Argentine Beef is Back?
I have good news. Grass-fed Argentine beef is back.
Ahh, the vagueries and vicissitudes of life in Argentina! Nobody rolls with the punches like an Argentine ...and now, apparently, it seems that you can't keep a good Argentine beefsteak down either.
Only 4 months ago, the Yanq was crying in his beer over the sad sorry sucky state of beef here in what was the Mecca of Meat, the Parrilla Paradise, the Rome of Roasting ...ok, I´ll stop: I Ate Grass-Fed Beef this Week!!!
Welcome to Workaround World where there's always a will and always a way.
Here's the scoop:
Without revealing too many details, yer humble rancher-blogger was scouting a piece of pampasland for the over-flow of grass-fed cattle from our spread (My Missus won't let me eat any of "her babies.") My gaucho had spotted a "small" spread nearby with so few cattle that he was certain the rancher must be losing money. He suggested that we approach him and offer to rent the place.
Long story short, we offered to rent the land and were given the bum's rush. No deal. No way.
We couldn´t figger it out ...until we found out that he was a butcher!
Faithful readers will recall how I've been lamenting for a few years as to how all the beef in Argentina, in every restaurant, in every butchershop is all from feedlots. City or campo, we haven´t had a good piece of beef for so long that we basically gave it up. On those occasions when there was no alternative to beef, we steeled ourselves for the inevitable disappointment.
Well, we made a surreptious visit to Mr. Butcher-Rancher's carnecería for a whole beef tenderloin. Lo and behold, after a turn on a blazing-hot cast iron skillet ...Meat of Memory!
Bring your adjectives, this was the real deal. Keep in mind, the tenderloin or filet mignon or lomo is not known for being particularly flavorful under the best of conditions ...tender, yes ...but great beefy flavor generally generates more from just about any other cut. No denying it ...this was grass-fed!
What gives? How is it possible for grass-fed beef to be suddenly available after so long?
"When the going gets tough, the tough get going" should be the economic motto of Argentina. I really shouldn't have been surprised.
Here's the explanation:
- 1st, soy and corn pushed grass-fed cattle off the pampas and into the feedlots.
- 2nd, feedlot beef became the only beef available anywhere.
- 3rd, high grain prices and grain shortages pushed-up the price of feedlot beef.
- 4th, butchers began to lose customers to chicken, veggies, and pasta.
- 5th, not every acre of cattleland is suitable for soy and corn.
- 6th, small pieces of pastureland became available for rent very cheaply due to not being suitable for grain nor large enough for a cattle operation.
- 7th, those with slaughter, meatcutting, and retail facilites decided to cut-out the middleman (the feedlot) and are renting these small pieces of land very cheaply, raising the cattle the old-fashioned way.
- 8th, and best of all, they will sell that beef to you!
Now, none of this is strictly legal. HELL, it´s not even loosely legal!
Slaughtering cattle on your own land for anything other than your own personal consumption has been illegal since way-back in the days of Evita y Juan. I would never do it ...I OWN my land and would be afraid of losing it in a criminal proceding. I also don´t have any easy retail capability. The butcher-ranchers, on the other hand, are only renting. The only thing at risk is a classic Argentine butchershop that is headed the way of the payphone otherwise.
However! If this sort of genius is what it takes to bring back the beef, I´m gonna start eating again and I'll raise my glass of malbec to anyone willing to run this runaround!
Conclusion: if you happen to be deep in the pampas, grass-fed beef is available again in small-town butchershops.
How long could it take before it makes its way to Capital?