Argentina, Political

Beef good, Tofu bad

Wednesday, December 16, 2009  

An article today in the New York Times, though talking a lot about the rise of the beef industry in Uruguay, also says plenty about what is happening in Argentina, where beef production is retreating to make way for more soybean production.

This article does not fully explain this is happening. While it points to government price controls and short-term droughts, the lessening of beef production is largely due to the large farm interests converting pastureland to maximize soybean production for export. In the short run this is much more profitable. In the long run, it not only is hurting Argentina’s reputation for beef worldwide, but is bad for the land, the air, and the general population in Argentina.

With much of the land for cattle grazing being converted to high-yield soy production, much of the remaining cattle production is being converted to feedlot production. This high density production is much more profitable because one can produce fatter cows on much less land, as is done in the United States. This type of cattle production is a big threat to global warning, producing much more greenhouse gasses. It also produces inferior beef.

Traditionally, much of the cattle in Argentina feeds off existing grasslands, which makes these cows more environmental friendly producing less greenhouse gas. And the land for grass fed cattle is left in a more original state. With the type of soybean production popular in Argentina they use lots of chemicals, chemical fertilizers, genetically modified crops, etc. While converting huge swaths of wetlands and grasslands to soybean production the land and ecosystem is being seriously impacted. In addition, in the process of converting grasslands for soy production, and I understand in the harvest process too, the farmers set many fires. These fires pollute large cites like Rosario and Buenos Aires, affecting the health of millions of people.

Burning land in the countryside, burning eyes and lungs in the cityThe federal government attempted to thwart this, by raising taxes on those who profit the most from soybean exports. The agricultural interests in Argentina are very powerful, to the point in the past they were instrumental to the rise of the dictatorship in the late 1970′s. This time they have been heavy handed as well, blockading food distribution while manipulating the press to foment a popular taxpayer revolt. This has become a heavy political battle which had a lot to do with the current president’s party losing many seats in congress.

Argentine people consume a lot of red meat and could benefit from turning more vegetarian to include soy in their diet, but that’s not happening. This soybean production is for export, produces unhealthy genetically modified food, severely harms the environment, and puts a lot of wealth in the hands of a few elite farmers.

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2 comments for “Beef good, Tofu bad”

  1. Yanqui Mike says:

    My friend, Tom Frost, is always mentioning edemame and how strange it is to not have them as part of los ingredientes that come with a beer at cafés.

    Now that he and Maya have bought a farm in Uruguay …who knows …maybe there’s a new trend in the offing!


  2. Michael Kay says:

    Yanqui Mike has an interesting prespective on this issue, worthwhile reading: