During the second half of the nineteenth century, meat markets were established all over Europe as well as in Bergen. This happened for two reasons. First of all, there was a large increase in the population, particularly in the towns and cities. Secondly, knowledge about health and hygiene also increased among the general population at this time.
The towns had many problems to deal with. Life in the fast-growing towns was characterized by poverty, poor hygiene in the homes and, consequently, epidemic diseases. Cholera epidemics were commonplace in Europe from the 1830s.
Vendors in the market places tended to cheat their customers. For instance, they often watered down the milk and sold meat that had started to rot. The increased need for food and meat to the towns led to blood from the slaughtered animals literally flooding the streets and market places. Hygiene was clearly not an important concern.
Kjøttbasaren, the meat market, in Bergen was built in 1875. The architect was educated in Hannover, and was evidently inspired by Central European architecture. Bergen’s local meat market seems to be a result of a development already in progress in Europe; controlling the food hygiene was clearly needed all over Europe.
Norway passed its first health law in 1860. Based on this law the towns and counties made their own rules and regulations on how to control the market places, but the national law dictated how to control and punish merchants who cheated their customers, either on the scales or on the food’s quality. Common fraud methods could be to blend sawdust, sand or talcum powder in the flour.
In time health authorities gained better control over matters of hygiene, and Bergen opened a large public slaughterhouse in the early 1900s.
For many years the meat market’s building housed Bergen’s public library. Later, the building fell into disuse, but was totally renovated and re-opened in the 1990’s. Today, it is a food market that both the local population and tourists alike use and enjoy.