While in Europe there is a fulminant scandal with horsemeat, which was discovered in many popular meat products, Russian livestock breeders are concerned with a more serious problem. Here everybody is more and more willing to eat horsemeat. The question is: how to supply the population with quality domestic product.
The interesting part is that in Europe they are not upset about the fact that they were fed horsemeat, but that there was no warning on the package. Altogether there is nothing harmful in good horsemeat, as "Argumenty Nedeli" wrote. For example, it has more protein than beef, the proportion is 20-25%. On top of that, there is practically no cholesterol. There are good reasons why recipes for many kinds of sausages specify adding horsemeat. Especially the expensive kinds.
And in that same Europe, attitude towards horsemeat is far from unanimous. In the north, in Britain and Scandinavia, it is not recognized. But in the south they gobble it up. For example, in Italy they consume up to 1 kg per person per year. By the way, in the 1980's Italy was buying horses in the USSR. "Up to 30 thousand heads per year. They paid 1 dollar per kilo on the hoof," - remembers the head of economy dept. of VNII of horse breeding, Valentin Koveshnikov.
Now Italians import horsemeat from Argentina. Just like we do. There is a big demand in Russian Federation. According to various studies, they eat 60-100 thousand tons a year. It is 7 - 10% of world production. Demand is so great that it is not possible to be self-sufficient. About half of horsemeat in RF is imported, for the most part from Latin America. Argentina supplies several tens of thousands tons. About 7 thousand tons comes from Mexico, another 4.3 thousand tons from Uruguay. RF buys half of the horsemeat export of this small country.
Several years ago, we were getting up to 20% of imported horsemeat from Mongolia. But then imports from there were prohibited because of low quality of the raw material. By this time, there is not enough horsemeat even from the Latin American imports. For that reason meat product industries try to get around the obstacles. For example, entrepreneurs from Sverdlovsk region were planning to invest in Mongolian meat-producing plants. Instead of the prohibited Mongolian meat, they wanted to import to RF semi-prepared foods, the import of which is not limited.
In principle, there is nothing to prevent Russia from feeding itself on horsemeat. The more so because the merchandise from the other hemisphere is expensive. On the average, imported horsemeat costs about 120-180 rubles for I kg, which is only a little bit cheaper than beef (160-220 rubles per kg). on top of that, 10 regions of RF has historically based well developed breeding of horses for meat. among them are the Astrakhan region, Kalmykia, Tyva and Buryatia.
The conditions there are favorable for horse breeding. Because the horses are kept in natural herds in pastures, they can graze in open air the whole year round. It is not even necessary to supplement the horses' food, except in extreme situations, for example during anomalous excessive snowfall, when they cannot dig down to the grass buried under the snow. As a result, the cost of domestic horsemeat production would work out even cheaper than mutton or beef. At times even twice as cheap. According to data of VNII horse farm, RF has farms which can produce horsemeat for 20 rubles per kilogram (on the hoof).
"Meat horses can be kept in stables, but in Russian conditions it does not make sense, because the fodder is too expensive. On top of that this meat does not taste as good. For example, in Canada they raise horses on artificial feed they gain weight better, but the quality of the meat does not tolerate any comparisons with meat from pasture-raised horses, - scientific vice-director of VNII horse-farm Alexander Zaitsev tells us.
In other words, pasture-raised herds produce the best meat at the lowest price. Great advantages! Experts remark on this fact. The horse population in Russia as a whole almost does not increase. On the other hand, within this population, the proportion of horses of meat-producing breeds is rapidly increasing. During the past five years, the numbers increased by a factor of 1.5 : from 253 to 364 thousand! It is a record, there weren't so many even during the last years of USSR. At the same time, new breeds have shown up. In the late 1990's, selection breeders developed a meat-producing Novo-Altai breed. In the late 2000's, Megechezhskaya and Prilenskaya breeds showed up.
As a result the average yield of meat from a horse increased by 1.5. True, so far most of the meat is eaten right where it is raised. In Yakutia the proportion of horse meat within total meat consumed is up to 25%, in Altai 8%. So little horsemeat gets to the large meat product industries, that even Rosstat has difficulties calculating it.
On top of that, there are practically no large plants geared towards working up large volumes of horsemeat. They are only in Bashkortostan and Yakutia.
Nevertheless, horse industry is not running in place. With this speed of development of meat production, in several years PF could be self-sufficient as to horsemeat. Then - the world market. But the government seems to be trying to slow down the progress. It opened a green corridor to suppliers of imports. On one hand, the government is spending about 300 million rubles a year on subsidies to reindeer herders and pasture-horse breeders. On the other hand, the state limited the supply of practically any imported meat by quotas, except horsemeat. The way it comes out is: bring as much as you want, we don't need our own?