Russia has committed itself to butcher reindeer meat according to Muslim dietary laws and export it to the Muslim world, starting with Qatar, in a joint Russian-Qatari venture.
The reindeer meat will come from the Yamal-Nenets autonomous district of Russia, much of which lies above the Arctic circle. A new halal plant will be constructed there, in consulation with the imām of the district's main mosque.
The Yamal-Nenets autonomous district is where most of Russia's gas is produced. The prospect of Russia exporting halal reindeer meat products to the desert kingdom first came up last month when the district's governor was in Qatar for investment talks.
“We told the Qatari leadership that we don't only have oil and gas. We also have reindeer. The Qatari leadership was enthusiastic about the prospects of another variety of meat entering the halal market.
Yamal's district governor Dmitry Kobylkin said in an interview: “They were so surprised to learn there exists another kind of meat that they haven't tried and that it can be halal. Gold mining is interesting for them, gas, infrastructure and now investment in halal reindeer meat processing.”
Upon return to Yamal, home to 700,000 reindeer and 500,000 people, Kobylkin immediately had the state-owned Yamal Reindeer Company arrange for ritual Islamic slaughter and the trial production of 1,000 cans of halal reindeer meat.
This week Qatari officials will get their first taste of reindeer at a Russia-Qatar investment forum in Doha where Kobylkin's deputy will present the Reindeer Company's business plan to expand into halal meat production and product exports.
A spokeswoman for the state-owned Qatar Investment Authority said she could not comment on its investment interests.
“Our plan is to build a separate slaughter house, canning and sausage factory. We hope for a joint venture with Qatar,” said Sergei Uramayev, a representative of the Reindeer Company.
Uramayev also said that after consulting with the imām of the Salekhard Mosque in Yamal's capital (pictured right), the firm decided that the project would also market halal canned reindeer within Russia.
“There is a huge demand among Russia's Muslim community for halal products. Until two-three years ago, you didn't see any halal stores. Now they're opening everywhere,” Salekhard Mosque imām Abdullah Hazrat said.
Muslims make up 20% of the Arctic city's population.
(With the city of Salekhard located at a latitude of 66° 33′ 44″ N, Salekhard Mosque is famed as being the world's only mosque located exactly on the line of the Arctic polar circle.)
Reindeer herding and meat production has been Yamal's No. 3 industry after oil and gas — Yamal produces 85 percent of Russia's gas and 15 percent of its oil — ever since the Yamal Reindeer Company received European Union certification to export in 2006.
“Yamal Looks to Export Reindeer Meat to Qatar” The Moscow Times 22 December 2010
“Don't tell Rudolph, but Russia's latest export is ready to hit the shelves – canned reindeer” Daily Mail 21 December 2010