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Mongolian meat standardization

By Baptiste Cessieux

Since a few weeks ago, Europe has been coping with a serious issue related to meat standards and, more precisely, its traceability procedures. Indeed, it has been discovered that some horse meat was sold under the false pretext of beef. Because such fraud is affecting on a large scale the prepared food industry, including dishes such as the lasagna of Findus and the meatballs of Nestle, the integrity of the whole meat supply chain is seriously being questioned.
It is nevertheless clear that this issue has nothing to do with a food safety flaw. The whole scandal is rather based on commercial fraud taking advantage of the lower cost of horse meat compared to beef. Indeed, horse meat is equally safe and appropriate for human consumption but consumers all over Europe have been misguided when it comes to the nature of meat they were supposed to buy. How can you trust suppliers who avoid telling you exactly what you eat?
Sure, this controversy triggered a wave of questions. And what about Mongolia? Indeed, the Mongolian government has been trying for a few years – with a certain degree of success – to enforce the implementation of international standards in local food production. After canned food and drinks, the government wants to expand the application of food safety standards to the meat supply chain. Not an easy task in a country with a nomadic culture!
But implementation is in progress. On March 1, a new law has been approved asking the whole meat production industry to firstly provide training to its workers – including a certification – and secondly to at least acquire the necessary software to implement the full traceability of meat from its source till the consumer. The objective of this two-step approach is to secure the global standardization of meat production by January 1, 2014 when this law will effectively enter into force. Once traceability is secured, Mongolian raw meat cuts will qualify to enter into the international market. It is expected that the price of traceable meat may potentially increase but this will altogether also increase its quality!
This law will bring many changes in the meat supply chain from the herder via slaughterhouses and processing plants till the shopkeeper at the other end. Furthermore, the typical time frame of 10 months between the preparation and implementation of these new standards appears to be very short and ambitious. Cedric Bussac, Country Coordinator for the NGO AVSF (Agronomes et Veterinaires Sans Frontieres) is of the opinion that the government should extend this period because of the huge amount of preparatory work that companies will have to do in conjunction with the important financial investment requirements to bring production facilities in line with the food safety standards.
Having said that, one company in Mongolia did not wait for any law and is at the forefront of the standardization of the meat supply chain. Meat Market LLC, a subsidiary of Just Agro LLC, runs 12 slaughterhouses and processing plants in Mongolia, with its central processing plant located in Ulaanbaatar. This company started to implement internationally accepted food safety standards two years ago with the full HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) certification delivered on December 19, 2011 by the Swiss auditing company SGS (Societe Generale de Surveillance). HACCP standards are a comprehensive set of rules securing hygiene in the production cycle in order to prevent any potential contamination of meat products. It is a combination of educating the workers on hygiene discipline and the compulsory installation of equipment to decontaminate, sterilize, and clean everything that is involved with the production cycle. Workers are checked daily on compliance with their personal hygiene before entering the decontamination area leading to the slaughtering and processing plant.
It is the intention of Meat Market to bring this food safety concept a step closer to the end client as it was also decided to invest in the renovation of its own five retail shops in Ulaanbaatar to reach the same HACCP compliance. The first such renovated sales point or butchery will reopen its doors by mid-March 2013.
But HACCP is a method, and to go a step further is to fulfill ISO (International Organization for Standardization) requirements. In short and put in a simpler way, HACCP compliance is close to the ISO standard since HACCP is a component of ISO which includes, on the top of it, full traceability capacity beyond the slaughtering and processing plant compound.
This brings us to the other end of the chain where herders and livestock producers play a crucial role. Currently, most of the livestock producers sell their animals to intermediaries who sell them to the butcheries or directly to the end consumer. These intermediaries or “changers” as they are named in Mongolia do not seem to add enormous value into the chain. They usually do not care too much about traceability and, further on, they may potentially prevent the herders to fully benefit from the upside of market price fluctuations.
Herders and livestock producers appear to understand their key position and, in some aimags, they have organized themselves around cooperatives. Some cooperatives are supported by European NGOs. Tsagan Alt which is working with the Norwegian Lutherian Mission and the cooperative “Ar Arvijin Delgerekh” working closely with AVSF are two examples of perfect synergy with tangible results.
Indeed, AVSF has been active over the last eight years in Arkhangai where it successfully teamed up with Ar Arvijin Delgerekh to set up an entire supply chain for yak down fiber, starting from the coop members’ yaks and their raw fibers till the European prestigious high-end sales outlets retailing the “Khangai Mountains” branded end products. The key success of this story is that part of the profit made in the European outlets has been directly benefiting herders and members of the cooperative since its creation in 2010. This profit sharing creates the incentive for herders to move from quantity to quality and to do the right things to secure and improve product standards and quality.
Based on this satisfactory experience, AVSF and Ar Arvijin Delgerekh are willing to apply this business model to the livestock and meat value chain, including herders into the profit sharing scheme. Again, provided these herders are following the rules of traceability starting from “animal tagging” up to the provision of full information (including vaccination history) about the concerned animal, securing therefore full traceability.
AVSF and Ar Arvijin Delgerekh are active in the area of herding including the improvement of meat quality via a selected group of pilot herders for breeding improvements, but this does not include slaughtering and marketing. Meat Market and Just Agro are exactly on the other side of the fence starting with slaughtering and processing till selling in the market. Their respective businesses are fully complementary and it is thus no surprise that AVSF, Ar Arvijin Delgerekh, and Meat Market in 2012 signed a partnership covering the whole chain of events from herding till the sales of meat in the market.
In addition, it is not a secret that this partnership wants to compete with imported meat cuts and offer a safe and quality replacement for these imported overseas products. No doubt about it, this is a win-win situation for the herders, the local meat industry, and finally the customers … but equally for “Mother Nature” looking to a potential upside of a possibly better pasture management and less airplane traffic in importing overseas meat products.
Of course, it is just the beginning. Other companies are going to align themselves on this being the way to go. Once all the upsides are understood, Mongolians are quick learners so full implementation of standards is immediately on the horizon.

Short URL: http://ubpost.mongolnews.mn/?p=3101

Posted by on Feb 28 2013. Filed under Community. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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