5 May 2011

Where's the (fresh) Beef? The Current State of Food in Norway

For those that think everyday food in Norway is a never-ending parade of glistening fresh seafood, wild game, root vegetables and berries, or smoked this and hay-baked that made by sweet-smelling blonde maidens, I have disappointing news for you.

A recent government commission found that Norway has the poorest selection and highest prices of food in Europe. The reasons for this are varied, but this article (and this more recent one) describes them quite well. To sum it up: protectionist import tariffs, huge farm subsidies, supermarket monopolies, and consumer indifference have all conspired to create a lacklustre daily food experience in this country. I want, therefore, to show you the other, more typical side to the execrable state of mainstream food in this country.

Now don't get me wrong, it is possible (just about) to find some fantastic food here. There are a handful of stunning high-end restaurants in Norway (e.g. here, here, and here) and for a hefty price you can enjoy truly world class food at these places. There are a few fantastic Norwegian artisanal producers, whose goods you can find at sporadic farmers' markets, food festivals and some shops. There are also stores that sell some amazing produce from around the world, but often at prices that put them beyond all except the wealthiest of Oslo residents or the most homesick of ex-pats – Spanish chorizo for €62 per kg or Italian bresaola for €174 per kg, anyone?

But these are the exception and not the rule, and the everyday reality of eating in Norway is very different indeed. Food in Norwegian supermarkets is shockingly expensive and of a lower quality and variety than you're likely to find elsewhere in Europe.

The situation gets worse the further from Oslo you travel, where it can often be difficult to find a good variety of fresh food. As recently as the early 1990's it was difficult to find fresh chicken or fish in Norwegian grocery stores. However, even today if you visit a supermarket in Norway you'll see that much of the floorspace is devoted to frozen, dried, or canned/tubed foods. And much of what appears fresh has been previously frozen. This post (and this one) by Aussie blogger L-Jay living in the far north of the country highlights some of the challenges she faces in getting fresh food.

The geographic focus of food also seems to lie very much outside of Norway. I know there are obvious limitations about what can be grown locally here, and the simple climatic and economic reality is that the majority of Norway's food has to be imported, but it seems there's a general lack of interest (and perhaps confidence) in quality homegrown cuisine and produce. Why is this? As I've mentioned before, Norway has some stunning local produce, but most people seem very much indifferent to this local bounty and tend to favour price and convenience over quality and taste.

I've mentioned the clutch of truly excellent restaurants in Norway, but good quality eateries serving food at a cheaper price point are as rare as hen's teeth. It is all too easy to spend NKr 250 (€32 / $48) on a totally detestable main course. Where are the restaurants serving good food at moderate prices that you find in countries all over the world?

So in the belief that pictures can often speak louder than words, here is a little compilation of photos I have made to highlight the current sorry state of affairs. To save any blushes, names of places have been withheld.

Warning: Some of the following images contain distressing scenes of crimes against food. Viewer discretion is advised.


Hot dogs – the national dish of Norway? Much of the meat section in supermarkets is devoted to this processed junk

Frozen pizzas – the other national dish of Norway? A huge amount of supermarket freezer space is dedicated to frozen pizzas.

Lots of floor space dedicated to Tex Mex nonsense at this store. You can make infinitely better (and cheaper) tacos from scratch at home.

Tinned reindeer meatballs and something called, er, "Bog" (it's like spam).

Spare ribs: "meat" and E-numbers – ready to eat after only 3 minutes in the microwave.

A variety of pre-cooked meatballs on the left. There was hardly any fresh chicken at this store; instead there was lots of pre-cooked chicken labelled simply as "salad meat".

Tins of meat paste and fish.

Ready-to-go kebabs! Also, lungemos – literally "lung mash" – pig hearts, tongues and cow lungs all mashed up.

So what is the point of all this you may ask? Well, apart from feeling the need for a little rant, I'm hoping to get some sort of dialogue going about the status quo. Are people satisfied with the current state of affairs of food in Norway? How can we go about changing it? Sure, things have slowly been improving over the years, and yes this might be a nice middle-class 'developed world' problem to have, but the situation today in Norway is far from satisfactory. I'm a firm believer in the collective power of the consumer and if enough people make enough noise, then maybe we can make a difference for the better. Here's hoping.

