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#AdventCalendar: Sweden is home to the world’s only producer of elk cheese

Each day of December up until Christmas Eve, The Local is sharing the story behind a surprising Swedish fact as part of our own Advent calendar.

#AdventCalendar: Sweden is home to the world's only producer of elk cheese
Christer and Ulla Johansson. Photo: Patrick Trägårdh/Scanpix/TT

The elk is known in Sweden as the king of the forest, and there are more of them per square kilometre here than in any other country. You might live in Sweden for many years and not realize that, since they tend to stay away from humans.

Because of their ubiquity, hunters are permitted to kill a fixed number of elk each year and their meat can be found on Swedish menus in stews, burgers, meatballs, particularly in more upmarket restaurants. 

But only one place in Sweden is known to actually milk the animals and create elk cheese (älgost).

Photo: Patrick Trägårdh/Scanpix/TT

Europe's first elk farm can be found in Bjurholm in northern Sweden, where the tame animals have become a tourist attraction. 

Älgens Hus (The House of Elks) is run by a couple, Christer and Ulla Johansson, who bought a few elk calves from a nearby animal park back in 1996.


Today 11 elks live at the farm, all but two of whom were born in Älgens Hus. The Johanssons worked to tame and socialize the animals, even sleeping beside them at times, in order to keep the elks calm enough to feel comfortable being milked.

They were partly inspired by elk dairies in Russia, but their farm is believed to be the first and only place in the world to produce elk cheese, which is a difficult process.

“Each milking can give anything from a few decilitres to, at best, a couple of litres. We freeze these labour-intensive drops to be made into cheese at three points during the year,” say the couple

Since so little milk is produced (not all of the elk lactate), it comes with a price tag that has earned it the title of one of the world's priciest cheeses.

Three different types of cheese are made, all known for high protein and fat content and resembling camembert, feta and blue cheese. The latter can only be tasted at Älgens Hus itself, while the other two are sold to upscale Swedish restaurants and exported too.

Each day until Christmas Eve, The Local is looking at the story behind one surprising fact about Sweden, as agreed by our readers. Find the rest of our Advent Calendar HERE and sign up below to get an email notification when there's a new article.

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