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Biden Offers ‘Flexibility’ as Workers Nationwide Threaten to Quit Rather Than Comply With Vaccine Mandates

Jeremy Loffredo | The Defender | October 29, 2021

The Biden administration is now suggesting federal employers and government contractors offer “flexibility” when enforcing COVID vaccine mandates against unvaccinated employees. This announcement is an about-face from the far-reaching rules President Biden laid out in a September speech where he lashed out at those who are hesitant to get the vaccine.

“Deadlines are not cliffs,” Jeff Zients, White House coronavirus response coordinator, told reporters at a briefing Wednesday. “The federal worker deadline is the 22nd of November, and the federal contractor deadline is not until December 8th​,” he said. ​

Zients added:

“​But even once we hit those deadlines, we expect federal agencies and contractors will follow their standard HR processes and that, for any of the probably relatively small percent of employees that are not in compliance, they’ll go through education, counseling, accommodations and then enforcement​.”

This announcement followed a meeting earlier this week between business groups and the White House Office of Management and Budget during which business leaders asked the Biden administration to postpone its vaccine mandate until after the holiday season.

The National Retail Federation, American Trucking Association and Retail Industry Leaders Association asked the White House to give businesses 90 days to comply, which would pause the implementation of the mandate until no earlier than late January.

In an interview with CNBC, Retail Industry Leaders Association President Evan Armstrong warned the coming mandate could trigger resignations at places already facing severe staffing issues.

While business leaders are holding discussions with policymakers and airing their grievances regarding how mandates will affect their bottom line, thousands of workers are protesting the policy, with some walking off the job.

A recent survey by Kaiser Family Foundation, found 72% of unvaccinated workers say they will quit their job if their employer mandates the vaccine.

Earlier this week, in Elma, New York, hundreds of workers at Moog Facilities walked off the job to protest the federal vaccine mandate.

“We just want to work,” said Matt Schieber, a Moog employee. “We don’t want to be forced to take a medical procedure if we don’t want it.”

New York City is requiring all city workers to be vaccinated before the Nov. 1 deadline. According to CBS-NY, employees from all city departments are protesting the mandate, some by “not providing city services and others by organizing rallies.”

On Thursday, thousands of firefighters and fire union officials protested the vaccine mandate in front of Gracie Mansion, the main residence of New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio.

“There is going to be a catastrophic manpower shortage if 3,500 firefighters that are currently unvaccinated are told not to go to work,” Uniformed Firefighters Association President Andrew Ansbro told ABC7.

The New York Post reported the New York City Fire Department is “preparing to shutter as many as 20% of all city fire companies and take an equal portion of its ambulances off the streets ahead of the impending deadline.”

Firefighters aren’t the only workers protesting the mandate in The Big Apple. Thirty-five percent of the workforce at the Department of Sanitation are unvaccinated and some have stopped showing up to work.

Residents of the Westerleigh neighborhood in Staten Island and the Bay Ridge neighborhood of Brooklyn are beginning to see the result of a city missing large swaths of its sanitation workforce.

One Bay Ridge resident told CBS, “It’s starting to smell. They’ve got tuna fish bags down the block.”

New York healthcare workers are currently in court over the state’s vaccine mandate, which did not make exemptions for those with religious objections to the COVID jab.

Also, scores of healthcare workers took to the streets of Rochester, New York, Monday to express their opposition to Mayo Clinic’s vaccine mandate.

As of Oct. 14, about 8,000 workers — or 12% of Mayo Clinic’s entire workforce — were unvaccinated. The clinic said employees not in compliance with the mandate by Jan 3 will be terminated.

One Mayo Clinic administrative assistant who recently resigned over the coming mandates estimated at least 700 employees are “ready to quit or be fired.”

In New Jersey, one of the largest hospital systems, RWJBarnabas Health, fired more than 100 of its employees this week who refused to comply with its vaccination policy.

Another behemoth hospital chain, Ballad Health, decided to forgo its vaccine mandate for healthcare workers after computer modeling suggested 15% of their nurses would quit.

Police in several states have resisted and protested the new mandate requirements. As reported by the DailySignal, “major cities across the United States risk losing one-third or more of their police forces” due to COVID vaccine mandates.

Chicago Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara said, “It’s safe to say that the city of Chicago will have a police force at 50% or less for this weekend coming up.”

NPR reported at least 150 Massachusetts State Police officers resigned ahead of the state vaccine mandate.

The Washington State Police force has also faced problems regarding COVID vaccine mandates, with 74 commissioned officers, 67 troopers, six sergeants and one captain resigning in protest to new vaccine policies.

The city of Seattle lost more than 300 officers over the past year. Earlier this month, Seattle’s police department had to send detectives and non-patrol officers to respond to emergency calls because of a shortage of patrol officers.

At the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, 185 employees quit as a result of the lab’s COVID vaccine mandate, which they opposed in court. Their legal action failed. Newsweek reported, “more than 100 scientists, nuclear engineers, research technicians, designers, project managers, and other employees joined the attempt to block the mandate.”

City workers in Los Angeles have until Dec. 18 to get fully vaccinated. Those who refuse to get vaccinated should “prepare to lose their job,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said earlier this week.

The workers originally had until Oct. 20 to get fully vaccinated. During the extended period, unvaccinated workers will have $65 deducted from their paychecks twice a week to cover the cost of weekly testing.

In Lafayette, Indiana, workers at GE Aviation are protesting the company’s vaccine mandate for a second time. Employees have until Dec. 8 to be vaccinated or they could lose their jobs.

Protesters say many of them have already had COVID so they feel their natural immunity will protect them. They say they feel they should have the choice to get it or not.

Jeremy Loffredo is a freelance reporter for The Defender. His investigative reporting has been featured in The Grayzone and Unlimited Hangout. Jeremy formerly produced news programs at RT America.

© 2021 Children’s Health Defense, Inc. This work is reproduced and distributed with the permission of Children’s Health Defense, Inc. Want to learn more from Children’s Health Defense? Sign up for free news and updates from Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and the Children’s Health Defense. Your donation will help to support us in our efforts.

October 30, 2021 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Economics, Science and Pseudo-Science | , , , | 1 Comment

MEPs Protest Vaccine Passports

OffGuardian | October 30, 2021

In the latest editions of This Week in the New Normal, we mentioned a group of Members of the European Parliament who held a press conference where they opposed mandatory vaccination and the “Green Pass”.

On the 28th five of those same MEPs held another press conference, and while the whole thing is worth watching (embedded above), the highlight is definitely German MEP Christine Anderson who speaks for two of the truest minutes in the EU’s history:

All through Europe, governments have gone to great length to get people vaccinated. We were promised the vaccinations will be a “game changer”, and it will restore our freedom… turns out none of that was true. It does not render you immune, you can still contract the virus and you can still be infectious.

The only thing this vaccine did for sure was to spill billions and billions of dollars in the pockets of pharmaceutical companies.

I voted against the digital green certificate back in April, unfortunately it was adopted nonetheless, and this just goes to show there is only a minority of MEPs who truly stand for European values. The majority of MEPs, for whatever reasons unbeknown to me, obviously support oppression of the people while claiming – shamelessly – to do it for the people’s own good.

But it is not the goal that renders a system oppressive it is always the methods by which the goal is pursued. Whenever a government claims to have the people’s interest at heart, you need to think again.

In the entire history of mankind there has never been a political elite sincerely concerned about the well-being of regular people. What makes any of us think that it is different now? If the age of enlightenment has brought forth anything then, certainly this: never take anything any government tells you at face value

Always question everything any government does or does not do. Always look for ulterior motives. And always ask cui bono?, who benefits?