32 comments:

  1. It's a great conundrum, isn't it? We produce some really amazing raw ingredients, but it never makes it to the average Norwegian's plate (or is out of the average Norwegian's price range), so the glaring difference in quality compared to the cheap imports is never exposed for all consumers to see. And then in order to protect our small farms and niche produce (which many people have never seen, heard of or let alone tried (why, when you can have taco?)), we have to subsidise, which in turn increases the price to a sometimes unpalatable (literally, if you'll excuse the pun) level. Someone needs to stage an intervention, but I'm not quite sure who that should be... We don't have a Jamie Oliver type who appeals to the masses (Ingrid Espelid should probably be allowed a relaxed retirement now). I think there is also, for some reason, a distinct risk of sounding patronising and snobbish when talking about good food in Norway, which is quite unique and pretty frustrating. Norway is definitely an "annerledesland"... Thanks for a great post!

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  2. Quite surprised. Food is fantastic and not overly expensive in Sweden and its just across the border. Perhaps Norwegians can put their price aside and learn from Swedes???

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  3. Oh no. What a miserable read, even though I'm sure you are on to something. How about writing this in Norwegian and send it to all newspapers, magazines etc. Dear Norwegians -please wake up!

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  4. I just want to thank you. I'm frenchgirl living in Bergen since januray and all the time I go to the supermarket to find some food is like going to hell. I miss my beafsteak ! I succeed to resist to the tentation of frozen pizza and hot dogs... but I really miss BEEF !

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  5. My local ICA store, just one of the smallest ones in a very non-posh part of Oslo, is getting better every day! Yesterday they had fresh oxtails (which I haven't found even at the super-butcher Idsøe in Stavanger), they had some amazing mountain trout last weekend and they have oysters and scallops every weekend. They mark the fishing and delivery dates of all fish, so it's easy to navigate and find the freshest stuff. Regarding beef, my local ICA can get me anything by ordering, and they have a lot of fresh stuff in the counter. And even if you don't go to the fresh food counter or the butcher's (which you have to in most other countries to get really good, well-aged stuff anyway), it's just some patience needed to pick out the well-marbled pre-packed pieces in any of the regular stores. There are a lot of rather inexpensive, hidden gems there. So I think there are really a slow change coming, and with some experience, at least Oslo is a quite good city for finding decent fresh food.

    (Now, regarding todays news about the proposal of a sick, sick cheese import duty of shocking 270%, that may change things abck to the disastrous!)

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  6. Hei Siri: I agree, although I'm not sure what the exact catalyst for change would be. The main contributing factors of agricultural subsidies and supermarket monopolies are a difficult nut to crack, with many vested interests at stake. What can be changed however is changing consumer attitudes. I firmly believe that if enough people make enough noise then we can help improve things for the better. More and more Norwegians are going abroad and see how much better everyday food is in other countries. Perhaps they will begin to wonder why a similar variety of goods cannot be offered in Norway.

    Espelid should probably be left in peace (she must be almost 90 now). Maybe someone younger and enthusiastic about food like Andreas Viestad would fit the bill?

    Hi Three-Cookies: Sweden definitely has it better on the food front and I'm sure the Norwegians could take a leaf from the Swedes’ book. In fact, it is sort of a tradition here for Norwegians to go on a "harrytur" to Sweden, where you drive across the border and stock up on cheaper (and often better quality) food and, of course, booze. High import tariffs make Swedish produce just as expensive (if not more) than comparable Norwegian ones. I remember a case a few years back when Ikea almost sparked a diplomatic row due to the tariffs the Norwegian government was charging on meatballs. At the time Ikea were paying an import tariff of $15 per kilo, far more than the value of the meat itself.

    Hi theScandinavianMum: That's not a bad idea, although pretty much everyone here is fantastic at English anyway. The recent government commission on food has got people talking, so I really really hope their recommendations can be put into action soon.

