Spain is the largest producer of olive oil in the world and one of the countries in which this product, extra virgin olive oil, is the king of the kitchen. However, this is not the usual in all the countries of the European Union or outside.
Do you know which countries cook with olive oil? What do the rest of the countries of the European Union cook with? What is the country with the highest consumption of extra virgin olive oil? We answer all these questions!
Olive oil or butter?
A recent study by Landgeist and with data compiled by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), highlights the European inequality in use of main fats in cooking.
Thus, two great differences are observed: those countries that cook with olive oil and those that cook with butter, opening a gap between the countries of the north and the countries of the south, bathed by the Mediterranean.
The study reflects that the vast majority of European countries use butter for cooking. The countries that use olive oil as their main fat and that follow the patterns of the Mediterranean Diet are the clear minority: Spain, Portugal, Italy, Albania, Greece, Luxembourg and San Marino.
Interestingly, in ancient times, butter was highly appreciated by the Vikings and Celts (northern Europe), which is why the Romans and Greeks (southern Europe) considered it a barbaric product and did not include it in their diet, thus opting for olive oil. This social behavior has lengthened, according to the study of Landgeist, to the present day.
Consumption of butter and olive oil in the world
The main consumers of butter are, in order, France (with a per capita consumption of butter of 8.2 kg.), Denmark (6.4 kg.), Iceland (6 kg.), Czech Republic (5.4 kg.) and Switzerland (5.2 kg).
On the other hand, and focusing on the olive sector, throughout the world consume more than three million tons of olive oil a year. This figure has grown in recent years thanks to changes in consumption habits and countries such as China or the USA, with a high population rate, are introducing extra virgin olive oil in their daily diet.
However, and although a priori these figures may seem positive, the truth is that olive oil is not the most consumed vegetable oil in the world. This position corresponds to palm oil: with about 42 million tons per year.
Properties and benefits of olive oil and butter
If we study the olive oil and butter, which is healthier?
Extra virgin olive oil is rich in monounsaturated fats, especially oleic acid. This provides great benefits to our cardiovascular health and helps our cells to enjoy good health, among many other benefits. In addition, extra virgin olive oil contains a high degree of polyphenols, natural antioxidants by excellence and that fight against premature cellular aging. Vitamin D, a powerful antioxidant, is also found in extra virgin olive oil.
On the other hand, butter, like olive oil, is a fat and has the same caloric intake. Butter is rich in vitamins, including A and E, powerful antioxidants, and vitamin D, which favors the absorption of calcium. However, this product is a refined product and is mainly made up of saturated fats, which is why it contributes to the accumulation of fat in the arteries, with the cardiovascular risks that this entails.
Producers and consumers of olive oil
As we know, Spain is the largest producer of olive oil in the world. However, it is not the country that consumes it the most. San Marino is the country where olive oil is consumed the most: each citizen consumes about 24 liters of olive oil per year.
According to production of olive oil by country, the ranking would be as follows:
- Spain produces between 40 and 55% of the world's olive oil, with a production of between 1 and 1.8 million tons. Basically, one out of every two liters on the market worldwide are of Spanish origin.
- Italy produces 14% of the world's olive oil, exceeding 500,000 tons per year. Italy is a large importer of olive oil, mainly Spanish oil.
- Greece produces 10% of the world's olive oil, with an average of 230,000 tons per year.
- Tunisia produces 6% of the world's olive oil.
- Portugal produces between 70 and 120 thousand tons of olive oil per year, depending on the harvest.
- Turkey, Syria and Morocco have productions of over 100 thousand tons of olive oil per year.
If those are the countries that produce the most olive oil in the world, does that ranking correspond to its consumption? If we focus on the consumption of olive oil, the ranking varies:
- A citizen of San Marino consumes about 24 liters of olive oil a year.
- Spain, according to the latest IOC data (2020/2021), has risen one place in the ranking with an annual consumption per citizen of 11.44L.
- Greece, which has been in second place so far, has an annual olive oil consumption of 11.20L per year.
- Citizens of Italy consume 7.98L of olive oil per year.
- Portugal is the fifth country in which more olive oil is consumed per year: 5.47L.