Back in 2014, jamon and parmesan became a household name for those who lamented the loss of easy access to their favorite foods after the first wave of sanctions. But 8 years ago, at least you could buy delicacies in Europe and bring them for yourself and your loved ones. Now, when most Russians cannot afford to travel to the West, one can only hope for an import substitution program. However, Russians have no illusions about finding jamon, parmesan, or at least their high-quality analogues on the shelves of chain stores.
Polls of the Rate&Goods service showed that 22.7% of Russians are sure that there is no normal jamon in Russia, and 70.3% have never heard of the existence of domestic jamon. The situation is similar with cheeses - only 13% of Russians are satisfied with the quality of Russian analogues of parmesan, camembert and brie, and 39% are categorically not.
But world-class products do exist in Russia. In 2019, a young Russian cheese from the Tula farmer and cheese maker Alexei Andreev received gold and bronze medals at the French Fromonval competition, in 2021 at Mondial du Fromage-2021 Gruyère Patrice Norman cheese from the Filimonovo Razdolie cheese factory from the Yaroslavl region won gold. And at the Tastes of Russia competition, a Russian analogue of jamon from Magnitogorsk was presented. If you want to remember the forgotten taste of your favorite delicacies, you will have to travel around Russia in search of worthy specimens.
The head of the analytics department at the research company NTech, Daria Akimova , claims that in Russia there are worthy producers of jamon, or, more correctly, dried ham, since the term “jamon” itself, according to experts, is geo-referenced to Spain:
- We have already registered several trademarks, the products of which can rightfully be considered jamon. Some of these trademarks are even recognized by the Spaniards, that is, they have been certified. So, for example, "Atria Russia" make their jamon in the Leningrad region. There is a production of jamon in Siberia in Tomsk, the manufacturer "Koptilkin", in Kurgan "Veles", in Rostov "Taurus". There are also several production facilities in the Moscow region.
It is very difficult to become a truly mass production of such products due to a number of fundamental limitations, including the availability of suitable breeds of pigs, the peculiarity of fattening and the high cost of the technological process, explains Daria Akimova:
- Traditionally, three breeds of pigs are imported to Russia: Yorkshire or Large White, Landrace and Duroc. And the best jamon is made from Iberica pork. But the point is not even what breed of pig they take. Traditionally, these pigs find themselves in special climatic conditions, plus they are fattened in a special way. The best ham is fattened with acorns or a combination of acorns with Recebo forage. Pigs for prosciutto in Italy are often fattened with fruit and corn, some are fed with parmesan whey, which is left over from cheese production. The main secret is a special diet, which will not be so easy to recreate in our country.
Farmer Anton Matveev from Torzhok, who specializes in sausages, notes that according to the correct technology, jamon has been made for more than a year, and a special climatic chamber is needed for production. Indeed, only drying a ham takes from 6 to 36 months. And after that, the drying process begins, which lasts from 9 to 12 months. And already in the final, the ham goes through the ripening stage. Leading expert in the meat industry, Boris Ryabinkin , points out that the costs associated with the technological process are unbearable for small and medium-sized farmers:
- We have great opportunities, including for growing, but now there is a mess with meat - supplies have risen in price, many shops are closing, standing, not working. For the production of jamon, such areas are needed that the rent will not pay off due to the peculiarities of the production technology. We have removed customs duties from imports, and it turns out that our pork, beef and lamb are going to zero. If Miratorg undertakes such production, then it can pay off. And one farmer will not pull this. Everything is taxed here, but imports are not.
So farmers cannot master production, and large agricultural holdings do not want to get involved with this. They need the fastest possible profit, says Boris Ryabinkin:
- Sausage factories will not go to the production of jamon, except perhaps according to some simplified scheme, because now modern producers want money almost immediately. Because no one needs instability. Even for uncooked smoked sausage, orders have decreased due to the fact that liquid smoke is added there, they do not dry it as it should be anyway. Because raw smoked sausage must be aged for almost 2 months according to Soviet GOSTs, and as for jamon, it is longer there. Well, there is, of course, a simplified technology for a ham - 3 weeks of salting, but still 3 months is the minimum necessary to dry it under pressure.
The chances that the domestic dry-cured ham will come close in quality to the original jamon or prosciutto, and at the same time please with its price, are negligible. Even if you find something similar to jamon in the store, most likely it will be an imitation produced using accelerated technology. The emergence of new industries is further complicated by the shortage of imported equipment. Boris Ryabinkin warns that there is still the prospect of being left without industrial refrigeration equipment:
- Now there will be no more compressors. Here the compressor breaks down and what to do? We do not have our own compressors for any refrigeration equipment - for air conditioners, refrigerators. And imagine, you buy a batch of meat for a lot of money and your refrigerator breaks, and that's it, and the worms crawled.
As for the situation with cheeses, there are already quite a lot of producers of good products in Russia, and they can really compete with European varieties, Artyom Belov, General Director of Soyuzmoloko, believes:
- There are very good cheeses in Russia, both farm and industrial, which have received awards at leading international cheese competitions. Therefore, we can probably say that the quality and level of cheese production in the Russian Federation is very competitive. If 10-15 years ago we could hardly boast of something here, now a whole industry has grown, both farm and quite specific cheeses that are produced on an industrial scale. These are cheeses with white mold, and with blue mold, and hard cheeses.
According to Daria Akimova , there are many regions in Russia where decent cheeses are produced - you don’t have to travel far for them:
- In fact, there are many regions in Russia in which milk processing is well developed: these are Moscow and the Moscow Region, Krasnodar Territory, Altai Territory, the Republic of Tatarstan, Bashkortostan, St. Petersburg and the Leningrad Region, the Udmurt Republic, the Voronezh Region, the Belgorod Region, the Volga Region .