    Bonjour L'étudiante: My sympathies, I can only imagine how frustrating it must be to be French and have to go food shopping here in Norway. Places like Géant and Carrefour are so far ahead in their product offerings. I always try and stop by one when I'm in France just to marvel at the food.

    Hello Anonymous: Thanks for taking the time to comment. You are right that things have been slowly improving here; supermarkets today are much better than when I first visited Norway in 1998, and Oslo is far ahead of the rest of the country in that regard. But the situation today is far from ideal and I feel supermarkets here are so far behind the rest of Europe. One just needs to visit a Waitrose, Sainsburys, Géant, Hipercor etc. to see how far behind Norway is in terms of quality, variety, and price. Norway is a hugely wealthy country and it has some amazing local produce, so I can't understand why this situation still exists.

    I think you've touched upon one of the main reasons for high food prices in Norway: agricultural policy. With huge farm subsidies (around 1% of GDP) and massive import tariffs (often up to 400%) cheaper foreign goods are priced out of the Norwegian market. Agriculture employs less that 3% of the workforce in Norway, but the Farmers' Union is very vocal and influential, so I can't see this situation changing any time soon unfortunately. In the meantime Norwegians will continue to pay over the odds for the most basic of food items.

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  7. I'm from Belgium and have lived for a year in Oslo. I loved everything except for the food... The variety is terrible, the prices are over-the-top and the quality (especially of the meat) is really bad... When I went home, I actually took some good frozen beef with me ^^ It's sad for such a wonderful and developed country, but to me it seemed that Norwegians just don't care some much about their food. Or maybe they just don't know any better...

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  8. Yorkshireswede5 May 2011 at 23:11

    A great read! Having lived in Sweden I can attest that the situation over the boarder isn't that much better. Ok, prices are lower, and the largest supermarkets (ie ICA Maxi or City Gross) offer a decent array of produce, but 'standard sized' supermarkets offer a lacklustre variety of meat and fish. Pre-packed meats, with little information regarding whether or not it's free range or not. Fläsk, fläsk, fläsk! Beef generally has the fat trimmed and no marbling. The 'butchers counter' in the supermarkets isn't much better than the pre-packed selection.

    I'm hoping that the situation isn't so much worse in Norway, as i'll be spending the summer working there (as a chef, on a remote island) so hopefully the seafood will be stunning!

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  9. I remember going to Finland about 2 years ago with a good Finish friend and getting all excited. I mean I love the Nordic Cafe (which although Finland is not Nordic is run by people from Turku in Finland...) so the food there would be great right...

    Well no. It sucked.

    Such a shame. I haven't been to Norway/ Sweden in years and do want to go back but imagine much of the base level of food is just as bad as Finland.

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  10. Thank you for posting this! My fellow non-Norwegian friends and I have lamented the food since we set foot here. I think it's due to indifference - there doesn't seem to be a food culture here that values quality and deliciousness. I don't think this country as a whole has the love affair with food that other countries have, and this is reflected in all of those sad pictures you posted above. Also, I think things aren't quick to change here, so I think the status quo often tends to rule. Thus, we have to create food at home the best we can, and the cooking that goes on in the homes of my friends is heaps better than any (semi-affordable) restaurant in Oslo. Actually, it probably rivals the expensive ones, so why spend a day's wages on a restaurant outing? p.s. I know Centra is part of the big chain madness here, but thank goodness for it, Gutta på Haugen, Sweden, and the independent shops in Oslo for the little treasures that help make the culinary life a little better here :)

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  11. Hi Pieter: I totally agree; it’s difficult for me to comprehend how this situation persists in one of the wealthiest countries in the world. You (and Anon @ 09:52) point out that there isn’t much of a food culture in Norway and I tend to agree. The general focus here seems to be on solely on price and convenience rather than taste and quality. Now I’m not advocating Norwegians all start eating organic foie gras and Pata Negra ham, but it seems the basics such as meat, fruit and vegetables are done rather poorly here. As more Norwegians travel abroad and get exposure to food cultures in other countries, I think some are starting to be more aware of the glaring differences, certainly compared to other countries in Europe. But sadly there doesn’t seem to be much impetus to change, the general attitude seems to be that “well, this is the way things are in Norway”. As Siri suggested, maybe we need a high profile campaign here à la Jamie Oliver in the UK?

    Hello Yorkshireswede: Thanks for your comment. I’m sure you’ll have a wonderful time in Norway, it is such a stunning country. I’ll be very curious to hear your views on food here, though. The good news is that being on an island you should have access to lots of wonderful seafood. Try and catch your own, or befriend a local fisherman, you won’t taste better.

    Hi Tom: I’ve also been to Finland (mostly Helsinki) and you’re right, the food can be pretty dire there too, although I have had some amazing crayfish at their ‘rapujuhlat’ (crayfish parties). I hope I haven’t put you off visiting Norway! As I mentioned, the everyday reality of buying food here is pretty bad, but if you were here on holiday I’m sure there are enough good places to keep you happy.

    Hi Anon (@ 09:52): Thanks for sharing your experiences. I also do some of my weekly shopping at Centra – it can be pricey, but they usually have a better selection than most other supermarkets. For special occasions I’ll sometimes go to Fjellberg fishmonger or the Skafferiet delicatessen. They are pretty expensive, but as you point out sometimes you just have to.

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  12. Fascinating post. And one that really strikes a chord. I haven't been to Norway but have been living in Sweden for the last year or so. I have to say that I agree with Yorkshireswede. It really sounds like a similar situation in Sweden to Norway - although not quite so bad.

    I'm amazed at the poor quality of the meat here. It's all vacuum packed or frozen and doesn't look right. It's also very expensive. And the range is poor. You have to go to the Saluhallen to get the good stuff and that is even more expensive. That said you are able to get oxtails, ham hocks, offal and braising meat at a reasonable price.

    Also, vegetables. ICA tried to charge me 200SEK (£20) for a pumpkin back in the Autumn. And on another occasion I wondered why my bill was so expensive and realised I'd just spent £6 on a cauliflower! I'd been trying to save money by eating vegetables but that doesn't work either.

    I've discovered the best thing to do is to switch my diet away from meat and imported vegetables and instead to eat fish and more local veg like beetroot, celeriac etc. There's a fishmonger near my office which I got almost every day that has a great range of fish. But why, oh why, do they insist on deskining all the beautiful fish!? Fish skin is great stuff. The result is a dull grey colour and more work for them.

    When people from the UK ask about the cost of living I normally explain that it's like shopping at Waitrose, but 20% more expensive and with quality around the ASDA mark. And absolutely no special offers or discounts.

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  13. Hi Browners, really interesting to hear of your similar experiences in Sweden. We also have a similar situation with fruit and veg in Norway in that much of it is expensive and/or poor quality, especially if you go for something more 'exotic' (e.g. £5 for a honeydew melon that would cost £1.50 in Tesco) – if you stick to basic root vegetables it's generally fine though.

    I like your analogy at the end. You could say the same about Norwegian supermarkets, but perhaps substitute Harrods Food Hall for Waitrose and Iceland instead of ASDA ;-)

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  14. Amen! I've lived in Norway for 5 years now and am still shocked at how bad the selection is. I live in a small town 2.5 hours southwest of Oslo. We have a population of about 5,500, and we have 5 grocery stores with another under construction. Yet does this mean we have any real selection? Nope, just a race to the bottom in quality and 5 Grandiosas for 100 kr. It's literally sickenng. Plus, the area I live in is some of Norway's best agricultural land, but heaven forbid we get a Farmer's Market. I've spent hours going from one crap store to the other in search of chicken that is raw and not coated in neon-orange "seasoning". I love to go abroad and shop; I just about die of ecstasy when I'm in a Waitrose's or an open-air Italian produce shop.

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  15. Hi NN,

    I've followed your blog since October last year when I moved from London to Oslo. I've been holding out for some great tips on (relatively) cheap bites and local producers while trying to source some myself. I'm afraid this post sums it up, they dont exist! Am growing my own salad for the summer, maybe that is the solution? Big fan of the site, keep up the great work!

