A group that I belong to, the Human Nutrition and Health Committee (under the umbrella of the International Meat Secretariat), meets annually and last month I had the exciting opportunity to get together with members of the group in Oslo, Norway. The group meets in a different member’s country each year and this provides a way to gain insight into the varying agricultural practices/culture of different countries – while adding a few stamps to the passport!
We had a full itinerary for the three-day meeting which included a day of touring the picturesque regions surrounding Oslo. My favourite part of the trip was visiting a traditional combined milk and beef meat farm, owned by Norway’s Young Farmer of the Year 2015 winner. The cow shed was painted red (like almost all the barns in Norway) and housed the farm owner’s 80-odd cows.
As we were sitting around the table for lunch he told the story of coming to New Zealand himself in the 90’s to work on a dairy farm. At the time, his family farm had 14 cows (quite normal for a Norwegian farm) and he went to work for a farmer with over 400 – quite the culture shock! He spoke very fondly of New Zealand and I felt proud sitting amongst the rest of my international colleagues while he spoke.
Nordic Nutrition Conference
I was also able to attend the 11th Nordic Nutrition Conference in Gothenburg, Sweden. The conference was held entirely in English (thank goodness) but I did have a few awkward, one-sided conversations during the morning tea and lunchbreaks. The conference itself was impressive; the venue, the quality of topics and speakers, but what I was most impressed with was the catering!
For morning tea we had a selection of fruit, mixed nuts, traditional-style sandwiches filled with meats, salad and cheese, and on one of the days, green smoothies and bliss balls. There was no high sugar, high salt or high fat treats to be found.
Although I listened to over 30 lectures across the three day conference, I did have a few favourite topics.
For example, I enjoyed Mikael Fogelholm’s presentation ‘Lean or fit – can exercise and diet modify health-risks of obesity?’ He asked the question “is it better to have a healthy diet but a high BMI/obesity or have a bad diet and be lean/thin?” It seems for cardiovascular disease, exercise is indeed important in lowering risk but for type 2 diabetes, diet seems to be the more important factor i.e. exercise is less important than a healthy diet/healthy BMI.
The whole experience was rewarding and I feel motivated after spending time with colleagues who are also passionate about the same issues. If you have the chance to visit the Scandinavian countries, I highly recommend visiting Oslo and then taking a drive around the surrounding countryside during the summer - I would go again in an instant.