Horsemeat on the menu

By bne IntelliNews April 11, 2013

Clare Nuttall in Astana -

Ikea has not made it to Kazakhstan yet, but when it does, the Swedish company's horse-rich meatballs are likely to be as welcome as its reasonably priced flat-pack furniture. While the horsemeat scandal spreads around Europe, Kazakhs can't get enough of the meat.

Horse has been an integral part of the Kazakh diet for centuries, dating back to nomadic times, and today is prized as a delicacy. Not only is horsemeat eaten in dishes such as the traditional beshbarmak on feast days, in the 2012 London Olympics it emerged that the meat was also served up to help Kazakh athletes stay in peak physical condition. Horse sausages, known as kazi and kurta, as well as Caspian caviar, were flown to London for Kazakh wrestlers and weightlifters. Ilya Ilyin, who won gold medals at the Beijing and London Olympics, told journalists that horse meat and chicken were the "best foods for weightlifters".

But while Kazakhstan has increased production of horsemeat from 65,300 tonnes in 2007 to 85,100 tonnes in 2012, demand for the meat is so high on the domestic market that exports are not expected any time soon. "It's more expensive than other types of meat, so this is a high-end business that is financed by bank credits as well as though our programme," Alpamys Omarov, deputy director of state agricultural holding company KazAgro, tells bne. "There are no plans to export at present because there is still unmet demand on the domestic market, but we would be prepared to support exports in the future."

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