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  16. I am a Norwegian expat, however when I lived in Norway last time around 2006. I found the best fresh produce was from the immigrant shops. They had the best quality of fresh vegetables and prices. My husband even asked the guy in the store where he keeps the good stuff and he went to the back and brought out fresher produce for us. I completely agree that there is too much processed food in Norway. As tasty as it all is, it is definitely lacking good variety and quality of basic products. Tat.

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  17. Thank you so much for this astute post. I'm an American ex-pat living in Norway and food prices/quality have been one of my biggest gripes since I moved here two and a half years ago. My husband didn't get it until he spent a little time in the US- and most of my Norwegian friends don't understand what I'm complaining about, either. I lived in the UK for a short period some years ago and found it comparable (or better, sometimes) with the US as far as selection/quality goes.

    I think you've hit the nail on the head as far as the reason goes for why prices are too high. Combine the farm subsidies and criminal import tax with appalling apathy from Norwegians- and I'm just not sure how to fix the problem.

    I think apathy is a huge problem in Norway in regards to more things than just food, but that's a different story for a different blog!

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  18. The Norwegian Kebab shops are another crime to food. It amazes me that such food can be so popular here. I myself am trying to start a cafe here, but it is next to impossible to get a bank to finance me. Yet you have these kebab shops popping up all over Norway serving crap.

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  19. leaviingsoonagain29 June 2012 at 15:24

    I can confirm all in this post. I moved to Norway about six months ago. I come from a mediterranian background and lived in Germany for over 25 years. The food-situation in Norway is dire to say the least. If indeed the food gets worse the further you get away from Oslo I do not want to know how it is in other places.

    Living in Andebu, which is pretty close to Oslo means nothing really. There is no fresh food markets - although we are surrounded by farmland and the next cattlefarm is less than 5minutes away. Fresh meat in a raw, unfrozen and unprocessed form is really hard to get. Let alone vegetables I consider to be normal to see in stores like squash and eggplants are difficult to get and if you see them, then they are past their prime most of the times.

    The only real alternative to the bad selection in the general food stores are immigrant stores but they face the same issue of importcharges. And these stores ofc don't have fresh meat either. The vegetable selection is alot better but that is about it.

    I have family sending me food and spices and end up paying import tax if I am unlucky and they check the content of what is being send to me.

    Frankly I find the selection of goods in Norway disappointing on a general level. Electrical equipment, kitchenware, cosmetics....anything that is a little bit out of the "normal" range for the norwegian population has to be imported individually and costs too much by doing so.

    I am a nutritionist and I started taking vitamin supplies and extra nutritional products in the double amount because I see no other way of covering my nutrional needs in this country. The Vegetables and fruits are below any standard I am used to and the lack of nutrition is reflected by the lack of taste in the fresh products. More frustratingly the people seem to be very indifferent to it and don't see how bad the food really is. The average family is bound to eat frozen meals and processed food due to the prices. However, those frozen goods are insanely overpriced aswell since Norway has a separate tax on products with a high fat and sugar count. In addition to that they introduced a green icon that they are placing on seemingly healthy foods which wouldn't even go past the organic-food standards in european countries due to the mass amounts of additives and preservatives. I am shocked.

    Last but not least the prices for alcohol are ridiculous. Aparantly the special tax on alcohol is meant to prevent people from going into alcoholism but frankly it doesn't do anything else but prevent the average workers from having their well
    earned beer in the evening since it comes at a price of 2,5-3euroes / 2-2,5GPB per can. I am not drinking alcohol. Not because of the price but due to the fact that I don't consider it healthy. It makes me very angry however that a simple product like beer is not really affordable for the simple, working man/woman.

    Also there is no chance to buy wine in the regular food stores. If I want to make a proper bolognese sauce or a lasagne I have to drive an hour in total because I have to go to a special store for overpriced wine.

    Where is the democracy and wealth that is being promoted all over the world when it comes to Norway?

    I am gobsmacked. Totally.

