter. So you didn’t get sick from drinking beer in the Middle Ages, but it was always sour. If it was allowed to stand for a week or two, the same bacteria that makes yoghurt and cheese sour would make it go acidic, but when you put hops in, it inhibits the growth of exactly these bacteria and then you suddenly have a shelf life of three months instead of two weeks, which meant that you could scale up your beer production. So it became very popular for that reason.

[Leif Skibsted]

One of the pioneers of the Danish brewing industry brought a new yeast to Denmark.  

[Henrik Siegumfeldt]

Yes, that was Brewer Jacobsen, who started Carlsberg. He was a self-educated man, but at some point he heard of a new type of yeast that came from Germany, from Bavaria, which gave a different and better taste than the white beer we typically made in Denmark – So he travelled down to Gabriel Sedlmayr in the Spaten Brewery in Bavaria and was allowed to take some yeast home. There is a very famous story about how he tried to keep the yeast cold during the entire journey back to Denmark, and he writes much later in his life about how proud he is that he still uses the yeast that he brought home from Sedlmayr in his brewery.

But he still had the problem that even if he used this yeast and reused it and reused it, there was sometimes a brew or two that were bad and suffered from Sarcina sickness, which caused the beer to smell very unpleasant. But he had great foresight and hired some scientists, and one of them was the physiologist Emil Christian Hansen, who began to study the problem. He discovered – just like Pasteur in France – that, first of all, there were bacteria in the yeast that could end up in the beer and could create some unwanted flavours. Emil Christian Hansen also discovered that if you could isolate individual cells of a yeast and then graft it into completely pure beer, you would get what is called a pure culture – that is, a culture that only consists of a single genotype, a genetic clone of yeast, and he did this and called it “Unterhefe 1” (bottom yeast 1) and it also got the name ”Saccharomyces carlsbergensis”. It is the first pure yeast culture and Brewer Jacobsen was so proud that he wrote to all of his colleagues across Europe and said: “Would you like to use my method? You may also have a little of my yeast”, because he thought it was a major advancement for all brewers around the world.

[Leif Skibsted]

Was it a bottom-fermenting yeast?

[Henrik Siegumfeldt]

It was a bottom-fermenting yeast. It was a bottom fermenting yeast that he got from Sedlmayr, and bottom-fermenting yeast prefers to ferment at a little colder temperature. This means that it gets a, some say “a cleaner taste”, and others say a slightly more one-dimensional taste. Later they discovered that it was a very modern yeast, as the bottom-fermenting yeast emerged in the 16th-17th century as a hybrid that resulted from the human use of yeast – so it is not a yeast that exists naturally out in the environment. Bottom-fermenting yeast is simply driven by the fact that people have made beer again and again and again.

[Leif Skibsted]

Is that the shift from white beer to lager?

[Henrik Siegumfeldt]

That was it, yes. Initially they called it lager beer, which was originally something darker, like a “classic” today or even darker yet. This was made using the bottom-fermenting yeast and it gave this clean, clear taste, which was very popular. The shift to pilsner beer actually came about largely because glass became more commercially available. When the taverns start to get glasses, you can see what the beer really looked like – previously you drank from a clay or wooden mug. Pilsners, which were developed in Bohemia in the present day Czech Republic, are made with a very light malt that makes the beer more golden. The light, golden colour is very appealing, so it comes to dominate when you begin to see the beer in a glass. In Denmark, the first pilsner beer is actually made by Tuborg in the 1880s, so it comes a little later and the funny thing is that everyone thinks that the Carlsberg pilsner we drink today was the original, but it was actually first introduced partway into the 1900s.

[Leif Skibsted]

But with the same yeast?

[Henrik Siegumfeldt]

With the same yeast, so again the same taste of the yeast, but with slightly less malt flavour, because you use a malt that has slightly less caramel in it.

[Leif Skibsted]

You talk about Sarcina sickness. What is Sarcina sickness?

