Cherkizovo’s CEO on healthy food initiatives

June 7, 2019

St Petersburg, Russia – 7 June 2019 – Members of the business community met with officials at the St Petersburg International Economic Forum to discuss the quality, safety and future of Russian-made products.  We Are What We Eat, a session held in partnership with Cherkizovo Group, focused on healthy lifestyles and government programs to promote sensible eating habits.

“In line with its commitment to promoting healthy diets, Cherkizovo Group runs a program to make lower fat meat products and has been implementing initiatives to reduce fat consumption, including changes to our chicken feeding and finisher nutrition,” said in his speech Sergey Mikhailov, CEO of Cherkizovo Group. Being able to manage the calorie count and protein content allows Cherkizovo to offer poultry products with lower-than-average fat percentages in addition to low-calorie hybrid turkeys reared at its facility in the Tambov Region. For pork, significant fat reductions have been made possible thanks to advances in genetics, added Sergey Mikhailov. However, as he pointed out, the human body does require a certain amount of fat.

Although meat is an essential part of a healthy diet, its consumption in some regions is markedly below medical recommendations. Still, the country as a whole shows a “rather healthy” result with the per capita consumption at 75 kg, of which around 50% is poultry. This includes chicken and turkey, which are regarded as the healthier options, says Sergey Mikhailov.  

The quality and safety of food products are crucial – as is the opportunity to eat a balanced diet, reiterated the session's moderator Anna Popova, Head of the Federal Service for the Oversight of Consumer Protection and Welfare (Rospotrebnadzor). In Russia, efforts are made as part of the Demography national project to promote healthy lifestyles, including healthy nutrition and breaking harmful habits. According to Rospotrebnadzor, 2 billion people, or one out of four in the world, are overweight.

Another session that featured a discussion on the quality and advantages of Russian-made products was “Made in” – Addressing Reputational Risk in Global Food Markets, where participants talked about marketing these goods abroad.

The ambitious goal of increasing the country’s agricultural exports to USD 45 bn in the next four to five years requires a marketing strategy for products with strong export potential, said Cherkizovo’s CEO, citing meat as an example. “We need to focus on developing a strategy for the products we want to market consistently – a strategy that is likely to succeed. Our costs for meat are highly competitive, making it a potentially attractive target for this. It doesn’t mean we should sell cheap. Instead, we should build an image of a value-added product,” he urged.

A few years ago, Russia was the largest meat importer. Today, it is well-positioned to become a competitive operator in this market. A certain image should be created to promote its products: for example, potential customers do not perceive Russia’s so-called doctor’s sausage as a meat-rich product, as opposed to sausages made elsewhere. The Tambov turkey legs also have marketing potential. “This is what we can try to promote, but priorities must be chosen carefully as we can’t have it all right away. We should weigh everything to get an understanding of the future results,” noted Sergey Mikhailov.

He also emphasized Russia’s higher quality and safety standards for products. “For example, ractopamine, a growth promoter, is prohibited, as is chlorine. Also, most facilities here use air chilling for poultry. Compare this with the US, for instance, where they use water chilling. A lot of initiatives are being implemented to improve traceability. As things stand now, I think consumer protection is very robust,” concluded Mikhailov.