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Russia Is Importing Thousands of European Cows

Russia bought 45,000 dairy cows from Europe this year, but cheese imports are still forbidden.

Calves feed at an Ekosem-Agrar AG operated dairy farm in Kaluga, Russia.

Calves feed at an Ekosem-Agrar AG operated dairy farm in Kaluga, Russia.

Photographer: Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg

President Vladimir Putin is on a mission to wean Russia off foreign food and modernize the dairy industry, where milking is still often done by hand. To do that, he’s getting help from Europe.

Five years after the food embargo banning Dutch gouda and Italian parmesan, Russian companies are trucking in thousands of black-and-white holsteins from across the border to state-of-the-art milking parlors built with German and Swedish engineering. Russia is now the biggest importer of cows from the European Union and its flagship milk company is German owned.