Human Ecology

, Volume 43, Issue 3, pp 425–438 | Cite as

Market Economy vs. Risk Management: How Do Nomadic Pastoralists Respond to Increasing Meat Prices?

  • Marius Warg Næss
  • Bård-Jørgen Bårdsen


A growing body of evidence shows that for nomadic pastoralists herd accumulation is an efficient strategy for buffering environmental variation and maximizes long-term survival. Pastoralists may thus view livestock as investments, or ‘banks on the hoof,’ that work as insurance against unpredictable environmental conditions. This perspective differs from strict market logic where producers are expected to follow the ‘law of supply,’ i.e., that when the price of a product rises suppliers should be willing to offer more of the product for sale. In terms of insurance, increased meat prices may make it possible for pastoralists to slaughter fewer animals for the same financial gain as when prices are low and subsequently convert unslaughtered animals to herd capital. This study investigates to what degree Saami reindeer herders follow a market driven or risk management logic by investigating how slaughter strategies are influenced by increasing meat prices. While slaughter strategies vary regionally in Norway, our results indicate that reindeer herders follow neither risk nor market considerations alone, but rather a combination, and support the general hypothesis that slaughter strategies entail balancing the benefits of increasing herd size against economic gain through meat sales. This has important management implications since current management schemes aiming to reduce the number of reindeer by stimulating slaughter rates through economic subsidies is based on the assumption that herders are meat producers motivated by monetary gains alone.


Risk management Reindeer husbandry Nomadic pastoralism Norway 



Funding for this study was provided by the Research Council of Norway (grant number: 204174 and 240280/F10). We thank the Reindeer Husbandry Administration for access to data and Torkild Tveraa for preparing the data prior to the statistical analyses. We would also like to thank two anonymous reviewers whose comments improved the manuscript.

Supplementary material

10745_2015_9758_MOESM1_ESM.doc (304 kb)
ESM 1 (DOC 304 kb)


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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research (NIKU)TromsøNorway
  2. 2.Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA), Arctic Ecology Department, Fram CentreTromsøNorway

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