Meat-loving Germans beat us at herring

matjes herringMatjes herring is a favourite with many. Photo:

Meat-loving Germans beat Norwegians at herring

The Germans love meat and are among those in Europe who eat the least fish. But they have something to teach us Norwegians when it comes to fish consumption. They do not forget the herring as soon as the Christmas lights go out.


Although we Norwegians have fantastic access to herring along our elongated coastal strip, only 0.2 per cent of Norwegians hold the “silver of the Sea” as their favourite fish. The herring is simply forgotten and left out of the shopping lists – except when it’s Yuletide. As soon as the Christmas lights are lit, the Norwegian herring interest also wakes up from the dead, but when the Yuletide comes to an end, so does the herring.

Love of Norwegian herring

If we look south to Germany, the situation is quite different. Meat-loving Germans have a great love for herring, and they eat it all year round. According to Gfk, the Germans consumed 109,727 tonnes of herring in 2017. As a comparison, Norwegians consumed 3,462 tonnes. The demand is that low. In fact, only one per cent of the Norwegian herring ends up on Norwegian plates, the rest being exported to, among other places, Germany.

So what exactly do the Germans understand about herring that Norwegians don’t?

Tempts the young

Firstly, hard work is put into maintaining the popularity of herring. It is not only the older guard who eats herring in Germany it is also sought after by the younger generations.

An example is the herring product «SJØ» (sea), which the company Friesenkrone markets as maiden herring from the North Sea. «SJØ» is available in both sushi and tapas varieties, and with a variety of different flavours added. The herring effort received a lot of attention when «SJØ» won the «Küche Awards» in Germany in 2017.

Behind this success is herring research done by Nofima, who itself stated to the magazine «Appetitt» that Friesenkrone has done a formidable job of further developing the raw material and tailoring the product for the German market. This coveted virgin fish comes from Norway and the North Sea, and the young herring are harvested during an extremely short season, just before it ready to spawn.

Prefer herring on bread

Secondly, the Germans are good at maintaining their food traditions. They have eaten herring for time immemorial, and they still do.

Looking to Norway, herring was an important part of everyday life a few decades ago. But due to overfishing in the 60s, access was limited, and when the economy flourished in Norway, herring was simply forgotten. The Germans, on the other hand, have retained their beloved herring, despite having good finances and other fish alternatives at their disposal.

Herring is still preferred on bread, because, like us Norwegians, Germans eat a lot of it. In addition, they love herring salads, they make various marinades for herring and they also eat it smoked.

When we in the Seafood Council made a study in Germany in 2014, it emerged that almost 10 million Germans, ie more than the entire Swedish population, preferred herring salad as a seafood alternative for breakfast.

In fact, the Germans eat their fish meals mostly for breakfast, lunch and evening meal. Because, as I said, they love meat, and therefore they like meat for dinner. So here they have something to learn from Norwegians because they have fish for dinner all year round.

All that remains is to wish for a nice Yule herring for you and yours!


© Fiskeribladet / #Norway Today