"Latvian butter." The quality of butter produced by the newly independent Latvia between the wars is nearly as steeped in mythology as is the Latvian Brown cow (brūnā govs)—recognized as its own cattle breed, with cows registered since 1885—from whence it was produced.
Latvia's economic base at the end of the 19th century had been industry, one based not on raw materials derived from the rich interior of the Russian Empire but from imports—ships would bring in the raw materials required for industry and leave laden with products mainly of flax and hemp while manufactured goods were destined for the interior or elsewhere in Europe. World War I destroyed that industrial base, whether through wartime destruction or, in the case of retreating occupying Bolshevik forces, sabotage or destruction of otherwise intact factories whose equipment could not be evacuated.
Latvia's only possibility for post-war economic recovery was to return to its agrarian roots. Butter came to be one of the mainstays of Latvia's agricultural exports.
"Lettische Butter" was targeted at further expanding the German market. Germany quickly grew to be Latvia's largest source of imports, largely industrial goods. As a result, Latvia struggled with a perennial trade deficit with Germany, exporting only about half the value of what it imported; butter was a key component of Latvia's balance of trade strategy. By 1928, the year before this brochure was published, Latvia had become the tenth largest butter exporter on the world market, but with 85% going to a single customer, Germany.
Latvian butter production in the post-Soviet era has not recovered, with total production being a mere fraction of exports more than half a century ago, based on statistics we've been able to locate online (in thousands of tons):
We have not been able to locate more recent figures; after 2008 would be of particular interest, as that year the Latvian parliament passed measures aimed, in part, at increasing butter production. Nor have we found the current EU farm product export quotas pertaining to butter.
Album of illustrations
- Latvian Brown, at the Oklahoma State Department of Animal Science web site
- Discussion Paper No 4/10, Latvian Foreign Trade and Investment with Germany and Russia: Past and Present, by Viesturs Pauls Karnups, at the Europa-Kolleg Hamburg, Institute for European Integration web site
- Butter Cooperative collection, at the Minnesota Historical Society: photographs of butter packing, testing and storage from the same time period (ca. 1925-1926) at the Minnesota Cooperative Creamery (which became Land O' Lakes in 1926)—the similarities are quite striking, indicating that Latvia's butter cooperative and export industry in the late 1920's was as modern as any.
|||As of 2010.|
Updated: July, 2016
- INTRODUCTION TO THE WORK
- Next Allgemeines über Lettland. — pg. 3, An Overview of Latvia.
- Lettische Butter und deutsche Fabrikate im gegenseitigen Austausch. — pg. 7, Latvian Butter and German Manufacturing in Trade Exchange.
- Lettlands Viehzucht. — pg. 9, Latvian Livestock.
- Molkereien. — pg. 9, Latvian Dairies.
- Kühlhaltung und Transport der Butter. — pg. 13, Butter Cold-Storage and Shipment.
- Das Staatliche Kühlhaus. — pg. 15, The National Cold Store Depot.
- Die Exportbutterkontrolle. — pg. 19, Butter Export Control.
- Haltbarkeitsprüfungen. — pg. 21, Durability (Environmental and Longevity) Tests.
- Lettlands Butterexport. — pg. 23, Latvian Butter Export.
- Der Versand der fertigen Butter. — pg. 25, Shipping the Finished Butter.
- Lettische Butter und ihre Eigenschaften. — pg. 27, Latvian Butter and Its Properties.
- Woran erkennt man lettische Butter? — pg. 29, How Do You Recognize Latvian Butter?"
- Die ferneren Aussichten des lettischen Butterexport. — pg. 31, Future Prospects for Latvian Butter Exports.
- Erlangung von Auskünften usw — pg. 31, Obtaining Information, etc.
- THE SHIPS KRIŠJĀNIS VALDEMĀRS AND NORDLAND
- NATIONAL COLD STORE DEPOT (VALTS SALDĒTAVA)