As beef consumption booms in Argentina, the prosperous facade of outdoor barbecues and crowded riverside restaurants only thinly conceals the country's worst agricultural crisis in years.
CU Barbecue fire ZOOM OUT TO SV carcasses cooking
GV Carcasses around fire
SV ZOOM TO CU Beefsteaks being placed on grill
SV Food being served
CU Steaks being eaten (4 shots)
GV PAN Restaurant
GV PAN Meat processing factory
GV Cattle in pens
SV Cattle being driven to showers (2 shots)
GV Carcasses on chain
SV Butchers work on carcasses (2 shots)
SV Carcass being skinned
SV Butcher splitting breast-plate
SV Processed carcasses
Initials BB/1607 PS/AH/BB/1638
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Background: As beef consumption booms in Argentina, the prosperous facade of outdoor barbecues and crowded riverside restaurants only thinly conceals the country's worst agricultural crisis in years.
Because prices are so low, the average Argentine today consumes annually about 240 pounds of beef -- about three times as much as a West European and twice as much as a North American. And the prices are so low because the Peronist Government put a freeze on them when it returned to power a year and a half ago. It did so to boost consumption of beef - the traditional staple of the Argentine diet -- to an annual 165 pounds per capita within three years. That goal already has been surpassed -- and therein lies the crisis.
Cattle herds are being depleted at an alarming rate, and cattlemen and agronomists agree that it is only a matter of time until there is another beef shortage -- renewing the cycle that plagues the country's agricultural and explains Argentina's mysterious inability to realise its vast agrarian potential.
And, because the farmers claim a general wage-price freeze has gone virtually ignored -- except for the freeze on beef prices -- they now find that it costs them 36 cents a pound to get a steer to market..... where the maximum price they receive is 21 cents a pound.
Consequently, instead of waiting for a steer to reach its full slaughter weight, cattlemen are sending more and more calves to the slaughterhouses -- and, more ominously, more and more cows.
Compounding the problem is a decision by the European Common Market to clamp sharp limits on the import of Argentine beef in favour of that produced by its own European farmers. As a result, Argentina's beef exports have been reduced by more than half -- contributing even more to the current glut at home.