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Montenegrin meat producers slicing into wider market

By Nibal Zgheib

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FAO and the EBRD worked with Montenegro’s public authorities and meat producers to develop and register the GIs.

Some 5,000 northern Montenegrin farmers still make the traditional dried beef Crnogorska Goveđa pršuta – a specialty which has long been a part of the country’s culinary repertoire. Adrovic Alimr from Petnjica is one such farmer.

He mostly sells the delicacy locally but Montenegrins visiting the area “usually buy three or four kilos to take back home,” he said.

Crnogorska Goveđa pršuta and Crnogorska Stelja, the Montenegrin dried and smoked sheep meat, are poised to receive geographical indication (GI) status, an origin-based label that can give high-quality food products more cachet with consumers.

This development is the result of work by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), with funding from Luxembourg, to upgrade food safety and quality standards in Montenegro’s meat sector.

To consumers, a GI label signals an origin-linked product of quality, authenticity and tradition. That label can also bump up a product’s sales price by 20 to 50 percent, according to a new FAO-EBRD study.

“We’ve found that consumers, spoiled for choice, are increasingly willing to pay higher prices for origin-linked products whose methods are certified by the state,” said Lisa Paglietti, an FAO economist.  

Adrovic, who is also president of the Association for the protection of the quality of meat from northern Montenegro, is confident the GI recognition will attract new buyers at home and abroad.

“Thanks to the GI, people buying Crnogorska Goveđa pršuta and Crnogorska Stelja know what to expect in terms of taste, texture and quality. These products have been made for generations using local breeds and local know-how, and are a proud part of our heritage,” he said.

“With the new flexibility measures on food safety, we can start processing these meats on our own farms now and getting them on to more supermarket shelves and into local hotels, cafes and restaurants,” he added.

The flexibility measures he’s talking about are part of new regulations – in line with European Union (EU) legislation – that help small-scale meat producers and producers of traditional meats comply with Montenegro’s new food hygiene requirements.

What’s in a name?

FAO and the EBRD worked closely with Montenegro’s public authorities, meat producers and other key stakeholders to develop and register the GIs.

Together they agreed on a code of practice that producers must respect in order to sell their products under the GI label – from designated production areas and methods to quality and safety standards and packaging.

Montenegrin dried beef, for example, must be made from the best cuts of fresh beef, salted with sea salt, smoked on beech and hornbeam trees and dried in northern Montenegro’s fresh mountain air. What’s more, the cattle must be fed a mostly grass-based diet.

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