The Pampas of Argentina were once the finest cattle-grazing country on Earth. The lush grasses grew so high that they could cover a rider on a horse. This noble green grass was full of nutrients from the rich soil. Nutrients that sustained vast herds of some of the most magnificent grassfed cattle the world has ever seen. Grassfed beef was the most popular food in Argentina, often eaten daily. Grassfed beef became Argentina’s largest export.
The Pampas are no longer green. Much of these once magnificent grasslands have been plowed under, and the land is brown with GMO soy. Soy is more profitable than cattle, and soy has become Argentina’s largest export. Nearly all Argentine cattle are destined for the feedlot, where they are fed GMO corn and GMO soy. Most of the remaining grassfed beef is exported to Europe.
One of the healthiest food traditions on Earth is dying with the Pampas, as it is now very difficult for Argentines to find the grassfed beef that was once their heritage.
The land of rich grasslands has become the land of soy, to the loss of all humanity.
Yet in the United States, a small but growing band of intrepid ranchers are bringing back the grasslands, using rotational grazing methods to restore the soil, and producing wonderful grassfed beef.
Death of a Dream
Ever since I was a small boy, I was fascinated by the Pampas, which were an extensive area of rich, lush grasslands, located mostly in Argentina but partly in Uruguay. These grasslands were the home of huge herds of cattle that thrived on the tall, lush grasses. A sea of rich, green grass. Grass so tall that a mounted rider could hide in it. Grass that grew lush on some of the richest soil Earth has ever known. Grass eaten by cattle that provided some of the finest beef the world has ever produced. I read of the colorful gauchos, the Argentine equivalent of the American cowboys, fearless men who raised cattle in the Pampas. As I grew older, I read about the magnificence of Argentine beef and barbecue, and decided that I would go there someday to enjoy it. As a cook and cookbook writer specializing in grassfed meat, I was inspired by the Argentine tradition of fine grassfed beef, and was impatient to go there and learn about cooking grassfed beef at the source.
Much of the Pampas is now plowed under and brown with GMO soy. Those grasslands are gone forever, the soil stained with pesticides.
It took nature thousands and thousands of years to create the grasslands. Herds of migrating animals would graze in an area, breaking up the soil with their hooves, trampling seeds deep into the soil, fertilizing the earth with their manure. Then, the herd would move on, leaving the soil alone, to recover and renew. The seeds grew into grass, set down roots that held water in the soil, water that helped the grass grow, and nourished the microorganisms that filled the earth with life and nutrients. When the herd returned, they were greeted with rich green grass that nourished them, increasing their numbers, as they broke up the earth with their hooves, eating the older growth, depositing their manure, and continuing the cycle before they moved on. The earth and the grasslands rested and grew even richer grass. This cycle, repeated time after time, built the good soil and the grasslands. The herds renewed the soil and the grass fed the herds. The Pampas were one of the finest examples of this process, and the grasslands grew even richer when large herds of cattle were introduced.
The herds nourished the earth, the grass fed the herds, and the herds fed the people.
This glorious, sustainable cycle is being destroyed in the Pampas, replaced with GMO soy and pesticides.
It took nature untold thousands of years to create the Pampas—it took humans only a few years to destroy them.
My dream is dead.
The End of Grassfed Meat in Argentina
I would never have believed it. Argentina, whose very cuisine was based on the finest grassfed beef, is now dominated by the feedlot. Writer after writer has reported that it is now almost impossible to find grassfed beef in Argentina, even at the finest restaurants. The land of the gaucho has become the land of the feedlot, and the grassfed tradition looks dead.
How did this tragedy happen?
One of the problems was the introduction of GMO soy to the Pampas. Much of the grasslands were plowed under and ruined for cattle. This reduced the meat supply.
Another problem was the worldwide demand for cattle. The profits from exporting beef grew and grew. Argentine ranchers increasingly preferred to export their beef because of the higher prices. For the first time, the price of beef in Argentina itself became so high that many people were having trouble affording it. This led to great political unrest, as Argentines were outraged by the high price of domestic beef. The President of Argentina responded to the outrage by reducing exports and imposing price controls. The government also subsidized grain feeding of cattle to keep the price down. This had two terrible consequences. Even more ranchers converted their land to GMO soy production, because they could make considerably more money raising soy than cattle. More and more ranchers switched to the feedlot, so they could take advantage of the subsidies. By the end of 2010, almost all the beef available in Argentina came from the feedlot.
Grassfed Meat Is Reborn in the United States
The use of feedlots and grain feeding was developed in the United States, which resulted in the horrible factory beef that dominates the market. Yet the grassfed movement is growing. An increasing number of innovative ranchers are learning to raise and finish cattle, bison, and lamb on grass, and to avoid the feedlot. Many of these pioneers have studied Holistic Resource Management, and are using rotational grazing practices to rebuild the richness of the soil and grass. Some of them are enjoying great success, and the quality of grassfed American beef is getting better every year. This grassfed meat is so much more nourishing and so much tastier than the factory meat, there is no comparison. Once you have eaten properly cooked grassfed meat, there is no going back.
I am blessed to be living in a time when I can support these noble ranchers and thrive by eating their wonderful meat. I no longer desire to go to Argentina. I can learn everything I need to know right here in the United States, thanks to these great ranchers.
I have had the joy and privilege of eating wonderful grassfed meat from U.S. Wellness Meats, Northstar Bison, Humboldt Natural Beef, Chaffin Family Orchards, Homestead Natural Foods, Alderspring Ranch, Anderson Ranches, Bison Ridge Meats, Foxfire Farms, and others.
My deepest thanks to each and every one of them.
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