But again, as in the case of meat, this is not a mass story. If you want to try exquisite hard cheese, you will have to look for small cheese dairies. Artyom Belov notes that the production of hard cheese is associated with a number of technological processes and requires a lot of time:
- If we look at the Italian group of cheeses, at pasta filata, at soft cheeses, then almost the entire Italian group is produced in Russia - burrata, stracciatella, mozzarella. But these products are relatively simple in terms of production technology, they do not require long-term aging, and therefore it is somewhat easier to gain experience and start producing these cheeses. When it comes to hard and semi-hard cheeses, the situation is more complicated because it takes much longer to learn how to make them. Because hard cheeses have an aging period of 6, 8, 12 months and even more, and since experience comes with time, the time for which you learn how to make such cheeses is much longer. Although there are some good results and products here. For example, excellent hard cheeses are made by the Tula Dairy Plant, and a number of other manufacturers.
In addition to the fact that in Italy it is forbidden to feed cows that give milk for "Parmesan" with silage, animal flour and fermented feed (only local herbs!), in Russia there are legal restrictions that make the production of real "Parmesan" impossible. Its release in Russia is a crime. Moreover, several rules will be violated at once.
According to the original recipe, milk and whey are poured into copper cauldrons. But in Russia there is SanPiN 18.104.22.1680-96, which sets the acceptable levels of copper in products. This means that the content of such already expensive dishes must be treated with special care. Most manufacturers do not risk messing with it. But most importantly, Parmigiano Reggiano in Italy is made exclusively from unpasteurized milk. According to Artyom Belov , in Russia such technology is outlawed.
- As for parmesan specifically, now it cannot be made in Russia, because such cheese is made from unpasteurized milk, from milk that has not been processed. And in Russia it is forbidden.
It would be good to take and cancel this norm, to follow the Italian example. But the Deputy Chairman of the MCCI Committee for the Development of Entrepreneurship in the Agro-Industrial Complex and the General Director of Petrova 5 Consulting , Marina Petrova , believes that this is impossible due to the current technical regulations. There is a risk of getting a product hazardous to health:
- In Russia, the production of cheese from unpasteurized milk is now prohibited. But since the technical regulation of the Customs Union allows a high level of somatic cells in raw milk (7.5 ⋅ 105 in 1 cm 3), I am sure that such a restriction should be left.
At the same time, according to Oleg Sirota, chairman of the Commission of the Civic Chamber of the Russian Federation for the development of the agro-industrial complex and rural areas, it is not easy to run into products that are frankly dangerous to health. Even if “parmesan” is not “parmesan”, but you will remain alive:
- Of course, the manufacturer must be sure of the quality of the milk that he uses in processing. Otherwise, he will not enter the market with his product. Before being released into circulation, milk must undergo a veterinary and sanitary examination. The country has many laboratories for assessing the quality of milk. Market participants also have the opportunity to additionally check the quality of milk at any time.
Therefore, it is not worth chasing the world names of cheeses in Russia. It is better to pay attention to new domestic varieties - here at least there will be no deception. But do not expect Russian cheese to be more affordable than more famous analogues. Marina Petrova is sure that good cheese cannot be cheap:
- At the moment, there is no pronounced shortage of milk in Russia, but in terms of raw milk, the main difficulty is the high price, which exceeds 50 rubles. for 1 liter. Of course, there are a number of reasons for the high cost of raw milk: since last year, agricultural producers have faced rising prices for fertilizers, fuels and lubricants and plant protection products (PPPs), and this year the situation is complicated by unprecedented sanctions that affected the supply of agricultural machinery, components, seeds, etc. .d.
The state also does not make dairy products cheaper - producers are also forced to spend money on labeling. Even two markings. According to Marina Petrova , they give nothing but additional costs.
- The introduction of labeling does not affect the production of high-quality dairy products. Marking is just a QR code, which costs 50 kopecks for an enterprise without VAT for each unit of production, and also requires additional investments in foreign equipment and IT technologies, which will be extremely difficult to maintain due to sanctions. The introduction of labeling has led to an increase in the cost of dairy products, the need for additional investment by milk processors and, in fact, the doubled function of the Mercury system. In the current situation, I believe that it is necessary to introduce a moratorium on labeling, especially in terms of the mandatory submission of information on the disposal of all dairy products through the cash register, similar to tobacco products, which are planned to be introduced from September 1, 2022.
If there is nothing to count on with jamon, then high-quality domestic cheeses can occupy their niche and find buyers. Not now, and not for a penny. Daria Akimova believes that the industry is only at the very beginning of its journey:
- Parmesan and other hard cheeses take longer to mature than soft blue cheeses. Therefore, the first samples from manufacturers were taken only last year or the year before last. You need to understand that between the first test and the final result, a rather long and labor-intensive process of building a production technology takes place, so that a quality product eventually enters the market.
And Oleg Sirota names specific dates when we can expect the expansion of Russian cheese makers:
- Domestic cheeses will fully cover the domestic market in 5-7 years. Entrepreneurs have every opportunity to produce high-quality products using Russian raw materials and increase production volumes. I don't see any problems with this. Now our cheese makers take various medals and world awards at competitions, and a few years ago everyone laughed at the words "Russian cheese". The small segment has already grown stronger and has been able to develop properly, but in Russia there is still a problem with the production of cheese on an industrial scale, since it is necessary to build new large factories.
Finding local delicacies is not an easy task. And it won't get easier anytime soon. In Europe, the production of famous products that have become the hallmarks of the regions has been honed for centuries. Russian manufacturers are still learning the basics. Reception they are forced to adapt the rich European experience to domestic laws. It will take years before domestic delicacies take their place on supermarket shelves. In the meantime, you have to look for them all over the country from small local manufacturers...