10 Nov 2017

Uruguay's first batch of bird-friendly beef is on its way to Europe

In South America, large swathes of grassland habitat have been lost to cattle ranching, a profession that millions depend upon for their livelihoods. But we're striving to find a solution that works for everyone, and our latest milestone comes in the form of Uruguay's first grassland-friendly beef.

The Saffron-cowled Blackbird is one of 12 globally threatened bird species that will benefit from this initiative
The Saffron-cowled Blackbird is one of 12 globally threatened bird species that will benefit from this initiative
By Tardáguila Agromercados

This is a re-publication of an interview with Esteban Carriquiry, Coordinator of the Southern Cone Grasslands Alliance for Uruguay.

Between October 29 and November 4 the Southern Cone Grasslands Alliance had 500 steers butchered in the Marfrig plant in Colonia. These high quality steers were produced under the grassland beef protocol, whose most valuable cuts will be sent to the Netherlands to supply hotels and restaurants in Europe. This will include about 20 producers in this first grouping, marking a milestone in Uruguay’s history of cattle ranching.

The Tardáguila report spoke with Esteban Carriquiry (Agr. Eng.), Coordinator of the Southern Cone Grasslands Alliance for Uruguay.


What is the importance of this recent development to the Southern Cone Grasslands Alliance?


It is part of a process that began last year, when we received the first sign of interest; in February we were able to send the first sample of beef. In April a delegation from the business Nice to Meat came and got to know some cattle ranchers, and they liked our story. They visited two refrigeration plants, saw the seriousness of our industry, the traceability. We met with INAC [The National Meat Institute] and set up a new delivery with more volume and more cuts of meat, which is what we ship during the middle of this year to the Netherlands: high value beef, approximately 30kg per steer, from animals of a producer that complies with the Alliance’s protocol, which we call “Grassland Beef”.

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"They do not want just any beef, rather beef with some story."

The people from Nice to Meat want grass-fed beef. But they do not want just any beef, rather beef with some story, and that is exactly what we are offering: beef produced in natural conditions, and that conserves the natural grasslands and biodiversity, birds in particular, which are so emblematic around the world.


What current or potential implications does this have for Uruguay?


In my humble opinion, it is important to start from the side of private cooperation with real and concrete pathways to offer what the State proclaims all the time: “Natural Uruguay”. Almost every day I hear some government official, state employee, or academic involved with research talking about sustainable livestock ranching, mitigation of greenhouse gases, carbon sequestration, etc. Well, now is the time for producers, industry, and all of society to empower ourselves with Natural Uruguay and, in fact, enact it. We should move “from the sayings to the facts”.


What are the points to be raised or resolved to advance with this initiative further in the future?


Basically, we should provide continuity; to this end we must spread in the beef supply chain in a way that they see this as an opportunity for everyone. In reality our “grassland beef” protocol is very inclusive, in other words we have not generated some strange product, but rather we have come to this sector with a different approach, which is to conserve biodiversity. In addition, we must have a quality product, but in today’s Uruguayan cattle sector that is not the main limiting factor anymore; yes, we must explain well that the grassland beef allows for the fattening phase of cattle to take place in prairies and meadows and even allows for the strategic use of grains and supplements; not at all like a feed lot.


What other messages and content form part of this initiative?


We are going to present a marketing campaign to the National Meat Institute (INAC) to promote this product in Europe; this is framed by the new policy of INAC to do just that. It is clear to us that this project was born from supply and not from demand, which is why we have to work collectively on the demand part, with INAC, with Marfrig, with whoever joins the effort. But also we aim for this project to be a leading initiative with concrete influence not only on producers but also on the general public; when we talk about how Uruguayans should know more about agricultural production, I think that this could contribute to people getting to know how ranching really works in our country.

"The producers shoud feel that this is something of their own."

The characteristic that should define this positive leadership is the capacity to look beyond. We must breakthrough to people to form collective goals and a forward vision. This is important in order to generate commitment. The people and the producers should feel this as a result of the Grasslands Alliance, as something of their own.

See original publication in Spanish