You can come in, but the horse stays outside. By
After a spring of foodie books and a trip through Hunter S. Thompson, decided to take another trip through The Motorcycle Diaries, Che Guevara’s story of travelling South America and discovering himself. Not yet seen the movie, and being a purist, needed to revisit the book before that journey.
Watching some television with the little guy, and we usually channel surf the documentary channels. He likes animals eating stuff and things blowing up. We saw a shot of a bunch of crazy cowboys chasing cattle and got drawn in. It was a documentary about the pampas of Argentina and the Gauchos who tend to the cattle. Thousands of cows spread across thousands of acres and these amazing horsemen keeping them organized, a process that has been in place almost since cattle were first brought to the continent in the late 16th century.
People in Argentina love their beef. You know that Americans love everything either grey, black, or brown, and in a convenient patty shape. We love beef too, usually in the form of a burger. Argentina’s meat eaters go straight for steaks. While we average a little over 100 pounds of beef every year, our friends to the South take in almost 120 pounds. Argentina is also one of the world’s largest exporters of beef.
The traditional method of raising livestock down there is kind of like the one employed by our friends at Polyface Farms. They graze the cattle for a few years, and that process stirs up and fertilizes the pampas. They can then run a couple of years of crops like soy and grains, then bring the cows back in. They don’t need pesticides, fertilizers, and the cows never need antibiotics or hormones. They just grow naturally.
But a change is afoot.
Folks down in South America started looking at the farmers in North America and saw peso signs. They started trading in cows for money crops like corn, soybeans, and wheat. You can turn that crop around a couple of times per year down there, as opposed to the year and a half that it takes to get a cow ready. Now, unbeknownst to the fine diners of Buenos Aires, almost 80% of the filet mignon hitting their plates comes from an American-styled feedlot. You know how we feel about that. While diners in Argentina just always assumed that their beef was grass-fed, gaucho-corralled, best-in-the-world meat, the government is trying to enact labeling laws so that consumers would know exactly what they’re digging their forks into.
Part of the problem is our growing dependence on corn and soy. While the majority of our corn goes towards feeding cows for Big Ag, it also goes in with soy to fill out nearly every processed food that we eat. Corn syrup, corn meal, and stinking soybeans. This isn’t even taking into consideration the tons and tons of corn that we’re sinking into the ethanol hole.
We’re not opposed to eating meat, but like everything else, it needs to be done with some thought and stewardship of our environment. Commercial feedlots are big, nasty things. A batch of emails were recently released that show a pretty cozy relationship between the Governor of Maryland and Purdue. The folks at Purdue are one of the biggest chicken growers in the world, and the Eastern Shore of Maryland is littered with chicken coops. Millions of birds are held in long barns, and all of their manure ends up in the Chesapeake Bay. As the legislatures in Virginia, Delaware, and Maryland hoot and howl about doing their part to clean up the Bay and reduce the annual dead zone from agricultural practices, it seems that Purdue has been pecking away at environmental policy with the blessing of at least one Governor.
If you’re a first time reader, you should know that we’re not fans of using clever science to bypass what Mother Nature intended. As growers rely more and more on chemicals and antibiotics to cure the ills of commercial agriculture we’re seeing more and more cases of bugs and bacteria that have grown immune to our magic wand, and it’s starting to effect us.
Come on in and see us, and by all means try a Virginia Ham Cubano. Freshly sliced turkey with organic greens? We’ve got that. Grab a Fruits of the Farm Salad and skip the meat for a day. We don’t care. We try to make stuff here that tastes great, is actually good for you, and doesn’t leave much of a mark on our environment.
And if you’re a gaucho you can leave el caballo tied up out front on Cary Street. Be just like old times.