Whenever a political elite pushes an agenda this hard, and resort to extortion and manipulation to get their way, you can almost always be sure your benefit is definitely not what they had at heart.

As far as I’m concerned, I will not be vaccinated with anything that has not been properly vetted and tested and has shown no sound scientific evidence that the benefits outweigh the disease itself in possible long-term side effects, which to this day we don’t know anything about.

I will not be reduced to a mere guinea pig by getting vaccinated with an experimental drug, and I will most assuredly not get vaccinated because my government tells me to and promises, in return, I will be granted freedom.

Let’s be clear about one thing: No one grants me freedom for I am a free person.

So, I dare the European Commission and the German government: Throw me in jail, lock me up and throw away the key for all I care. But you will never be able to coerce me into being vaccinated if I, the free citizen that I am, choose not to be vaccinated.

October 30, 2021 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Video | , , | Leave a comment

Governor Noem Protects South Dakota State Employees from Federal Vaccine Mandates

South Dakota State News | October 30, 2021

Today, Governor Kristi Noem signed Executive Order 2021-14, protecting state employees from President Biden’s federal vaccine mandates. She also released this video announcing her decision.

“South Dakota is fighting back against President Biden’s illegal vaccine mandates,” said Governor Kristi Noem. “Our state has many contracts with the federal government, and President Biden is attempting to use those contracts to force state employees to be vaccinated against their will. My executive order will protect their rights to medical and religious exemptions under any federal vaccine mandates. I am already talking with legislators about extending these protections to private employees through legislation as well.”

For the medical exemption, employees need a written statement from a physician stating that the COVID-19 vaccination is contraindicated for medical reasons.

For the religious exemption, a form will be made available by the Bureau of Human Resources that shall read in full, “I, [insert person’s full name], dissent and object to receiving a COVID-19 vaccine on religious grounds, which includes moral, ethical, and philosophical beliefs or principles.”

Due to established precedent, this Executive Order does not apply to service members with the South Dakota National Guard who must meet federal readiness responsibilities for deployment.

During the 2022 legislative session, Governor Noem will work with the legislature to make these protections for state employees permanent, and to extend similar health and religious liberty protections to employees of private businesses who adopted mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policies.

South Dakota Joins Lawsuit against Biden Vaccine Mandate

Today, following Governor Noem’s promise to “see [President Biden] in court,” the State of South Dakota joined a lawsuit against the Biden Administration’s COVID vaccine mandate for federal contractors.

“South Dakota is standing up with other states to protect our people from the Biden Administration’s illegal mandates,” said Governor Kristi Noem. “Though they are delaying their announcement of other mandates because they know those would be unconstitutional, we will not wait to fight this federal contractor mandate. We set up our defense with an executive order earlier this week. Now it’s time to go on offense.”

Earlier this month, the Biden Administration sent notices to federal contractors, including state entities, indicating that they will be enforcing the federal contractor mandate. This lawsuit is in response to those enforcement steps.

This action follows Governor Noem’s executive order earlier this week to protect South Dakota state employees from the Biden Administration’s illegal mandate for federal contractors. Governor Noem’s order guaranteed medical and religious exemptions for these employees, and Governor Noem also announced her intention to bring legislation to extend similar protections to private workers.

South Dakota is joined in the lawsuit by the states of Missouri, Nebraska, Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, and Wyoming. You can find the court filing here.

October 30, 2021 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Economics, Science and Pseudo-Science | , | 1 Comment

Florida Governor: Hold Employers Responsible for Vaccine Injury

By Dr. Joseph Mercola | October 30, 2021

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is calling for employers to be held liable if their employees suffer injuries from mandated vaccines — even if the mandates were a result of federal edicts.

“We need to take action to protect Florida jobs and we have a situation now, unfortunately, in our country where we have a federal government that is very much trying to use the heavy hand of government to force a lot of these injections,” DeSantis said.

