End of an Era

Argentine Cattle Getting Locked Up

Mamas can't let their babies grow up to be cowboys anymore, even in Argentina. The Washington Post reports that the lifestyle of the romantic gauchos, who used to herd cattle on the fertile pampa, a swath of plains bigger than Texas, is coming to an end. This year, 15 million animals, roughly a third of Argentine cattle, spend their lives on American-style feedlots, pumped with antibiotics and gorged on grain, instead of roaming on the plains and chomping on grass. Driven by export restrictions and price controls designed to make beef cheap, and subsidies for corn, many farmers have switched from cattle to crops over the past decade. On a feedlot, 7,000 cows take up almost 12 acres, but to raise the same number of animals on grass would require 13,000. The change in cultivation has left a bad taste in traditionalists' mouths. One member of the traditional Argentine Angus Association alleged that grass-fed beef has less cholesterol in it because the animal has to "roam great distances to eat," while beef connoisseurs alleged that feedlot beef tastes more like pork.