[Henrik Siegumfeldt]

When you talk about beer sickness or ”Sarcina sickness”. It is a matter of these lactic acid bacteria I mentioned before growing in the beer and producing lactic acid, which causes a sourness. It is not usually unpleasant and is actually enjoyable when eating junket or butter. Because in addition to the acid, large amounts of the substance diacetyl are usually produced, which is precisely what we love in butter and buttermilk, but in large quantities in beer, it is very unpleasant. It has a sickly, nauseating smell and if you are really unlucky you can also form a side chain of sulphur, which smells really nasty. So you get a beer that, in popular terms, smells a bit like vomit. It is not actually dangerous, so you could easily drink it if you wanted it, but it is just a much less appealing product. Even the skilled brewers like Carlsberg got it until they learned to cultivate yeast.

[Leif Skibsted]

There is also something called beer aging.

[Henrik Siegumfeldt]

Yes, and that is something we are looking at today and some of my colleagues are working on it. Historically, there has not been a lot of interest in beer being very old. For example, whisky is famous for being aged, for many centuries wine has been known to be able to gain certain qualities through aging, but generally the opinion has been that beer does not age gracefully. Certain types of beer – for example, pilsner beer – just becomes more boring when it gets old. The relatively few flavours in the beer get a little boring; some call it a cardboard or old bread taste, but not flavours that are desirable. In recent years, we have begun researching it, and you can see that especially if you use beer that is a little stronger, a little darker in the malt, typically also a little more bitter, you can age it deliberately, which means that a lot of chemical changes take place, so that there is no doubt that an aged beer tastes much different from a new beer, but in return you get some of the same types of flavours you also get if you deliberately age wine. For example, port or sherry, which are very oxidized, gain some other kinds of flavours than fresh wine and in the same way they are trying to introduce it into the system and have aged beer as a new product.

[Leif Skibsted]

What does the future look like with regards to beer research, what are the challenges today?

[Henrik Siegumfeldt]

It is a fact that very large amounts of beer are not good, small amounts are good, one to two glasses a day. Our colleague at one of the other departments, Arne Astrup, has done meta-analyses that show that a small amount of alcohol is desirable, but since large amounts of alcohol are undesirable, we can sense that there is a strong desire from consumers to work towards a beer that is healthier. It could be a beer that is slightly less alcoholic. When we talk about the large amounts of beer, the everyday beer might have to get a little lighter, at least in terms of alcohol. Secondly, when we are developing what we would call luxury beer or special beer, we can work towards these new things like aged beer, where you work to make a product where you have a tremendous value added, through controlled aging. I think it will go in two directions. Either it needs to be much more specialised or if it will be an ordinary beer, a bit lower alcohol level. It seems to be the trend.

[Leif Skibsted]

When you make low-alcohol beer, is it also by fermentation?

[Henrik Siegumfeldt]

There are several different options. Historically, we can say that we have made low-alcohol beer in Denmark for many years and it has typically been a distillation where the alcohol has been distilled off. The disadvantage is that some of the flavouring agents that are desirable in beer are distilled off with the alcohol. You get a beer that is much less aromatic if you make a distillation of a beer. In recent years, there have been several attempts to make other things, including making different types of filtration, where you also drive out the alcohol, but with a slightly smaller proportion of flavour. You can use yeast that produces less alcohol and you can work on modifying the way you mash. If you make sure that the starch you add is not as fermentable, you can make a beer where the yeast does not have a lot of sugar to eat and then not a lot of alcohol is made. So there are several different approaches.

[Leif Skibsted]

It is said that the first law regulating food safety is about beer. 

[Henrik Siegumfeldt]

“Reinheitsgebot”, yes, there are some who think so. It is a law that was created by Ludwig II of Bavaria  - at least he gets credit for the law. There is some discussion about the reason for it. It states that beer should be made of water, malt and hops.  

[Leif Skibsted]

Or wheat…

[Henrik Siegumfeldt]

Yes, but it actually only says malt, but there is nothing about what kind of malt it should be. It could be both barley malt and wheat malt. It is then combined with a law that says that it is only the king himself who can make the beer from wheat. Everyone else must make beer from barley malt. This means that it is only a royal brewery that can make wheat beer. But there are also some who say that it is an attempt to make a little command economy, because if you make sure that all the brewers only use barley and all the bakers only use the wheat, then we have less price competition because it is not the same people demanding the same crop. Wheat is very popular for making bread, and barley is not as good for it. In addition, it is described that hops are the spice. Before that, throughout the Middle Ages, almost the same spices that we use for spiced schnapps: yarrow, juniper, wormwood and Myrica, were used to flavour the beer and it is called “Gruit”. There are two reasons why hops became so popular; one is that it has this pronounced antimicrobial effect, but the other is that among church leaders there are some who believe that beer made from hops is soothing. Hops were originally a medicinal plant used to fall asleep. You pick the seed cones and put them in pillowcases, and then you sleep better. It has a slightly calming effect and comes from a family “Cannabaceae”, which includes other sedatives. There are no narcotics in the hops, but it resembles them. There were some from the church who believed that men were more frisky and licentious with women when they drank the old beer with Myrica, yarrow and wormwood, whereas they grew calm and fell asleep from drinking the beer with hops. Therefore, there was no conflict with the church, because the church thought it was an excellent idea to only put in hops, because they thought that you would have less lasciviousness.

[Leif Skibsted]

Hops have an estrogenic effect...

[Henrik Siegumfeldt]

I do not know if that is why you become calm, but it has since been shown that there is an estrogenic effect in hops.

[Leif Skibsted]

Beer aging is a simple oxidation of the lipids in the beer – that is to say, the fats in the beer. Beer does not tolerate light very well.

[Henrik Siegumfeldt]

No, beer does not tolerate light particularly well. There are components, primarily from the hops, which are oxidized by UV light, as there is in sunlight, and you get an undesirable flavour, which you describe slightly differently in different languages. Americans say “skunky” because they have skunks. In Denmark, it is sometimes described as cat litter box or carnivores’ house. It is an unpleasant smell, and it comes very easily in beer and therefore beer should not be served in clear bottles, because smaller filters mean less absorption of UV light in our primary container, which means that that the beer gets this sunlight taste. You shouldn’t drink a beer out on your terrace in the summer in a clear glass. You should drink it in a dark mug to prevent this sun taste. Americans are fond of clear bottles, so they have found a solution where you treat the hops chemically. This chemical treatment means that the oxidation takes place, but you do not get this clammy odour/taste. So you can drink a beer that has been in a clear “Coors” bottle without getting this unwanted sun taste.  

[Leif Skibsted]

What does the future look like for the production of barley and the cultivation of barley for beer?

[Henrik Siegumfeldt]

There are two things. First of all, we want to make sure that we can produce barley and it requires some kind of growth of it. Once we have harvested the grain, it begins to become problematic, how much energy we plug into the process. One is, of course, if the grain is very wet, we need a lot of energy to dry it. This means that it is smart to make sure to grow barley in areas where we do not have wet conditions. The second major thing is that we use a great deal of energy to make the grain wet, to make it germinate. That is what we do when we need to form our amylase. Then we dry it and this drying is relatively energy intensive. In addition to trying to research all the ways to improve this malting, there is also an interest from all over the world to try to skip that step and simply take the untreated barley that comes directly from the field, crush it and use it in the beer. If we do that, we will have to add the amylase from elsewhere, perhaps buy it from a commercial company and add the enzymes to make a beer. Here you have to have a critical mass, because once you make it big enough, it becomes cheap to buy the enzyme from the outside. It could be a way to work with a more climate-friendly production. Something else that some are already using is heat recovery. Every time the breweries make some form of heat, they store it and use it to heat something else up, so the heat is recycled many times. By doing so, it can be said that breweries, while not CO2 neutral, have a relatively small footprint compared to other types of companies. Originally, it was for economic reasons as much as for climate reasons, but it is fortunate that when we save money, we also protect the climate. In that way, it’s a win-win situation. In addition, a lot of water is used for beer, some of it forms part of the beer, but large quantities are what we call process water, that is to say, water that is used either to rinse something or clean something afterwards. Like almost all other food industries, the brewing industry is focused on how we can make sure that the water can be used again, so we do not waste this precious resource.

[Leif Skibsted]

What is amylase?

[Henrik Siegumfeldt]

Amylase is an enzyme that breaks down starch.  

[Leif Skibsted]

How on earth did the simple farmers of the past figure that out?

[Henrik Siegumfeldt]

When grain gets wet, it starts to germinate, so it happened by itself. Everywhere you have harvested some grain and did not get it covered when it rained, it would get wet and begin to germinate. Then it was determined that the germinated grain provided some other kinds of flavours, because you got some sweetness from the sugar. Then a different yeast fell from the sky, which began to ferment, and then they started making beer. You can’t stop it. When a grain gets wet, it thinks it is in the ground and has to turn into a new plant, so it starts to germinate. 