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  20. I am a Norwegian who has been living abroad for most of my life, such as Portugal and Australia and I must say I was pretty shocked myself too at the raw quality of the food and also the selection. We live in a small town about 1.5 hours north of Oslo and its a chore to go to the supermarket (eventhough I've always liked cooking).

    My wife is French and she has also lost all interest in food here in Norway. Its really sad. I hope things can change for the better.
    End of the month we are moving to France so we won't be facing this problem anymore, thank goodness.

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  21. This is such a great post. You know my crazy passion about Norway. I love the country but my visits are always dampened as soon as I step into a supermarket. Like you said in your post one would presume that a country with access to so much incredible fresh meat, produce, the supermarkets would reflect this. I will never forget an incident at the camping place in Lofthus. We were with our mobile home and I had prepared fresh lamb fillets to be grilled and our Norwegian neighbors looked in as I was boiling potatoes and peeling fresh carrots. They asked what I was making and when I said mashed potatoes - the lady looked horrified and said "We get that in boxes!" I was stunned!

    So reading this I do think you are right about the indifference of people towards what they are eating. I would have thought that now that the Scandinavian countries are moving more into the limelight with their cuisine that this would change the attitude towards what is cooked at home too.

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  22. I've been here in Oslo for 7 years, 7 years of Rema, Rimi, Kiwi, Ica, Meny, Smart Club, Coop and all the others. I love this country BUT my god the food stores, makes you wanna cry.

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  23. I think part of the reason for the food-situation in Norway is geography and history.

    We were under Swedish and Danish rule for so long that when we got our independence we wanted and still want to do things our own way and that is why we say NO to the EU. I am against the EU myself but I am against all trade organisations. Being outside the EU means we don´t have cheap food and the variation other parts of Europe have.

    We may not have the rich food history as other countries have but looking back just a few generations, when most Norwegians were either fishermen or farmers, the climate and geography meant that food was only a means for staying alive, with snow and rain and wind they couldn´t really sit outside till late like in the mediterranian countries and enjoy their meal. They ate so they could go back to work and survive the winter. We were and to some extent still are a meat and potato country. My parents (in their late 60´s) and most of their generation still want a boiled potato with every meal and they don´t see the need to spend more money on food than they already are.
    Norway was a poor country before the oil changed everything and we don´t know what to do with ourself. I live in Trondheim and if i WANT to I can get organic fruit and veggies delivered to my door every week and make food from scratch. And if I WANT to I can go to farmers markets or talk to farmers and hunters and get fresh meat and eggs. But me and many Norwegians have gotten lazy and we DON´T want to cook, we want someone to cook for us and that is why we buy all the bad prefabricated stuff they have in the supermarkets. We get the supermarkets we want (the stores stock the foods we buy and ask for and when we ask for junk that is what we get), we get the selections we want because we dont really care. And we don´t care because we want someone to do it for us, because we don´t know how to make good food. We don´t use that many herbs and spices because our parents and grandparents didn´t use them and that is how foodknowledge is passed from generation to generation. So we DO need someone on tv to show us this, someone who is not annoying or snobby or who cooks complicated food. Keep it simple but make it good....

    Thats my two cents anyway... :-)

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    1. I can see what you are trying to say but I grew up in southern germany where much food used to be potato and pork-based. It still is in most parts but things changed a lot in the 80es and 90es. So change can happen - quickly even. The cuisine in germany, especially in the south is influenced a lot by the guestworkers that came - mostly mediterranean countries. I myself was a second generation immigrant in Germany so I got to know both sides. The southern cooking and the traditional german cuisine. I love to cook and I love fresh produce with lead me to have my own vegetable garden. I live in Andebu since a year now and I can get organic fruit and vegetables, I can get meat and fish but at which price? I find it really upsetting that I need to pay this much for fresh food and even worse..spend over an hour of driving in total to get it.
      Norway does seem to need someone who shows how to cook with what is available to the average person. I work with people who are trying to lose weight and help them with their diet-plans. The most shocking moments to me are when I ask them to try to skip the potatoes, ready made pizza or bread in the evening since I usually get the same response: "But what should I eat then?" This really needs to change. The will is there when it comes to the individual, but the means to change are not really present since cooking from scratch isn't something one can easily learn on their own. Sadly until people actually start cooking from scratch and demanding better produce in the supermarkets I see no changes happening in the near future. Shame really, since the country itself is really gorgeous...

