Milk products play an important role in the daily ration of people of all ages. After breastfeeding, children are allowed to the "milk diet" – dairy products made from cow's milk. The quality of the raw material – raw milk – obviously has paramount importance to the health of the nation.
There is one company that claims to be the monopolist of the sector of raw milk production. This is EkoNiva-APK, one of the Russia’s leading agricultural holding companies, owned by Stefan Dürr. He hails from Germany, but since the 1990s he has been engaged in agricultural business in Russia and has even got Russian citizenship. Certainly, Dürr is not Gerard Depardieu who also was granted citizenship of Russia in January 2013, but his figure is quite remarkable among the brand new Russians.
The speed with which the EkoNiva group of companies buys the competitors' enterprises, expanding its "dairy empire," is surprising for casual observers. EkoNiva pursues a policy of aggressive expansion in the market of raw milk production. However, the question is whether herr Dürr guarantee the famous "German quality" of his products? Is it possible to be sure that those curds for children made of milk produced at EkoNiva farms are of impeccable quality?
As it turns out, Stefan Dürr has very peculiar views on milk quality. Thus, he admitted in one of his interviews that the cows on the Voronezh farm of his holding company were infected with leukemia. It is a viral infection which is very dangerous for animals. In the European Union, the milk of infected cows is prohibited for sale. However, Dürr runs a business not in his native Germany, but in Russia. As an expert in his field, he calmed the reporters: "In America, nobody pays attention to leukemia. In Europe, for example, they do. Personally, I believe that Bovine leukemia virus is of no consequences for people. However, there are scientists who claim that the disease is not very good for people’s health. That is why we decided that our milk, which is being processed, is 100% leukemia-free."
For people without any knowledge of peculiarities of the dairy industry, the case might look trivial. Very likely, that was Stefan Dürr’s goal. However, the situation is not that simple.
First of all, it should be noted that mildly speaking, when saying that in America, leukemia is “not paid attention to,” Dürr substituted the wish for the reality. The milk of sick cows is allowed to be sold after heat treatment. It must be heated to 85 degrees. However, as they say, there is a world of difference between the properties of milk of infected cows and healthy ones.
It should also be noted that leukemia is a real disaster for the agricultural industry. This disease is quite common among animals. Moreover, there is no cure for it. The risk of infecting a clean herd is very high. Therefore, farmers have to keep sick cows separately. If it is decided to slaughter cows, veterinary services do not always give permission to sell the meat.
As a rule, selling meat of sick cows is allowed if the disease was at an early stage. However, these cases are rare. If cows develop leukemia, farmers suffer great losses.
As an expert, Stefan Dürr must know all this information but seems to discreetly keep silent about the "details." However, as we know, "the devil is in the detail."
Dürr does not complain about losses from bovine leukemia virus. On the contrary, he likes to brag about the fact that cows on his farms have a high milk yield. For the record, cows with leukemia produce above average yields. If their milk is sold, it is more profitable to keep infected cows than healthy ones. Isn't that Stefan Dürr's recipe for success?
Another important "detail" that escaped Stefan Dürr's interviewers was from the domain of elementary arithmetic. If all 100% of EkoNiva's milk is leukemia-free, where is the milk of sick cows supplied? Either there is something wrong with the arithmetic rules, or Dürr hides the truth.
However, Dürr's relaxed attitude towards the problem of leukemia virus is full of suggestions. Does it concern only Voronezh farm, or are there infected cows at other farms too? If so, where does the milk they produce go? The question might be asked more generally: what about the quality control at Dürr’s factories as a whole? How strict is the control of their operations by the state authorities?
In Germany, Stefan Dürr didn’t come to prominence. But in Russia, he has become almost a leading figure of the dairy sector. EkoNiva continues to expand, subjugating the market of raw milk production.
A year ago, Dürr was elected chairman of Soyuzmoloko, the National Association of Milk Producers. Today, he is not just a businessman, but also a public figure and the chief lobbyist in the industry. Simultaneously, as a part-time monopolist, Dürr seeks to promote initiatives profitable for his company. The officials have not yet responded to his ideas, but Stefan Dürr does not seem to give up.
The rapid expansion of EkoNiva requires big funds. These funds are formed from attracted loans and cost reduction. Dürr's companies are "famous" for regular salary delays. It can be assumed that in order to cut back on production costs, the companies sell all raw milk available (from both infected and clean cows). After all, quality requires costs. Dürr, who expands his “possessions,” has to reduce them.All these facts raise a lot of questions...
Another problem is that the final consumer does not have any information about the raw materials of which producer makes the yoghurts and curds. EkoNiva supplies raw milk to the producers of the end products. Certainly, nobody will indicate on the markings of the goods that curd is made of the milk of Stefan Dürr's Voronezh cows.