Reindeer herding: An indigenous food system in transition

Last changed: 02 March 2020
White reindeer in snow

How can collaboration between researchers and reindeer herders contribute to new innovative forms for connecting producers and consumers of reindeer herding products?


There is a rise in global awareness for a holistic approach on food systems with more reliance on traditional food. The indigenous food systems of the Arctic create good example for holistic utilisation of reindeer, its adaptation, co-existence to the local environment and utilization of local biological diversity. From originally being part of a subsistence economy, reindeer is today commodified. This makes products available for a wider public, at the same time there is a growing interest for reindeer meat.

Therefore, we can see a future potential for products utilising traditional knowledge (freezed steaks, minced meat, smoked or dried venison, reindeer side streams utilised in other industries). New technologies can open new connectivity between producers and consumers concerning food products as seen with the ‘Internet of foods’. ICT technology allows food products to be scanned for information on culture, ethics, transparency, nutritional quality and carbon footprint of foods.

Meanwhile, the commodification of reindeer products implies several challenges for the social, economic and ecological aspects of the traditional food system. Another challenge is how this transition interacts with the rights of indigenous people to control access to knowhow, materials and benefits of value-adding activities.

The project

We focus on three reindeer herding indigenous groups: Sami in Sweden and Finland and Nenets in Russia. We aim to facilitate indigenous reindeer herders’ agency, abilities and ownership of the commodification of reindeer products. But also to increase the awareness and knowhow about traditional food systems and their importance to Nordic food security for the wider public. Our interdisciplinary team represents different disciplines, such as economics, sociology, nutrition and food science, law and ICT. Through a collaborative approach between researchers, indigenous and reindeer herder organisations and indigenous food producers we will to create new knowledge.

The objectives of the study

The immediate objective is to establish collaboration with key representatives of reindeer herders’ organisations and businesses engaged in marketing of reindeer products. This will be achieved through three workshops in each country through interdisciplinary research approach. We are to create knowhow collectively and identify future areas for future collaborative development. New knowledge and results will be communicated through a final mini-symposium at SLU.

Workshops 2020

Umeå 3 March 2020

For more information, see

Read about Samiska veckan in Umeå 1-8 March 2020

Other dates:

  • Archangelsk, June 2020
  • Rovaniemi, September 2020
  • Uppsala, December 2020 (final symposium)



Project leader

Ildikó Asztalos Morell, Associate Professor, Department for Rural Development, SLU

Academic collaborative partners

Lena Maria Nilsson, Research coordinator, Arctic Research Centre, and co-director at Vaartoe, the Centre for Sami Research, Umeå University

Bamidele Raheem, Senior Researcher, Northern Institute of Environmental and Minority Law, Arctic Centre, University of Lapland, Rovaniemi.

Kamrul Hossain, Research Professor and Director, Northern Institute of Environmental and Minority Law, Arctic Centre, University of Lapland, Rovaniemi.

Elena Bogdanova, Associate Professor, Northern Arctic Federal University, Arkhangelsk

Maxim Shishaev, Professor of Russian Academy of Sciences. Chief researcher at the Inst. for Informatics and Mathematical Modelling of Kola Science Centre of RAS & Prof. of Information systems and technologies at Murmansk Arctic State University.

Project time



SLU Future Food

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