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  24. Lived 6 months in Oslo. Got really sick because of the lack of quality food (vitamine deficiency, had bad immune system related diseases ...).
    Got back home (Switzerland), recovered. I even gained 6kg while eating almost nothing, here in Oslo...

    It's not an opinion problem but a health problem... I mean, everything goes well when you eat well.

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  25. I come in from a different perspective - my husband and I just spent 2 years in West Africa where food in supermarkets was more expensive, sparse and of terrible quality. Shopping in Norway feels like a wonderland. While it's always great to aspire to be better, I'm happy to be able to appreciate what we do have and to have first hand experience that it can always be much, much worse.

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    1. It can be much worse, yes. But to people who migrate to Norway from within the EU the food-situation is a total shock. After having spend 8 months here now I lost my will to cook. I am a nutritionist and I gained weight although I am almost down to eating nothing but vegetarian diet since I detest eating frozen protein, especially when I have no chance of knowing where the meat came from. It's a shame. I will have to do the same that a previous poster did. Leaving to recover. I got mentally and physically sick here. It's a shame really.

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    2. I eat fairly well - we only buy fresh produce and meat. In the last several months, I have yet to buy anything from the frozen section and neither my husband and I have been sick. This is a far cry from the amounts of parasites and stomach problems we suffered in our 2 years in West Africa. It's certainly not the selection nor the price we were accustomed to in Canada but we are healthier now than we were just 6 months ago.

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    3. i don't know where you lived in west africa, but if you expect to find food in the few ''western world'' markets, of course you're gonna find expensive and bad quality stuff. you have to use the local markets, they sure aren't ''polished'', but they are almost all completely natural products with no added chemical crap.. I've lived in sierra leone and nigeria, and the only way to get good quality is by using the local markets. avoid the costly -and corrupted- overpriced markets. often they also have the expiry dates forged!

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  26. Coming from southern England, where we shop at farmers markets for local produce and have a huge variety of very high quality food I find shopping for food very hard in Norway. I frequently find out of date and even mouldy food in the supermarkets and the amount of processed food that is eaten here is astonishing. I have also noticed that there is a lot of sugar in foods (even tinned fish!). We buy very little, if any, processed food and I make everything from scratch. There seems to be a complete lack of interest in anything remotely healthy or that requires any kind of preparation.

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  27. I agree entirely with your post, and it's not a 'rant'.

    I've moved to Oslo 6 years ago, I've tried all supermarkets here. I end up moving back and forth not knowing what to buy for the next dinner. I usually give up and buy a pizza, I used to buy other frozen foods too but I can't stand them anymore. The variety is very limited, on all types of food... the few meat cuts that are ''fresh'' are always the same few types, and they're never a real treat (although the price would suggest otherwise). Very often when I open the meat or chicken packages, they smell ''funny'', meaning they've been stored badly/treated badly/poor quality/old.

    It is really frustrating, and the few options to get quality meat/cheese are simply not viable, unless you are truly wealthy. And even then, you would have to travel quite far to visit the very few shops of that kind available.

    Also I'll add that nearly all ''fresh bakery'' bread contains an insane amount of vegetable fats, even the ones that are tagged with the ''green key'' (yes, they put a green key symbol on products that are supposedly HEALTHY!!! <--- even on many frozen pizzas that are anything but healthy). The green key is a total fraud, be aware of that!

    This ''mafia'' in Norway is hard to eradicate, because any competition is just simply crushed before even being born. The taxes on imported goods alone are enough to discourage any competition from other european countries. And any new business of that kind is hard to estabilish here, because 1. norwegians are blindly nationalists and skeptic of foreign quality (yet they have the worst quality here!), and 2. the existing farmers, as you already mention, want things to remain this way. they are overly rich by just delivering a low quality, they will not allow any sort of competition to grow.

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