[Leif Skibsted]

Can you imagine the production of beer without yeast, with enzymes alone?

[Henrik Siegumfeldt]

You can easily form ethanol chemically, but one of the things that gives beer a flavour that is not just like taking some grain and mixing in cheap vodka, is that the yeast makes other flavours while it is fermenting. One of the things that yeast makes are typically called esters, which is a complex group of substances known to have very pleasant aromatic notes. For example, if you produced ethanol enzymatically, you would also have to produce some of the flavours enzymatically and although I do not want to say that it is impossible, you could say that we should take advantage of the fact that nature has given us this yeast that can do it for us. It is not expensive to grow yeast and to use it again and again, so I do not think that much is gained by doing it with an enzymatic method.

[Leif Skibsted]

If you read the label on a Danish beer bottle, there is a very poetic word, namely “råfrugt”. What is råfrugt? (raw fruit a.k.a starch filler).

[Henrik Siegumfeldt]

Råfrugt is what my Danish teacher called a euphemism, as it is just cheap starch. I always tell my students as a joke; that in China it is rice, in Russia it is the few potatoes that have not become vodka and in the US it is the genetically modified corn that we others refuse to buy. It is just a starch source and it is precisely because malt is favoured by having excess enzyme, so you can use only half the malt and then there is so much enzyme in it that if you add extra starch from anywhere in the world, cheaply, you can make the beer cheaper, and since it has not been malted, it is actually also climate friendly. It just results in a beer with less body. There is less of that malty taste in it. An American beer like “Budweiser” is made, with large amounts of starch filler and this gives a neutral tasting beer.

[Leif Skibsted]

When you look at some of the beers that are considered to be superior, “FF” for example, Tuborg’s Fine Festival. It is also made using starch filler.

[Henrik Siegumfeldt]

Yes, yes. That is because if you make a beer that is, shall we say, 7, 8, 9, 10% alcohol content, it is incredibly difficult to make it light and “FF” is a very light beer. It is almost as light as an ordinary pilsner. Malt contributes colour, so the more malt you put in the darker it gets. 

[Leif Skibsted]

The Danish brewing industry is very successful. The Carlsberg Group is the third largest brewery?

[Henrik Siegumfeldt]

Third or fourth. There are two large American brewing companies that are in the process of merging and then Heineken, then we come next. If the two largest manage to merge, then we will be third, if not, we are fourth. In any case, we are the second largest in Europe after Heineken.

[Leif Skibsted]

Brewer is not an education?

[Henrik Siegumfeldt]

No. You can always be a brewer. It is not a protected title. In Denmark, it was decided at some point that they should increase the quality and therefore they made a Master Brewer education. The Master Brewer programme is located at the Scandinavian School of Brewing. It is a union of the Nordic and Finnish associations of brewers, which has set out to provide continuing education for people who already have another scientific education. Just over 10 years ago, the University of Copenhagen and the Scandinavian School of Brewing agreed to combine forces. So the courses that were typically offered by the Scandinavian School of Brewing are now also offered to the students in the MSc in Food Science and Technology at the University of Copenhagen. By doing so, you actually get two titles. You receive an MSc in Food Science & Technology from the university and, because you have also completed an internship and full courses approved by the private institution, the Scandinavian School of Brewing, you also receive the title of Diploma Master Brewer. It is not a university degree, but a title you receive from the Scandinavian School of Brewing. You could say that our students are lucky that it is almost a “Kinder Egg”, because you get two for one.

[Leif Skibsted]

Beer is a source of nourishment…

[Henrik Siegumfeldt]

That it is. You could say that it is liquid bread.

[Leif Skibsted]

It is not only a stimulant...

[Henrik Siegumfeldt]

I always say to young people who want to listen that when you want to drink beer to get drunk, that they should also consider that there is 3.5 % alcohol content and then there is water. It is putting your kidneys into overdrive, having to separate all the water from the alcohol in order to achieve this buzz. It would be much more effective to choose a more concentrated alcohol. Therefore, beer is not for comfort, but for thirst. It is much better for that.

