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Cold cuts for a new Cold War

Cold cuts for a new Cold War Reuters
29 Dec
‘I want to reassure you that you won’t notice a lack of high-quality beef. You are used to eating in good restaurants and you’ll continue doing so. Bon appétit!’ Those are words that Russia’s Minister for Agriculture, Nikolai Fyodorov, may come to regret

Fyodorov was announcing Russia’s ban on agricultural imports from the US, EU, Canada and Australia in retaliation for sanctions over Russia’s action in Ukraine. In 2013, Russia imported $1.3billion in foodstuffs from the US alone, including $1million of beef, according to the US Department of Agriculture.

Russia’s ban on agricultural products is slated to last for 12 months, and domestic producers are struggling to fill the gap. Local government in the Siberian region of Chukotka has replaced imported meat with reindeer in schools and hospitals. ‘Reindeer meat is environmentally clean, and that means that neither foie gras, Spanish jamón or any other delicacy can compare with it,’ claimed a report on the Rossiya 24 news channel.

Food prices are a concern for the region, and the local government has ordered price reductions on ‘socially important’ foodstuffs including chicken, ham, butter and flour, according to local governor Roman Kopin. The region is closer to Alaska than Moscow, and relied heavily on US food imports. Governor Kopin hopes that the 190,000 domesticated reindeer will make the shortfall in the 604 tons of meat the region is estimated to need this year. Russian reindeer meat production dropped after the Soviet Union fell, with 25,000 tons produced in 1990 down to 7,400 tons in 2001.

‘In winter, wild deer can be hunted,’ said Kopin. ‘This can be a great help in improving food security in the region.’ The governor expects the wild meat to be sold to logging camps and smaller settlements. The hunting season for wild reindeer lasts until 28 February, 2015. Whether Minister Fyodorov will be tucking into a reindeer steak anytime soon remains to be seen.

This story was published in the January 2015 edition of Geographical Magazine

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