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Oberlin College

Publication Date

Spring 2019

Program Name

Mongolia: Nomadism, Geopolitics, and the Environment

Abstract

Despite being a sparsely-populated country with less than 2% of its land arable, Mongolia has developed a rich and complex food culture, notably for its meat and dairy products, which could soon be at an historic high thanks to the tens of millions of animals on Mongolian pastureland. Many Mongolians and non-Mongolians view the countryside as a sea of milk that is currently being underutilized for economic exploitation. Various projects, whether funded and organized by international NGOs, the Mongolian government, or private companies, have tried to use Mongolian’s dairy resources to fill Mongolian demand, with more recent private ventures also pursuing exporting Mongolian dairy products to other countries. European-style cheese is a new but popularizing food item mostly produced by three artisanal Mongolian cheese companies. This paper analyzes the history, present, and planned futures of the artisanal Mongolian cheese company business models to ask how globalization is altering the Mongolian food sector, and the challenges Mongolian cheesemakers face trying to join the global market using their vast dairy resources and network. The main barrier for Mongolian cheesemakers is currently the inability to access the international market due to a lack of export licensing, stemming from health and standardization concerns. The Mongolian cheese industry has been partially globalized at every step of the cheese production and consumption process, with global standards covering everything from starter cultures to demand for luxury wines and cheeses. A globalized cheese industry is shown to be very helpful to cheesemakers from an economic and social standpoint, but has underlying risks of erasing the complex tradition of Mongolian dairy products, both culturally and nutritionally.

Disciplines

Agricultural and Resource Economics | Asian Studies | Dairy Science | East Asian Languages and Societies | Entrepreneurial and Small Business Operations | Food Science | International Business | Regional Economics | Work, Economy and Organizations

 

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