May 2, 2014
Russia enforces new meat processing and labelling regulations
Beginning May 1, 2014, new technical regulations on the safety of meat and meat products will come into force across Russia and the Customs Union, and look set to bring major changes to the structure of local meat businesses.
The document contains several dozen changes, but experts say the most important are the new rules on the labelling of processed meat products and a ban on the private slaughter of animals.
The new regulations specify that a farmer cannot now sell the meat of an animal that has been culled outside specially licensed slaughterhouses. Previously farmers were allowed to slaughter their own animals on their farms.
Through this move, the Russian government is aiming to improve the level of meat quality on the market, but experts say small businesses may be seriously affected, as farmers will have to pay an additional price for the slaughter and transportation of animals to slaughterhouses.
"About 60% of all beef produced in the country in 2013 came from small farms. So the technical regulation will have a greater impact on beef production than on the pig and poultry industries. It is hard to move quickly towards industrial production of this type of meat, due to technological peculiarities," said Sergey Chernyshev, an expert from analytical agency EMEAT.
He added that the crucial issue will be the availability of slaughterhouses in particular regions. In the case of beef, a lack of geographically accessible slaughterhouses may contribute to the development of an illegal market.
In addition, producers will soon have to label, in percentage terms, the share of meat their products contain. Some products will lose the status of 'meat', as the regulations have introduced new terms for the Russian market, including 'products containing meat' and 'meat and cereal products', among others.
"Our authorities have put an indicator of the 'share of meat' in meat products. If it is more than a certain percentage, you can call it a 'meat product', but if it is below a certain level, it should be called a 'meat and cereal product' for example," said Musheg Mamikonyan, president of the Russian Meat Union.
He criticised the new regulation, claiming that it failed to address major industry problems. "The new regulation completely ignores the main problems faced by the industry. For our producers it is more profitable to use fat for the production of sausages, which is four times cheaper than lean meat. Old technical regulations have given them that opportunity, and the new regulation does not limit it," he said.