Saying he and his constituents believe in “basic medical freedom and individual choice,” and that “your right to earn a living should not be contingent upon COVID shots,” DeSantis said

If OSHA ends up coming out with the mandate dictated by President Biden, he plans to contest it, DeSantis added. He also plans to contest federal mandates on contractors that work with the federal government, but also work on the state level.

He also plans to contest the mandate that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services are talking about handing down on hospitals and health care providers that accept Medicare and Medicaid.

“So what we’re going to be doing in addition to mounting aggressive legal challenges to federal mandates [is to] be taking legislative action to add protections for people.”

October 30, 2021 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Economics | , , | Leave a comment

Pharmacy Manager QUITS On Store Intercom, Says No More “Poison”

By Ethan Huff | Natural News | October 27, 2021

Safeway grocery store #1892 in Cortez, Colo., just lost its pharmacy manager because she no longer wants to administer “this poison,” referring to Wuhan coronavirus (Covid-19) “vaccines,” to customers.

According to reports, Nichole Belland took to the store’s intercom to announce that she is leaving her position for good because she can no longer in good conscience continue jabbing people with these “Operation Warp Speed” abominations they are calling “vaccines.”

This is Nichole Belland, pharmacy manager for Safeway store at 1892 of Cortez,” Belland was heard saying over the intercom to a store full of surprised shoppers.

I quit, effective immediately, because I will not give this poison to people. Wake up, everybody. This is poison. This is hurting people. I’ve seen it. I’ve seen customers die. Wake up, do not take it.

If It Came Down To It, Would You Quit Your Job Rather Than Harm Others With Covid Jabs?

Steve Kirsh, the executive director of the COVID-19 Early Treatment Fund (CETF), got the chance to talk with Belland about what prompted her to leave her job in the dramatic way that she did.

It turns out that Belland had not worked at Safeway for several months prior to coming on the loudspeaker to make her announcement. Almost immediately after she was told by her supervisor that she would need to jab people with the “Operation Warp Speed” drugs, she decided to quit.

Belland was told at the time that she would have no choice but to administer the shots on demand, or else be fired from her position. She instead decided to go on temporary personal leave, but that was set to expire on October 15.

I had tremendous concerns about these shots early on,” Belland says.

Not seeing any other way to get her message across before being forced out of her job, Belland went in on October 14, took her certificates and degrees off the wall, and proceeded to use the intercom to reveal publicly why she was essentially being forced to quit.

Belland says that around 8-10 customers were in front of her at the time when she picked up the intercom microphone and began speaking the truth into it. She had no idea that this brave act would end up going viral, possibly inspiring others who feel similarly to do the same.

Like many, Belland says that she is not necessarily “anti-vaccine.” She is anti-experimental gene therapy, which is technically what covid shots are since they were not developed using the same technologies as existing vaccines.

Prior to quitting, Belland had administered “thousands” of other shots to patients at her pharmacy, where she worked for 12 years after graduating from the University of Minnesota. However, when covid injections came along, it was a different story.

You can watch the full video interview between Kirsh and Belland at Red Voice Media.

Bravo! Good for her, I would do the same thing if I was in her shoes!” wrote a commenter at Red Voice Media. “No job is more important than your overall health!

No job or any action is more important than the realization that you may be directly responsible for the injury or even death of another,” responded another, clarifying the reason why Belland quit.

Every time a nurse who sticks a needle in someone’s arm who becomes ill or deceased later, and when on learning of their loss, she intentionally continues – is committing a premeditated harmful act to another.

As the vaccine mandates pile on, we can expect more incidents like this to occur. More of the latest can be found at Pandemic.news.

October 30, 2021 Posted by | Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , | 1 Comment

Ukraine may boost firewood exports to warm EU despite skyrocketing prices at home: Analysis and Strategy Center head

RT | October 30, 2021

Kiev may soon increase firewood exports to the EU to help the bloc deal with energy shortages brought about by soaring gas prices, the head of Ukraine’s Analysis and Strategy Center, Igor Chalenko, says.