[Outro]

Episode 4

Featuring

Leif Skibsted, Professor of Food Chemistry in the Department of Food Science, University of Copenhagen, KU FOOD

Åse Hansen, Associate Professor Emerita, Department of Food Science, University of Copenhagen, KU FOOD

[Leif Skibsted]

Mankind has eaten bread for thousands of years. Grain and bread products will become even more important in the future, as grains and bread are plant-based.  Bread was very much a staple of the diet for us here in Europe before the potato arrived in the 1500s from America. Bread changed throughout the 20th century and in the 1970s the bread was very uniform, but then sourdough was rediscovered, for the industrial bread production. Today we have a wide selection of many exciting bread types. My name is Leif Skibsted and I am a professor of food chemistry in the Department of Food Science at the University of Copenhagen. Today I am interviewing Associate Professor Emerita Åse Hansen, who over a long career has worked with research in grain and bread products.

[Leif Skibsted]

When did we actually get research into bread and grain products here in Denmark?

[Åse Hansen]

I came across an article by Charles Mourier, from 1824, which examines the effects of drying the grain before baking with it. He had gotten some English wheat, as wheat was not particularly widespread in Denmark and he carried out some baking experiments with the English wheat. Otherwise, it was around 1891 when agricultural researchers at the Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University were asked to perform some different experiments with bread. At that time, it was the Ministry of War who was asking for these experiment to be made, because after the 1864 war they had concluded that a major reason for losing the war was simply that the soldiers had not had enough food. There are many letters from the soldiers, where they write how they have to dig up roots in the forests, so they did not want to risk that happening again. The experiments from the 1890s tried to mix wheat flour in the rye bread because they had some summers that were very wet and rainy and when you have that, you have some rye flour with too high enzyme activity and then you could usually import rye from elsewhere, but at the same time the Russians had closed down the export of rye, so you had to get by with what you had. They were not interested in adding more wheat flour in the rye bread than absolutely necessary, because the wheat was expensive.

[Leif Skibsted]

And also had to be imported?

[Åse Hansen]

Yes, so those were some of the early, proper experiments you had. Then in 1924, in the annals from the Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University, there is an S. Knudsen who is studying sourdough to determine what kind of lactic acid bacteria it contains. At the same time, there is a focus on the dairy industry and what kind of bacteria being used in fermented products in Denmark. 

[Leif Skibsted]

What is the significance of rye bread and rye for Denmark and Danish culture? 

[Åse Hansen]

We have survived on rye bread and we have lived on rye bread. Rye came to Denmark around the Viking Age at the end of the late Iron Age, but since then it has been the bread. When you talked about bread, you meant rye bread. Wheat, wheat bread and baked wheat goods were something only the rich or the nobility ate, or it was something you could only get during festivals or holidays – Christmas, for example. We simply survived on it. It is almost in our genes.

[Leif Skibsted]

Jeppe Aakjær also wrote a collection of poems...

[Åse Hansen]

Yes, Songs of the Rye.

[Leif Skibsted]

Songs of the Rye is indeed a tribute.

[Åse Hansen]

Yes, and I almost feel anxious when I read some of them, because you sense the great reverence for every little grain. Because they were dependent on it. It was rare to have enough rye to make rye bread from rye alone. They often mixed it up with weed seeds and even ground maple and other things because they did not have enough rye flour.

[Leif Skibsted]

Which research assignments did you take up?

[Åse Hansen]

I simply started looking at sourdough and trying to isolate and find out what kind of bacteria were in different factory sourdoughs and unfortunately it was not long before two of the three factories we studied shut down, but we learned quite a bit about what kind of bacteria were in the sourdough and then we began to look at how the sourdough affected the taste of the bread. By the time I came here, my colleague, Associate Professor Leif Poll, had just introduced methods for determining aromatic compounds in foods and it was obvious to me that I could apply these methods so that we could investigate what effect the sourdough had on the taste of the rye bread.  

[Leif Skibsted]

Was there a difference from bread factory to bread factory?

[Åse Hansen]

Yes. There was both a difference in taste and there was a difference in the sourdough, and we studied both aromatic compounds in the sourdough and in the breads. We could see that the pattern we saw in the sourdough was reflected in the bread, so the sourdough is crucial for the quality and taste of the bread.

