Soviet Sausage Returns to the Menu in Russia

Mr. Demin
Mr. Nikolai Demin is a Russian businessman who salvaged the Mikoyan Meat Processing Plant. PHOTOGRAPH BY RYAN BELL

Mr. Demin shakes hands like how a snapping turtle bites a carrot. Then he pulls you close and says, with a mixture of sincerity and urgency, how glad he is to meet you. This one-two punch of a first impression is the secret of success for a man who has salvaged a bastion of the Soviet food industry: the Mikoyan Meat Processing Plant.

(Note: Learn more about Russia’s slaughter industry in a series I wrote last week for The Plate. Part One and Part Two.)

The factory, built in 1933, was the brainchild of Anastas Mikoyan, the People’s Commissar for Food. The design was based on the slaughterhouse at the Union Stockyards in Chicago, which Mikoyan visited during a three-month tour of the United States. And that wasn’t all he brought back from America. Mikoyan saw industrial food items like hot dogs, ice cream, and hamburgers as the future of Soviet cuisine, which he eventually included as mainstays of the official Soviet cookbook, The Book of Healthy and Delicious Food.

But as happened for many formerly Soviet enterprises in the free-market era, the Mikoyan plant fell victim to opportunistic businessmen who were more interested in scrapping it for parts than producing food. Which is where Mr. Demin enters the story.

Sausage Factory
Workers load sausage fillings into their casings and then hang them to cure. Mikoyan makes beef, chicken, and pork sausage varieties. PHOTOGRAPH BY RYAN BELL

Man of the Steppes

Demin comes from humble beginnings. Raised on a collective farm in the countryside, he grew up wanting to fly —> Read More