Thursday, 25 February 2010

Beef – Part 1 – A Short History

Argentines consume on average 68kg of beef per person per year. Now imagine that in a population of 40,000,000, at least 8,000,000 are under 10 years of age and therefore do not consume a great deal of beef. The over 70’s which there are more than 2 million can not eat too much either. Then you have the dozen or so veggies that for some bizarre reason do not like beef. Weirdo’s. So that leaves about 30,000,000 people consuming 2,720,000,000kg of beef annually. Which means your average meat eating loving person eats nearly 2kg of beef a week. Jeeze. Now that’s a lot.
Now consuming that amount of beef must have problems for the local population. Studies show a risk of cancer development, and cancer is the 2nd highest killer in Argentina, but they do not have the highest cancer rate in the world. Not by a mile. High cholesterol also is high in red meat eaters, mainly due to the saturated fats in the meat, but that doesn’t stop people from eating huge amounts of beef. Maybe it’s the mate they drink continually.
The Spanish first introduced cattle into Argentina in the 16th Century. These beasts enjoyed the pampas so much they multiplied very quickly. With the invention of refrigeration ships and the lack of beef in the Northern Hemisphere the export market exploded.
This in turn created the Gaucho, like the North American cowboys, gauchos were generally reputed to be strong, honest, silent types, but proud and capable of violence when provoked. The gaucho tendency to violence over petty matters is also recognized as a typical trait. Gauchos use of the famous "facón" is legendary, often associated with considerable bloodletting. Historically, the facón was typically the only eating instrument that a gaucho carried. It was common for a gaucho to hold a large piece of meat in his teeth and to cut away what he would keep using the facón.
Today, there is basically not enough beef in Argentina to feed the population. Whilst we were there, beef prices were soaring by 50%. As all cattle farmers have ditched beef to grow soya, as it gives them more money, but as we know bad, bad, bad for the soil.
Beef exports have been banned for the moment, but this has been going on for the last few years. But I can see that Argentina may have to import some beef to keep prices low. An unthinkable scenario. But it may yet happen.
As everyone knows the quality of Argentine beef is 2nd to none. The old English breeds like the Shorthorn, Hereford, and the Aberdeen Angus have all thrived on the Pampas. Thousands of km’s of open pasture for them to roam and feed. Now that’s the way cattle should live. Over 150 years of pure breeding and cross breeding has made the meat some of the best in the world.
But with all things, having a great product does not naturally mean it tastes great on the plate. This is all down to the masters of the asado or parrilla.
To part 2. 

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