In April 2020, the Danish Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries published calculations from the University of Copenhagen. They revealed that the Danish society could gain DKK 7 billion annually by following the official dietary guidelines. Especially by eating less meat, saturated fat, and salt.
Now, in February 2021, a new calculation has been published due to the new greener dietary guidelines, it includes more variable and concludes that the gain is more than DKK 20 billion annually.
Rune-Christoffer Dragsdahl, General Secretary of the Vegetarian Society of Denmark, has been calling for these Danish calculations for years and states:
“Eating a more plant-based diet has enormous financial health benefits, and can finance a large part of the societies green transition cost, and ensure we reach our climate goals”.
The 2020 calculation was based on the average Dane following the dietary guidelines, but with a spread where some people still eat too few vegetables and too much meat. Thus, the calculation underestimates the potential benefits. The new report includes two calculations, both the old and a new, that estimates the effect if everyone follows the dietary guidelines.”
In Norway, a similar calculation of the financial health benefits showed, that following the dietary guidelines has a benefit of approximately DKK 14 billion per year – for the Norwegian population, which is smaller than the Danish population. This means that the new Danish calculation is significantly more accurate than the old one, says Rune-Christoffer Dragsdahl.
Even greater benefits from eating plant-based
The Vegetarian Society of Denmark has compared the Danish calculations with an international study from Oxford University from 2016. The study shows that a vegetarian diet, would increase the financial health benefits by 32 percent, compared to the official dietary guidelines, while a vegan diet increases the benefits by 45 percent.
In Denmark, this would correspond to an increase from DKK 20 billion to DKK 26 billion and DKK 29 billion annually, respectively. The Vegetarian Society of Denmark therefore calls for a new calculation.
We are pleased that the calculations this time is more in depth. However, we should know about the benefits of eating more plant-based. Taking into account vegetarian and vegan diets so that an official Danish figure for these diets can be determined.
Furthermore, the costs associated with overweight, and obesity are not included. Also excluded are the environmental and climate economic benefits.
The University of Copenhagen-calculations, however, include the socio-economic burden of illness on quality of life. This amounts to DKK 18 billion a year, which is why the newspaper Politiken mentions DKK 38 billion.
“However, we consider the DKK 20 billion the relevant figure for the national economy. Quality of life should be a goal in itself, not calculated in kroner”, says Rune-Christoffer Dragsdahl.
Should be included in official calculation models
The Vegetarian Society of Denmark suggests that the national Ministry of Finance should include the effects of more plant-based diets in the calculations of political initiatives in the future. Because promoting plant-based diets and agricultural restructuring is not only good for the climate, the environment, and public health, but is also a fantastic investment for the social finances.
“Government and Parliament could invest heavily in more training for kitchen staff in public kitchens and lower fruit and vegetable prices. Research and development could foster cultivation of plant proteins in Denmark. It is both obvious and important to ensure the agricultural sector begins the transition”, says Secretary General Rune-Christoffer Dragsdahl.
He also refers to the report From Feed to Food, which a number of green organizations published prior to the agricultural negotiations. The vision report contains 18 concrete proposals and a call for a national action plan for plant-based foods.