[Leif Skibsted]

At some point, consumers decided that they did not want preservatives in bread. Were you also involved in solving the problem of making bread that will keep well without preservatives?

[Åse Hansen]

We did what we could when I was at Schulstad, because preservatives are added so that the bread does not get mouldy, and that was a matter of hygiene. It has been because of the development of new technologies and the development of processes at the bread factories. There it has been possible to remove the preservatives, but it requires proper hygiene.

[Leif Skibsted]

What do you think will happen now in food production and food science?

[Åse Hansen]

If we look at my area, I think we will see many new crops. The climate is changing. I have been involved in a project about gluten-free crops, where we got quinoa from the Andes region, which is now being cultivated in Denmark, that is to say, different varieties are being tried, as not all varieties can be grown here. I think we will do much more to get different varieties from different countries that are adapted to the climate changes we have. The potato also comes from the Andes, and the potatoes that are grown there are completely different than those we grow here – so I think we will develop some different varieties that are adapted more for individual countries.

[Leif Skibsted]

How will climate change affect our grain production?

[Åse Hansen]

It is a little difficult to say how the climate will change – within the last two years, for example, we have had extremes with an extremely wet year in ’17 and an incredibly dry year in ’18. If there is a tendency for more wet years, you can grow more oats, for example, because it grows well in a humid climate. If it gets drier, it will be more about, something like quinoa and wheat. Danish wheat grown in 2018 has a protein content that has not been seen before.

[Leif Skibsted]

So it has a high protein content?  

[Åse Hansen]

At least if we look at some of the original wheat species. I know that Emmer wheat has a protein content of 18.

[Leif Skibsted]

Emmer... that is a wheat?

[Åse Hansen]

Emmer is a type of wheat. One of the original types of wheat, which is actually the predecessor of bread wheat.

[Leif Skibsted]

We get a lot of wheat from Ukraine and Sweden.

[Åse Hansen]

Skåne grows large quantities of the wheat we mill and eat in Denmark.

[Leif Skibsted]

Where are the major wheat cultivation areas?

[Åse Hansen]

The United States, Australia and Russia. Wheat is grown on all continents except the Arctic regions.

[Leif Skibsted]

Can we produce enough wheat for the growing population?

[Åse Hansen]

Otherwise, we will have to eat something else. All that wheat is not good for us. We should eat more diversely. 25% of the wheat is discarded in the form of bran and all the nutrients. If more of us eat whole grains – meaning all of it – then we get 25% more out of what we already grow.

[Leif Skibsted]

The white wheat flour that is used for most wheat bread. How is it milled?

[Åse Hansen]

You grind it on a roller mill that is so effective that it can completely remove the germ and bran and a layer just below the bran called the Aleurone layer. What is removed contains the vast majority of the nutrients.

[Leif Skibsted]

These are B vitamins?

[Åse Hansen]

It is the B vitamins, all the minerals, all the dietary fibre, vitamin E. 

[Leif Skibsted]

If you grind so you get whole-wheat flour, what in the old days was called Graham flour...

[Åse Hansen]

Yes, you get all the nutrients in the flour and we have made some studies in collaboration with those who grind the grain on stone mills – and it has been shown that if you mill wheat grains on stone mills and sieve the roughest bran, you have almost the same nutrient content as you have in whole grains. Many of the parts that contain the nutrients remain ground down in the flour, so you can get a flour where you have removed the coarsest parts, but it still has all the nutrients.

[Leif Skibsted]

So that is the flour of the future?

[Åse Hansen]

We probably can’t grind all of our flour on stone mills, but you can just grind Graham flour on a rolling mill, as we already do. We have to learn to eat some other bread, and we are already doing this, because you can see that the sales of whole grain products has been increasing significantly in Denmark after the Danish Whole Grain Partnership was established.

[Leif Skibsted]

What is the Danish Whole Grain Partnership?

[Åse Hansen]

The Danish Whole Grain Partnership is a collection of several research units as well as the Danish Cancer Society plus companies that produce some form of grain who have entered into a partnership to convey knowledge about grains and whole grains in order to get us to eat more whole grains.

[Leif Skibsted]

Rye is also healthy and good...