“Firewood is, undoubtedly, an interesting commodity for exports, especially for the European Union’s market. In this heating season, they fall short by 70 billion cubic meters to cover their needs until the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline gets up and running,” Igor Chalenko told a press conference this week.

While Ukraine is among the continent’s top 10 forest-rich states, “the EU is considering firewood as an energy product,” Chalenko said, adding that the current situation with forest felling in western Ukraine is dire, but that Kiev may nevertheless soon lift the ban on massive timber exports to Europe for additional profits.

“The moratorium’s removal is a condition for Ukraine to receive a 600-million-euro tranche from the European Commission. Accordingly, our export of timber in all positions can only increase,” Chalenko said. He added that the step could badly affect the country’s timber processing industry, which has shown significant growth in recent years.

Authorities in Kiev signaled that they intend to lift the current moratorium on timber exports to the EU earlier in October, calling it a “trade irritant.” However, in order to do so, Ukraine intends to create a transparent timber trade system, introducing fines for illegal forest felling and the purchase of illegal timber from Ukraine by European companies.

Ukraine has experienced a shortage of firewood due to energy price hikes. Firewood prices in the country have jumped recently from 50% to 200%, Chalenko said.
Combined with the shortage of coal and gas, Ukraine itself might face serious problems in the current heating season, including sweeping blackouts and an increase in tariffs for both households and industry.

According to Mikhail Volynets, the head of the country’s miners’ union, there are 565,000 tons of coal in the warehouses of thermal power plants, which is 88,000 less than the country needs. Natural gas reserves in Ukraine’s storage facilities stand at 18.8 billion cubic meters, 9.4 billion cubic meters less than last year. And with Russia’s decision to stop deliveries of thermal coal to Ukraine from November 1, Volynets says the prospect is far from optimistic.

October 30, 2021 Posted by | Economics, Malthusian Ideology, Phony Scarcity | , | Leave a comment

Russia’s ‘Greens’ Revolution

By Gilbert Doctorow | October 28, 2021

In the question and answer session that followed President Putin’s speech to the annual Valdai Discussion Club meeting in Sochi last week, Vladimir Vladimirovich said he was thankful to the European Union for imposing sanctions on Russia in 2014, because Russia’s counter-sanctions, banning food imports from the EU, resulted in an enormous boost to its agricultural industry. Russian farming coped magnificently with the challenge. Putin mentioned the $25 billion in agricultural exports that Russia booked in the last year and he went on to thank Russia’s workers in the sector who made this possible.

These remarks would suggest to both laymen and experts in the West the emergence of Russia as the world’s number one exporter of wheat and its leading position as global exporter of other grains. As we know, investments in industrialized farming by Russia’s oligarchs and agricultural industry giants have paid off in higher crop yields and insured their production volumes against weather imposed damage through farming in multiple regions. Moving beyond the traditional production centers in the ‘black soil’ belt of the south, Russian grain farmers have made excellent use of previously under or ill-used acreage in Western Siberia and elsewhere. Thus, when Canada or the United States have stumbled in wheat production from one season to another, Russia has carried on to new heights. Investments in grain storage and port facilities have made it possible to use the new surpluses to best advantage on world markets.

However, what Western readers know little or nothing about is how Russia’s agricultural sector has expanded into all food niches of the home consumer market during these years, so that supermarket shelves are now filled with a great variety of domestically grown fresh foodstuffs that rival the best and most sophisticated products Western Europe has to offer . This is something you will not find detailed in official statistics, and it is certainly not carried by mainstream Western media, whose only interest is denigration of Russia, serving propagandistic and not informational purposes. Nor is it covered by the Western ‘alternative media,’ who do not send journalists to visit Russia and least of all to report on what they see in the food stores.

