The Roundup

How an Oklahoma Cattle Rancher is Changing Russia’s Beef Business

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Posted 06.19.12

Anthony Stidham, a rancher from Ada, Oklahoma, is teaching Russians the lost art of cattle breeding. Photo courtesy Miratorg Agribusiness Holding via Bloomberg.

An Oklahoma rancher could be the reason Russia cuts its beef imports by $3 billion annually. Anthony Stidham is a 48-year-old, third-generation rancher from Ada, Oklahoma, who answered an ad in a farming publication and went to work for Russian President Vladimir Putin, training locals in cattle-rearing skills, Bloomberg reported.

Stidham’s employment—and the import of 60,000 Aberdeen Angus cattle—is part of Putin’s plan to revive Russia’s lost cattle-breeding tradition (eradicated under Joseph Stalin’s rule) and put the country on track to “meet 85 percent of its meat and poultry needs by 2020.”

“The Tsarist tradition of breeding meat cattle was lost when Stalin enforced a drive toward collective farms in the 1930s, according to Sergei Yushin, head of Russia’s meat lobby,” Bloomberg reported. “The country has mainly slaughtered retired dairy cows for meat since that time.” But dairy cows yield thin, tough, rubbery steaks, which is why the country began importing its beef in 1990.

On a large cattle farm 250 miles southwest of Moscow, Stidham and others are raising Aberdeen Angus, “a Scottish breed of hornless black beef cattle,” which “have had to cope with winter temperatures that can plummet as low as minus 35 degrees Celsius.” And that’s after making the “four-week journey by sea and road from the U.S. and Australia,” Bloomberg reported.

“There’s no place in the U.S., Australia, or anywhere in the world that will have cattle as good as what they are putting together here,” Stidham told Bloomberg.

Since the project began, funded by $800 million in state support, Russia has already reduced some of its beef imports, and “at least 30 steakhouses have sprung up in Moscow.”

… (T)he plan is to almost double the size of the parent herd by the end of 2013. With new calves, the integrated operation, which involves slaughterhouses to meat-processing facilities, will expand more than fourfold to 250,000 by 2014. It will be able to produce 104,000 meat bulls a year and supply 30,000 metric tons of boneless beef to the market.

Miratorg Agribusiness Holding, Russia’s largest meat importer and the recipient of the $800 million state start-up capital, runs 16 cattle farms now and expects to up that number to 33 by the end of 2013. Eventually, the country hopes to export beef for the first time in its history.

“Russia has all opportunities to be a big beef exporter in 10 to 15 years,” Miratorg CFO Vadim Kotenko told Bloomberg.

Holly Wall, News Editor