As we know Argentina has a long history within the beef industry being one of the largest exporters in the world. The main reason for such an extensive industry is due to the Pampas, a huge treeless area of South America, much of which is in Argentina cover in rich grasslands perfect for grazing and fattening beef cattle.
I learnt most of what I know about the Argentine beef industry from the show episode that I did with Mike where he explained the difference in the methodologies of raising cattle between Argentina and the US. He wrote an interesting article on how the industry is changing in Argentina and the compromises that he is being forced to make. Suffice to say, what I learnt and tasted of the beef in Argentina is that it is different to what I’m familiar with, particularly in flavour.
I’m not a substantial meat eater, I’m not vegetarian but I eat a primarily vegetarian diet and add meat protein from time to time. My favourite these days is kangaroo for the health and environmental reasons but I do eat beef occasionally. Going to Buenos Aires I ate beef more than I had in many long years which was a bit of a shock on my system but as they say “when in Rome…”
I observed some interesting differences with the way beef is used in the Argentine culture. The retail of it is everywhere. It’s possible to walk into a small corner store and out the back someone is breaking down a side of beef placing chunks of it in the refrigerated display cabinets. At the markets huge quantities of it are just hanging in different stages of butchering as you walk past, next to the cheese and vegetables. It’s everywhere, raw and real, rather than in plastic wrapped Styrofoam trays, just like the old days.
When I say chunks that’s what I mean. It’s as if they don’t seem to have the elegant butchering style that I’m familiar with. It’s more like a cow has been forced through a course tree chipper and the chunks that come out are what you get. Random pieces of meat, fat and bone all to be thrown on the Asodo and cooked over the smoking coals adding more flavour.
I found the taste quite strong for my palate which could be for the dietary reasons I mentioned above but also as Mike mentioned the cattle in Argentina are grass feed, older and free ranged(exercised) so the meat is stronger both in flavour and in texture. I enjoyed the beef that I had while there but I must admit that after four weeks I was getting a bit over it and searching out alternatives. It was good to return home to a lower meat consumption but a great opportunity to embrace the culinary culture of Argentina.
Yes the Argentines love their beef, they have a lot of it, it’s a distintive style and it’s prime quality. I hope that they don’t go the way of the feed lots and maintain this resource in the style that is theirs alone. As for me, by time I return hopefully in two years I’ll be over the quantity I’ve recently been through and I’ll be ready to tuck in again.