[Åse Hansen]

Rye is a fantastic product. It has been proven that rye, has a preventive effect

against certain cancers, especially when it comes to men and colon cancer. The Finns have also shown that it can be preventative for prostate cancer. Rye is healthy in so many areas. And that’s because of its dietary fibre, vitamins and minerals. Rye also has some special phenolic compounds that are believed to have an impact on health, but you cannot say which compound gives the result. That is why they say you have to eat whole grains because you know you get the effect when you eat the whole grain. And when you talk about whole grains, it doesn’t mean you have to eat whole grains, but products that are made from whole grains, which can then be milled. An ordinary rye bread is made from rye flour – it is also a whole grain product.

[Leif Skibsted]

Ordinary dark rye bread?

[Åse Hansen]

Yes.

[Leif Skibsted]

Can you name some Danish researchers who have influenced our choice of bread and our options with regards to grain products?

[Åse Hansen]

Whether there is anyone who has done much for the choice of bread, I don’t know, but perhaps they have pointed out how important bread is. The first I want to mention is Mikkel Hindhede, who was a nutrition scientist around the time of World War I and was the head of the laboratory for nutrition studies. At that time there was considerable campaigning from Germany, that we should eat much more protein and meat and Hindhede campaigned that so much protein was not necessary and he had an assistant, Madsen, with whom he conducted experiments.  These days we do not really count on that type of experiment, but Hindhede did countless experiments with Madsen, who worked very hard, and some times it was on rye bread with margarine and other times mashed potatoes with margarine.     Hindhede said that if the protein standards that the Germans relied on were correct, then Madsen would be dead many times. He advocated that we should eat a lot of whole wheat bread, porridge, fruit and vegetables and that was almost what we should live off.

[Leif Skibsted]

Hindhede was a vegetarian and has lent his name to the Hindhede Award, which is still being awarded. But when you grind wheat for the white wheat flour, you lose a lot. What happens to all the products? 

[Åse Hansen]

They are primarily used for animal feed. I remember once, we were visiting Ringsted Mill, where there was a large bag of wheat germ, and the miller said, “It is gestational powder,” because that was where all the vitamin E was, and it was given to the chickens so that they would lay some good eggs or it was given to the pigs. The animals get to benefit from all of the nutrients we remove from the wheat flour, which we could also have enjoyed and that is why rye is so good, because we eat it as whole grain flour as opposed to the wheat. 

[Leif Skibsted]

And then we preserve all the vitamins, fibres and minerals as well.

[Åse Hansen]

Today we can afford and have the resources to focus on quality. Quality permeates everything today. We can see that the bakers who just produced bread that did not taste of anything, almost none are left, and the bakeries that remain are those that make quality bread, and it certainly isn’t cheap, but you are ready to pay for the quality, and that applies to all foods. Now we have experienced abundance. In the 70s, there was a lot of rationalisation. Before that time, every market town had its own bakery and its own microbrewery, before that term became popular, and there was a diversity of both bread and beer, but in the 70s and 80s it was merged into the mainstream and it should just be consistent until you saw that it became too boring – that everything tastes the same. Then we change course and want to have the many bakeries and we get more variety in the bread.   

[Leif Skibsted]

Poul Nyrup – our prime minister, always had an expression he used when they got too fanciful, “eat bread to that”.  

[Åse Hansen]

There are countless bread-words, we have, for example, brødflov (peckish) and brødtekst (body text). The word bread is included in many things and it is an expression of how basic bread is and how important bread is. Bread has of course been a major part of our diet in earlier times.

[Leif Skibsted]

“Give us today our daily bread”  

[Åse Hansen]

Yes and in that context it is rather fun to look at church paintings. There are several places where you have sacrament pictures from the Middle Ages, and when Jesus sits and eats the sacrament in the Danish churches, he eats the bread that was typically Danish at the time, namely skonrog (fine rye), which comes from schöne roggen. It was simply a rye bread made from sifted flour that came from Germany. When it was to be really fine, then you sifted the flour and made bread from. It is an expression as to how important bread has been in all contexts. We also know it from Russia and elsewhere; when Jens Otto Krag and Helle Virkner visited Khrushchev, the first thing they received when they exited the plane was a large Russian peasant bread with salt in the middle, because you can get by with salt and bread. Today, bread is still very important in the Danish diet.