I will discuss the changes in food supply below based on my latest, ongoing visit to St Petersburg. However, my eye has been focused on the subject now from the very start of the Western sanctions and Russian counter-measures in 2014. I was surely the first Western observer to write about what the Russian farmers’ markets and supermarkets had on offer then and I have refreshed my information during periodic visits to Russia ever since.

The collapse of international travel since the onset of the Covid pandemic has meant that the numbers of foreign visitors who can do what I have been doing have been cut to nearly nil.  Even at present tourist visas are not being issued and apart from family members of Russian citizens, the visa category I enjoy, only a relatively small number of businessmen and other professionals arrive on narrowly defined missions.

* * * *

In keeping with the title above, let us begin with ‘greens,’ by which I mean salads and vegetables more broadly.

In the bad old days of the Soviet Union, this category of produce was almost non-existent. Traditional Russian cuisine featured ‘salads’ among the first course appetizers. But what was meant was potato salad of one variety or another, including the highly esteemed ‘salad Olivier’ named after a French chef in Moscow at the turn of the last century; this has chicken or meat chunks added to diced cooked potato and mayonnaise. Lettuce and other greens simply had no place in the Russian diet. This is not to say that there were no officials-dieticians preparing to change that reality. In 1979, at the invitation of the Ministry of Agriculture of the USSR, I accompanied executives from Castle & Cooke, the Hawaii based company that was then the world’s largest grower of iceburg lettuce, on a mission to set up such production in Russia’s south. That mission failed in the faltering days of détente.

Iceburg lettuce as well as other greens appeared on sale in Russia only in the mid-1990s when millions of citizens of the now free Russian Federation traveled the world and picked up new dietary habits including a high appreciation of green salads. At the time, all of these new delicacies for the arbiters of taste in the country and those with deep pockets were imported from Western Europe and sold at European prices.

Over time, early in the new millennium, the assortment of vegetables and fruits imported into Russia expanded quickly, in keeping with rising living standards and differentiated tastes of various demographic groups. After the ban on European imports was imposed, a geometric progression in the variety and quality of Russian grown greens set in. Now when you visit even ‘economy category’ supermarket chains in the cities or in their branches in the countryside, you find on offer leaf lettuce in transparent wrap sitting atop the little plastic pots in which they were raised in greenhouses; or cut lettuce packed in plastic bags and given long shelf life by their protective atmosphere.  In higher category supermarkets for the middle and upper classes, there are mixed young shoots of beets and other highly fashionable salad components in protective atmosphere; or stalk green celery, a product until recently imported from Israel. Then there are extraordinary quality small cucumbers and tomatoes from various seed varieties produced in greenhouses year round.

The traditional Russian accompaniments to soups and main courses such as dill and green scallions are also now farmed locally year round and portion-packed in plastic.

By its nature, much of the new perishable produce is grown in greenhouse complexes on the outskirts of urban areas.  Other items, like the aforementioned celery, are grown in one location, Kursk in the given example, to provide for the entire nationwide market.

All of the above assumes enormous investments in greenhouse capacity these past few years, as well as the import of seeds and know-how. Presumably, The Netherlands, which is Europe’s leader in many categories of greenhouse produce, has been Russia’s partner in these developments. Russia’s own inputs are essential to the economic success of the new produce: it has very cheap natural gas to heat the greenhouses and cheap electricity for lighting.  It is no wonder then that the supermarket price for the produce I have described is several times below what you see in Western Europe.

Of course, not everything on the green grocer’s shelves is presently grown in Russia and there are imports to fill out the assortment: items like avocados and kiwis. However, considering Russia’s vast territory that cuts across several climatic belts, one may expect over time to see many such items also filled by local producers.

