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Dried cranberries and reindeer moss sweets: What the Arctic diet can offer Russians

Russia’s Arctic Regions can serve up unique menu for domestic and global tastes

MOSCOW, July 12. /TASS/. Regions in the Russian Arctic can offer unique brands to the domestic and global food markets. Northern meat, fish and wild plants are not only cousine exotic, they also have bigger share of useful substances than similar products in the south. Arctic sweets of moss and cones, chips with moss - those are surprises the Arctic is ready to offer.

'Wild' meat

"Nowadays, the cleanest meat is deer. Arctic is a rather clean region, and thus the meat is ecologically a very clean product, rather costly. Like fish. You can't meet northern fish in the central regions, there raw fish may be harmful, and in the north it is, of course, clean," head of the Union of Arctic and Extreme North Cities Igor Shpektor told TASS.

The amounts of produced deer are very moderate as yet. The Yamal-Nenets Autonomous District reported 2,600 tons produced last winter, which is a growth of 35% year-on-year. Head of the Krasnoyarsk region's standards and metrology center, involved in promotion of regional products and in quality inspections, Vasiliy Morgun said a few companies in the region process between 1,000 and 1,500 tonnes of deer a year.

"Unfortunately, the Krasnoyarsk territory consumes only ten percent of the product, and most part is supplied to markets of Russia's European part," he said. "Reindeer's meat is a product which requires branding and promotion as a regional product."

More than half of the meat produced in Yamal is consumed inside the region, and the rest goes to Russia's other parts. Some part is exported - the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous District is the only Russian region, which has the right to export deer to the EU countries. The supplies began in 2008. Since then, Finland and Sweden have received more than 2,000 tonnes.

Tougher control

Head of the Yamal Deer company Yevgeny Maltsev said the deer quality undergoes three levels of tests before the meat reaches shops. The reason is the outbreak of the anthrax in summer 2016. "Tests are checked simultaneously at two labs - in Yamal and in Tyumen, so that to be 100% sure about safety," he said. "Only as all the tests are passed, the veterinary service stamps the meat, and without that stamp meat cannot be on sale in Russia or abroad."

During 2017-2018, the region will produce more meat. Earlier information was that meat supplies from Yamal to Germany and Belarus would begin from 2017. The Payuta meat processing plant is ready to supply up to 100 tonnes of reindeer meat a year. Morgun added, participation of major meat processing plants is important for promotion of reindeer meat on the Russian market.

Northern brand

Work on the Yenisei Northern Fish brand continues in Krasnoyarsk. Every year, the region produces between three and five thousand tonnes of fish. According to Morgun, about 20% of produced fish are kinds of whitefish (muksun, chir, peled, vendace).

"This amount is sufficient for representation of the strong brand on food markets," he said. "This brand Yenisei Northern Fish has all chances to take good positions on the global market. The reason is that most valuable fish grows by industrial methods, the so called aquaculture. The physiological value of wild fish, the share of important for people substances, is higher. It's impossible to get this share using fodder."

In 2016, Yamal registered a 15-year record of almost 10,000 tonnes of fish. The plan for 2017 is to produce 9,000 tonnes. "All companies face the task of bigger markets, and the Salekhard factory, the key fish processer in the region, plans supplying fish to our neighbors - Belarus and Kazakhstan," head of the agricultural and industrial complex department, Viktor Yugai, said.

Yamal Product, the biggest fish deep processing company in northern Russia, the line of ready products now includes Siberian whitefish, chir and whitefish. New products are also coming to the market. "Take, for example fish soup (ukha in Russian). All ingredients are cut, then deep frozen, and the only thing to do is to put them into boiling water. This product will be available very soon. Also, we shall offer a tar-tar of omul, natural caviar spreads, ready main courses, new preserved products," the company said.

Replacing Poland and Canada

Global leaders in berries processing are Poland and Canada. Shops offer their dried cranberry, bilberry and other berries. Russia, however, begins it own big projects, like, for example, the Arkhangelsk Cranberry.

The company's representative Mikhail Silantyev told TASS about ready roads, which lead to plantations, and this year the company began construction of melioration facilities, bought seedlings, and has scientific follow-up of the project. "This year, we begin making the soil baths, like the ones used for rice, and next year we shall plant the seedlings," he said. "Cranberries appear on the third year, and thus we expect the first crops in 2020."

"Cranberry is a plant, which grows easily on Arkhangelsk peats. Not many plants grow there. And this is the product, demand for which will be high. We import cranberry, and, interestingly, from America. Remember, Putin spoke to agricultural workers and asked them what cranberry is in yoghurt? It turned out to be imported. Ours will be cheaper. First of all, no big transport expenses. Plus, when we need water, our area is such that the lake is above the peat, and water will be coming by itself - this also makes the product cheaper."

When signing agreements, the company quotes the minimum crops of 1.5 kilograms per every square meter. But the scientists, working on the project, say possible crops would be about 4-5 kg. The project's cost is 500 million rubles ($8.3 million). The company says they have buyers already.

"The front is wide - we have received [companies] Vologda Berry, Berry of Karelia - they studied to decide whether to become shareholders or buyers of product. Got interested. And the companies which can process are many, including in the Arkhangelsk region," he continued. "Or perhaps we shall process ourselves, may produce juices, jams."

Arctic sweets

Fish, meat and berries are not the only products from the Russian North. A very popular and highly valuable product is deer antlers. Taimyr companies plant making medicine from sublimated blood. Yamal recently began producing Arctic sweets and fast-food. They were presented at an exhibition in Berlin. The sweets contain extracts from deer moss, moss, birth tree, black cone, epilobium angustifolium, Siberian pine, red ash. This product favors adaptation for people suffering big physical and mental stress, it lowers glucose's absorption, is a good antioxidant, raises resistance to respiratory infections.

The new fast-food are yeast-free chips of moss with special sauce and boiling water. Specialists of the Arctic studies within eight months organized experimental production of food, using local herbs and berries, the center's deputy head Andrei Lobanov told TASS earlier.

"Initially, we though this product would be local - we wanted the settled indigenous peoples to have work the year round. For example, we attracted them for collection of materials to be used for extracts - the ingredients for the products. The investments in the project made about one million rubles ($16.600)," he said. "The money was used to buy equipment for the lab, where we make extracts and work on recipes."

Both tasty and healthy

The Arctic studies scientific center in Salekhard for a few years continues research on food's impact on the health. The theory of balanced nutrition says all substances are required in certain amounts and shares. The biggest health problem nowadays is exactly deficits of some substances and excessive amounts of others.

"If we take reindeer meat, its chemical and biological value of the muscle tissue is extremely high. Practically 99% of its proteins are full-fledged proteins, which consist of precious amino acids, which means the proteins are digested easily, and besides the reindeer meat has a very low concentration of fat - 5-6%," head of the center's environment-biology research sector Elena Agbalyan told TASS. "And the reindeer fat contains big amounts of valuable fatty acids."

According to Morgun, reindeer's red meat is a dietary product: it contains all valuable elements from deer moss - the main food of reindeer.

Results of the recent research of Krasnoyarsk's Biophysics Institute confirm some northern fish are winners in polyunsaturated fatty acids. Medical experts say people need omega-acids for good functioning, they reduce heart diseases and oncology, favor good work of the brain.

"Fish (northern - TASS) is rich in fat-soluble and polyunsaturated acids of omega-3 class, the fish prevents heart and vascular diseases, atherosclerosis, and our northern berry contains times more vitamins and elements than berries in central Russia," the expert said.