The Economy of Reindeer Husbandry

Reindeer husbandry has often been thought as a culture. It is very understandable as it is difficult to even imagine Northern areas and cultures without reindeer and reindeer herding. Reindeer have adjusted to the harsh conditions of the Arctic areas. It is one of a kind. No wonder that reindeer has developed to a genuine soul of the Northern culture.

However, reindeer husbandry is a source of livelihoods, the oldest in Northern Finland. It has provided income and abilities to live in the North for centuries.

Today, reindeer herding is the main source of income for about 1 000 persons. For another thousand persons it is a significant secondary income. In practice this gives enables people to live in the Northern rural areas.

In addition, there is a wide variety of other incomes related to reindeer herding such as meat processing and tourism. In this type of combinations, the role of the reindeer is central.

In a report made in 2014, the reindeer husbandry in Finland and Sweden employs around 15 000 people and the total turnover is 1.3 billion Euros. Finland’s part of this is around 2/3. In other words, every kilo of meat produced in Finland means 400 euros.

Economy of reindeer herding in Finland and Sweden 2013

As in other primary production, the producer gets the smallest slice from the income. However, contrary to others, reindeer husbandry follows the principles of market economy. The turnover is influenced by supply and demand. The main income comes from selling reindeer meat or raw products. The support for reindeer husbandry is under 20 %, whereas in other primary production it raises to as high as 80 %.

The Whole of Reindeer is used

The main product in reindeer husbandry is the meat and the quality development has been done for a long time. In the production, new products have been developed whilst traditional products have been improved to the top levels. The European Union has granted a protected designation of origin (PDO) to reindeer meat from Lapland (Lapin Poron liha), dried reindeer meat from Lapland (Lapin Poron kuivaliha) and cold-smoked reindeer meat from Lapland (Lapin Poron kylmäsavuliha). Reindeer is the only meat to have this status in Finland. It is the most unique and high quality meat in Finland.

Reindeer is a quality material that is used in several ways. Reindeer leather is sought-after material in the fashion industry worldwide. It is very soft, but still hardwearing. It is a product developed in the Arctic conditions and there is no other similar to it in the world. Reindeer leather is ethical, ecological and exotic material and the limited availability makes it especially interesting. In the past few years, several fashion houses have used it in their products.

Tourism is a still growing sector in reindeer herding. In Finland, reindeer herders have built well-functioning reindeer farm tourism –concept that enriches significantly the Northern tourism scene. Most of the farms are real farms where tourists can familiarise themselves with reindeer, herding, and traditional reindeer herding culture as well as experience different reindeer themed experiences. Carefully considering, reindeer farm tourism serves hundreds of thousands of tourists in Lapland annually. Reindeer is in the top three when tourists are asked about the top attractions in Lapland.

Also other reindeer products awake interest in Finland and abroad. The antlers and bones are versatile materials used from medication to souvenirs. The fat and milk of reindeer are used in developing cosmetics and other natural products. The side products from slaughter houses are used in the pet food industry. The amount of allergic dogs is growing around the worlds and reindeer is suitable for these animals.  In practise, a whole new market is opening for reindeer products.

The whole of reindeer is usable. Sometimes people say that the only thing that is not used from reindeer is its soul. However, our tradition tells that the soul of a reindeer moves on to guide persons moving in the wilderness of Lapland.