Beef and Pork

In the ‘bad old days’ of the USSR, there were chronic meat shortages due to a variety of failures in the food chain, including disastrous grain harvests. I knew the situation and its causes from the inside having in the late 1970s assisted a couple of U.S soy producers promote their meat extenders to the Meat and Dairy Industry. Lest anyone raise a critical objection about soy, I note that soy isolates or concentrates would have been far preferable to the potato or pea starch and similar that was then going into Russian sausages. As for fresh beef, it was not highly appreciated by consumers and for good reason. When available, it was tough and sinewy. Moreover, the butchers did not do their work with much professionalism, and what you got over the counter for the single official price per kilogram could just as easily be the worst cuts as it could be choice cuts. Pork was by nature more edible, commanded greater consumer demand and was more expensive than beef, an unnatural inversion of pricing.

In the 1990s Russian meat production collapsed, and what meat there was imported. This even extended to the least demanding meat sector in terms of return on capital, poultry.

Domestic beef and pork returned to life early in the new millennium though quality was generally poor and visits to the butchers’ stalls in farmer’s markets could turn anyone into a vegetarian, conditions were so medieval. However, in the last several years the situation has changed beyond recognition. First, at about 2018 premium restaurants began offering on their menus “marbleized” beef from grain fed cattle coming from the center of the country, in Kaluga and a few other production sites. Prize bulls were brought in from Japan and other countries to create admirable herds of beef cattle.

The beef industry moved on from its modest debut in luxury restaurants to enjoy in the past couple of years a major presence on supermarket shelves. Big corporations took the lead. One, in particular, Miratorg, achieved full vertical integration, from production of cattle feed through raising beef herds to slaughter, packaging and distribution. Its high quality ‘pepper steaks,’ ‘minute steaks’ and premium cuts, as well as ground meat and other meat culinary products sealed in special atmosphere plastic packaging have long shelf life and an appealing appearance. Consumer demand is generated by active television advertising.

A similar development has taken place in pork, where there are numerous competing producers. Their packs of pork chops and other cuts clearly state energy value, fat and protein content. This transparency is surely attributable to the producers’ confidence in their quality and pricing. By contrast, the vast array of sausage products on the Russian market have made it very difficult to read nutritional values which, if not disguised, would put the consumer off, given the 30 or 40% fat content of so many.

Whereas in Belgium and elsewhere in W. Europe the accent is on grass fed beef, which summons up images of calm meadows but yields rather tough meat on the plate, the Russians have chosen the American way:  grain fed beef (250 days) and pork, placing a premium on tenderness.

Poultry

Chickens were no friends of Soviet agriculture. They had a hard life and were not treated well after their demise, so that the black and blue marks on their carcasses in shops did not raise optimistic expectations about the cooked product. In the years immediately after the crash of the Soviet Union, local production ended and what poultry you found in shops was nearly entirely imported from America, the popularly dubbed “Bush legs,” named for the American president under whom the imports began.

Domestically raised chickens returned to Russian stores in the new millennium, but the poultry industry only became wholly modern in the last few years. Now you find exactly the same product assortments as in Western Europe: eviscerated, whole chilled chickens or, chicken parts, meaning breast meat, legs, quarters weight portioned in plastic packaging.

Ducks, quails and similar are to be found in farmers’ market and in specialty premium level food stores. Some items are strictly seasonal, like turkey.

What is missing, strangely, from the offering is game. Here alone one can speak of a step in reverse from what prevailed in Soviet days. In the 1970’s even common food stores offered frozen partridges (feathers and all) coming from Siberia. Today there is nothing of the sort in the retail trade, although premium restaurants in major cities may have wild fowl and ‘exotic’ native game like bear or venison on their menus.

Fish

Going back to 2014, I commented on the fast growing trade in fresh fish that was reaching out from the capitals to the Russian countryside. I mentioned the new aquaculture industry in Karelia, producing wonderful salmon trout and fish farms in the Lower Volga producing starlet sturgeon that was being sold across the country. Then there were the choice flounder being shipped fresh to European Russia from the Murmansk region in the Far North. Now, very recently I note the expanding variety of luxury frutti di mare coming from Vladivostok and Sakhalin. My neighborhood Perekryostok supermarket is selling small whole calamari from the Russian Far East. More exclusive supermarkets offer mussels from the Far East and oysters grown in the Crimea. All of these delicacies are priced two to three times lower than in Western Europe.

Interestingly a similar price differential applies to several farmed Mediterranean fish that Russia is buying from Cyprus, which is not on Russia’s prohibited list, while Western Europe sources them in Greece. I have in mind sea bass and sea bream (daurade). By contrast, fresh farmed salmon bought in by Russia from Iceland is sold at only a modest discount to the banned Norwegian alternative. However, wild Baltic salmon, a seasonal Russia-sourced delicacy that is now in the markets is priced at a fraction of its cost in Western Europe, if you can find any there.

Though I have focused in the foregoing on fresh fish, the strong trend to resuscitation of long forgotten Russian smoked and cured fishes from the country’s interior has developed at a gallop in the last few years. These high priced delicacies are mostly sold through farmers’ markets or specialty stores. I think in particular of omul’ coming from the Baikal region, though there are many others. We may expect to see a lot more of this in future, replacing in part the now almost defunct trade in wild Caspian sturgeon that in Western Europe was synonymous with Russian extravagance during Soviet days.

Much lower in price though still much beloved in Russia, smoked Baltic sprats are one more example of Russia rising from its knees in food production since 2014 and the sanctions. The product was in the past produced and sold to Russia only by Riga fisheries-canners. When those sales were prohibited by the counter-sanctions, Russian producers stepped in. Their first offerings were pitiful, and it was puzzling why the know-how seemed to be beyond the reach of Russian factories.  However, with time has come success.  I opened a premium quality glass jar of these little fish a couple of days ago and was pleased to note their conformity to the best Latvian traditions. The label of this “Captain of Tastes” product showed proudly the medallion recording its award as a winner of “import substitution.”

Wines

Russia is a hard spirits country, as we all know. That was certainly true in the late 1990s when I was working in Moscow and promoting Absolut vodka and Smirnoff on behalf of my employers.

But even such givens are subject to change and have been changing since Russia came of age in the new millennium. Wines moved on from being a women’s drink to the status of a sophisticated beverage for all adults. Early in the new millennium, sweet wines were gradually replaced on store shelves by dry wines coming not only from France, Spain and Italy, the Continent’s biggest producers, but also from California, Argentina, South Africa, Australia. These wines continue to be sold in Russia, but are being squeezed by much larger assortments of Russia’s own burgeoning wine industry.

Until several years ago, Russian wines were an expression of patriotic wishes and not much more. The few market entries of wannabe quality Russian wine about five years ago started out well. These were  from the Taman Peninsula along the Black Sea Coast of Krasnodar Region, just across the Straits from Crimea. But supply could not keep up with demand and the product was falsified, becoming  inferior and in sharp discrepancy with its high pricing.

That initial failure has been corrected. Now when you visit premium wine stores or even the wine shelves of the better supermarket chains you find dry red and white wines from Taman and from Crimea which are serious and command respect. The only caveat is that the price/quality ratio compared to French wines, for example, does not favor the Russian bottle. That is not uncommon in countries that do not have a long existing tradition as wine producers. The consumer is buying pride and not just the beverage.

Meanwhile in the past couple of years the Russian industrial association of wine producers, led by Dmitri Kiselyov, has been very active working with the federal government and Duma to enact strict regulations on wine production and imports so as to ensure quality and reassure consumers. Kiselyov happens to be not only the owner of vineyards in Crimea but also the country’s director of state television news reporting. That this defender of Russia’s reputation and national interests is leading the prestigious end of the food industry is fitting.

In conclusion, I invite all skeptics about having a good meal in Russia based on local ingredients to make the trip here when the borders open and to see for themselves how and why I am for the moment enjoying every trip to my neighborhood supermarket.

©Gilbert Doctorow, 2021

October 30, 2021 Posted by | Economics | | Leave a comment